Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sports: For the Sake of My Boy

Recently, I have begun unplugging from the Internet for the sake of my son. He is 10 years old and has not exactly seen me as a great male role model. I have a tendency to spend a great deal of time in front of a computer, or be away from home. I think, in all ages, the absentee father is the norm; but, that only works when the mother understands and encourages her boy to go do boy things.

He has an older sister; but, raising a girl is different from raising a boy. I have a younger daughter too. For them, it is sufficient to hang around me and talk. This is very similar to what their mother does; she wants me to be around to talk to me. She is not the athletic type.

So, having observed my son, now that he is a preteen, it is like watching a caged animal. He talks a lot; but, I can't identify with what he talks about. I don't know anything about gaming  or the gaming culture. He also wants to do something physical; but, he doesn't know how or what to do. This is where I come in.

I recall being like that when I was young. My family was poor. Organized sports were out of the question unless they were with school. So, I never played Little League, flag football, or other sports. My father did not live with us; he was slightly athletic, being in the National Guard required a minimal level of fitness. At home, however, my stepfather was not athletic at all; nor did he venture to instruct my brother and me in athletics of any sort. We had no video games, thus the alien gaming culture.

I recognize my son's desire to do something to burn off energy by doing something physical; I experienced the same. He has also called me on my involvement. He has stated that I'm always busy or away from home, that I do not spend time with him. But, I make time when asked. Up to now, he's never asked.

He has also started to get fat, not the overall weight gain described as husky. He has developed a belly, like you would see in a middle-aged guy or a beer drinker. THAT is not right for a boy to have. Not even I had that. We are going to have to limit the gaming.

I recognize that I MUST do something. Lately, I have been buying him sports equipment. It started with a soccer ball. He spends some time outside kicking it around in the yard every day. But, that's not enough. I also got him a football, with the idea that we could toss it around. Today, I bought a couple of tennis rackets and a bag of tennis balls; which we tried out.

Part of our problem is that my wife and I have kept our children very close. We do not allow them to run off to play with the kids in the neighborhood as we did when we grew up. I do not understand why it is different for them. I used to disappear for hours at a time. Once I got a bike, I would ride for miles into town and visit friends. Yet, my children can't go beyond the yard unaccompanied.

The consequence of such a policy is that WE must take them to the park or wherever they need to go to have fun. But, that is not enough. They can be bored at home or bored at the park; unless they have somebody to play with them, there is little gain from being outdoors. Involvement is a must.

So, this is where I come in. If I want my son to be active and learn to play sports without enrolling him in any leagues or hiring somebody to teach him, then I must be the one to go out and play with him. I must be the one to introduce him to sports and keep him active. I must be the one who gets him off the computer and outside for a quick game of whatever.

I don't like it. I grew up watching TV, reading, and pursuing geekiness. But, I had the freedom to go out without supervision. I swam, ran, rode my bike, climbed things, and roamed to other cities. I wasn't physically active for the sake of being physically active, except for running. I was physically active as a means to an end; it got me places or was required by school.

Although it is somewhat unnatural for me to engage in sports; something about seeing my son evokes some instinct that I must do something, that I must "show him the ropes" of being a guy.

I've read articles that point to evidence that boys learn best on the playground rather than in the classroom. If you've watched "The Dog Whisperer", you know that Cesar promotes taking the dogs for walks to burn off energy; otherwise, they go nuts and start acting crazy and tearing up things. Two completely unrelated facts, I know; but, the both apply to raising a boy.

So, in part, I recognize that simply spending time with the lad has tremendous benefits; but, he's not a girl, nor am I. Guys don't talk; we do things. Quite frankly, there is so much one can learn from doing. And, although I write a lot, I don't have the words to tell him how to be a man. However, I can show him.

I'll be sore for the next few years. Most guys will boast that pain reminds you that you're alive. I suppose that it also reminds me for whom I am living.
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