The other day I messed around and got a triple double. It was one of those days when I was an artist, the basketball court was my canvas and all the opposing team could do was stop and admire what they were witnessing.
That basketball court was my driveway.
Oh, and the opposing team was made up of my two kids.
But hey, you try dunking on an 8-foot goal with a four-year-old in your way.
The game was my idea. I thought it would be fun, and it was, but I also knew how it would end. Asking my kids to play a game of anything is basically like telling them, “Hey, you guys want to roll around on the floor, kick, scream and cry because you lost?”
Our basketball game was no different. There was gnashing of teeth with every point that I scored. It’s the same thing when we play Uno.
Me: “Draw two, suckazzz! In yo face.”
Kid: Rolls around on floor, kicking, screaming, crying and gnashing teeth.
I’m not really that bad. I only use the In Yo Face Suckazzz phrase when I play in professional Uno tournaments. Look for me this Tuesday morning at 3 on Tru TV.
But I rarely let my kids win either. It’s always a temptation. If I would just let them win every game, there would be no crying. Everyone would walk away happy. And my kids would miss out on a very important lesson.
Here’s the lesson. Things don’t always go your way.
That’s a lesson that’s lost on a lot of kids today. But it’s not really their fault. They’re just a product of a parenting philosophy that blames every problem on anything but the kid. I’ve talked to parents before who’ve had their first graders in what seems like 12 different schools before fall break. Their reasons are numerous.
“That school wasn’t rigorous enough.”
“That one was too easy.”
“There was a bully at that school.”
“They didn’t fully appreciate the cute little pipe bomb that my baby made.”
They. They. They.
The product of this overprotective approach to parenting is a generation of kids that are devastatingly underprepared to deal with hardship. All because they never got a beating.
I’m not talking about abuse. I’m talking about your dad messing around and getting a triple double on you like he’s Reggie Miller and you’re Spike Lee.
If we want our kids to grow into adults that don’t quit when things get hard, like anything else, we have to give them some practice. We have to make some things hard on them. We need to hit the game winning three-pointer.
But we also need to be there when the game is over. There to correct their character flaws that are rising to the surface. Sports has a way of bringing those things out. For some very blessed kids, such revelations come in the driveway at a young age with their dad. For some kids who aren’t so fortunate, those flaws rear their ugly heads during a nationally televised game.
My kids will get better at basketball. There will come a time when I’ll be begging them to let me win. That’s not my main concern. But for too many parents it is and so they settle for raising giants on an athletic field who remain children in every other aspect of life.
I used to come home from work and find my kid hiding. It was easy. He’d be hiding behind a small pillow or on the couch with his eyes closed. He’d always get mad if I found him too quick. So I told him to start finding better places to hide. The other day I came home and it took me 30 minutes to find him. I’d like to thank Deputy Turner and his K9 for their help.
My point is that the skill development will come. Whether it’s piano, basketball or Uno, our kids will improve. But at some point that improvement will stop. What then? Will they be left with nothing but a few memories of athletic accomplishments that nobody cares about anymore? Or will they be men and women of character, character that was forged in the ups and downs of trying to develop their long-range jumper?
I played a lot of games of basketball with my kids that afternoon. I won most of them. And my kids cried. But each game came with instruction. Instruction on how to play better defense and instruction on how to deal with defeat. No matter what, that’s two lessons they’ll need later on.
I finally let them win the last game. They hugged each other like they had just won game seven of the finals. There is still a lot of work to be done but I knew that they were getting something better than a championship. They were developing their character.