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The man inside the boy

I don’t know what happened with my youngest son, but it’s good. I have been urging, reminding, cajoling, conniving, and ganging up on his to either do more physical activity of the ordinary kind such as biking to school, running, or swimming at the local pool, or join a school or club sport or team, to please, please choose something, and I’d support him. But he only dabbled, while his newly developed height with doubled number of muscle cells puddled in a chair as he played computer games for hours a day. I got into it with him the other day–he could see from my intensity how heartfelt my concern was, how serious a thing I felt it was to neglect one’s health that way, how he would be giving up the good feeling of strength, balance, and sense of accomplishment, even while his brain was tricked into thinking that the levels or perks of his gaming were some kind of real achievement. It was a hijack of his innate evolved dopamine reaction that didn’t pay the same dividend as REAL challenges, REAL risk, REAL conflict, trouble, and overcoming, I said. And no, I said, when he told me he needed me to “make him” exercise, I just couldn’t, with a full work schedule and disciplines of my own to fit in. I said he had to make himself, or sign up for something where he would be made to do the work. I acknowledged the reality of the temptation to yield one’s time and attention to those clamoring for it–the games, or movies, or social media for some. I told him it was too much–I had been willing to make athletics mandatory, but there was supposed to be an eventual owning of it, and it was past time.

He wasn’t planning to swim again this year–said he’d had too many ear infections. Last year, with lots of encouragement from his parents and his siblings, he chose to swim on the high school team, after years of unenthusiastically participating in summer league and improving each year, though never enough in his own mind to pay more than grudging acknowledgment to his gradual drop in race times. He felt nowhere near as good a swimmer as his brother and sister before him, though she assured him that his times were about the same as hers when she started. His brother had started much younger and so had immediately made varsity in his freshman year, going on to be count Swimmer of the Year and then almost make college nationals (in Canada). We assured him it didn’t matter, that it was about fitness and fellowship, and that we loved watching him swim, along with his grandparents. Also, he was becoming a bit of a specialist in backstroke, unlike his Freestyle/Fly siblings. So much for an easy choice –excellent coach, good group of boys, great fitness, and fun to watch for us. But it seemed to be over. His sisters had invited him to go for climbing and to the gym, but nothing was happening.

Then today, he burst out of his garage bedroom and said, one, that he was really glad his drum teacher had got him listening to jazz it was so amazing (he never listened to music before this, despite several years of piano lessons and now a few months of drumming), and two, that he wanted me to sign him up for swimming.

So I guess the exhortation with tears got to him where the gentle reminders and reasoning didn’t. He’s a heart guy, like his dad. He’s owning it, too–he doesn’t do things just to be compliant, but he does have a desire to do what’s right. He’s manning up, I think. I’m so proud of him Dare I hope that he’ll also heed my pleas to say no to first person shooter games, to protect his imagination, or to do real live work with his hands, like helping me build a new compost bin, or splitting some firewood, instead of virtual digital building and tearing down?

 

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Just keep swimming

Just keep swimming

My youngest son starts swim team tomorrow, with the big club. I’d bought him swim jammers for Christmas, and suggested he try them on.

“Mom, they’re way too small!”
I assured him that was the way they were supposed to be, to stretch over him like fish skin.
“And hard to get on!” he called from the bathroom. Then, “Mom, they’re transparent!”

“No they aren’t,” I said, “that’s just the shine of the stretch fabric, not your skin. Come show me, let me see if they fit.”

This was a stretch for him, and I thought he might refuse. He’s a modest child, doesn’t like to be seen baring too much, and this was a change from his baggy trunks. He came out like a dog newly clipped, feeling excess air on his body, taking up a different shaped space in the universe, feeling some of that universe to be a little too closely pressing.

But he was also impressed. Smiling. Felt sleek, fast, wanted to run around the house. “See? Now you’re like a fish streaking around, instead of a jellyfish in your baggy trunks.”

“I want to go swimming and try these out.”

So after supper we headed to the pool. I parked on a bench and connected my laptop to the public network, and soon he came out.

Now I could really see him as he trotted off toward the pool. He’s a little chunky, I thought,a bit shocked not to have noticed before. Guess I should have been taking him along on my runs, or got him out to swim more regularly, helping him keep that balance. So swim team will be a blessing, help him get fit again. He used to be lean and strong kid. Mustn’t make a deal of it, though, so he feels criticized. Been there with another child, overstepped my bounds thinking I was being “helpful.” Just quietly be more proactive in providing healthier meals and snacks, and more exercise. Fortunately he’s a very energetic kid.

Swimming has been a good sport for our family, ever since we joined a neighborhood pool we live by back in the ’00s. We like the team and individual aspects of the sport, the emphasis on fun and fitness, and, frankly, the way it keeps everyone clean without too much bother. Competition is optional in clubs–one can opt into meets as well as events, and teams include all ages. Furthermore, pools tend to be pretty nice places to hang out for the spectators (and in my experience the spectators are well behaved, if sometimes rather shrill, and supportive of all swimmers).  Plus there’s the extra fun of being a volunteer timer or official (“best seats in the house”).

Swimming is great fitness, and a lifelong pursuit if one chooses. And unlike so, many sports, one can begin any time–in fact, school leagues generally only start at the high school level. How many team or individual sports can boast that? If you miss the boat on soccer or baseball little league due to whatever circumstances or choices, it’s pretty hard to break in as an older player and have some success. I have seen new swimmers on my son’s high school team go from not wanting to put their face in the water to making decent times by the end of one season. Sure, it takes courage to plunge in at that late a stage, but it’s entirely possible, and one is guaranteed sufficient competitive action. Swimming also has the advantage of a low level of injury (think pulled shoulder muscles, a few scrapes and bumps if not experienced), as well as conferring a higher level of safety to other water sports and pursuits.

My oldest son has two seasons left of high school swimming, and he takes it pretty seriously, doing club at the same time. He’s also started working as a swim instructor and lifeguard at our neighborhood pool in the summers. I no longer have to drive him to club and from high school workouts, thank heaven, now that he has his license and a spare car.–no more up at 5:00 am three times a week for a total of three commutes a day just for him. He even picks up his sister now after her workout at a different pool (his club team senior group full, or she would work out there). My third child chose horse riding rather than swimming, so I drive her a few times a week to an arena outside of town. Our youngest will now be swimming two times a week before school, which should allow me to do laps as well. Even I could join a team at my age if I chose–there’s a masters group at that pool. Though I’m not a master–I can’t do butterfly or starts and turns. But I aim to learn what I can. Then I can stay clean and fit for life, too. But that would mean up at 5:00 am again, and I’m more of a 6:30/7:00 kind of person.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Parenting & Family

 

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Bowling team member accused of assault and battery

Typical. We all know how bowlers are, don’t we? It just goes to show.

Or,

Surfer Jailed for Drunk and Disorderly Conduct

Lacrosse Players Convicted of Rape

The question I’m trying to raise is why specify sport, except where the perpetrator is a world-renowned athlete, or the crime is directly connected with the sport, as in,

Golfer Clubs Hamster to Death,

Rugby Players Attack Opposing Team, or

Boxer Throws Female Admirer Out of the Ring, Cracking Ribs

Because headline writers count on raising reader interest by playing on stereotypes, so we can feel good about having them confirmed by an independent source.

Here are some real headlines I found, after I got fed one too many radio reports on football players’ crimes. Do these real headlines sound more plausible? Or do you wonder, like I do, what football has to do with the story at all?

High School Football Players Accused of Sexual Assault Make 1rst Court Appearance

Kishawn Tre Holmes & Byron Holt Jr., High School Football Players, Charged In Sexual Assault Case

Steubenville High School Football Players Convicted of Rape are Sentenced

3 Oregon State Football Players Jailed on Counts of 3rd Degree Assault, Disorderly Conduct

Football players are disproportionately represented in such headlines, from what I can tell.

If someone wants to show, with adequate data and good scientific analysis, that being a football player is associated with a predisposition toward violent crime more than any other sport (or along with, say, tennis or curling), they can go ahead and try. But it’s unfair to associate, without explanation, a crime with a sport, as it is with a race or nationality, just for effect. At the very least journalists should consider the feelings of the many upstanding and law-abiding football players (and their relatives and friends) among their readership.

So how about being fair and specifying all sports and leisure pursuits in crime headlines, and see what interesting reactions we can create in readers’ minds?

Diver Smothers Aunt in Fit of Rage

Hurdler Jumps Ship with Smuggled Cocaine

Head of Quilting Association Hijacks Small Aircraft

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Media, Writing

 

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