My thirteen year old daughter shoots baskets in the driveway incessantly. Hundreds of shots per day. Elbow in, fingertips on the ball, snap the wrist and SWISH! But last night she left the basketball outside and it deflated. Horror! She cradled it in her arms like a wounded pet. Tom Hanks had less affection for that volleyball “Wilson” in that movie than my daughter has for her basketball. She asked me where the air pump was but just as it is with pretty much everything in our house, I had no idea. It’s not that the place is a mess, it’s just that I don’t know where anything is.
The problem is that the kids are old enough to help clean and they take a more…short-term view of cleaning. It’s more of an out-of-Mom’s sight out of mind kind of thing.
Together, we searched in all the obvious places like the ball bin, the bookshelf, and the bathtub (you never know). And when I say “we” I mean that I looked and my daughter followed me around while suggesting we should just go buy a new pump.
“We’ll find it somewhere,” I assured her.
I expanded the search radius to the living room only to find my two youngest precariously perched on a dining room chair and poised to leap to the couch while screaming that we were all surrounded by lava. My house is often the proud home of imaginary lava flows and pretend quicksand quagmires. I’ll often walk into our living room and find the two little ones desperately pulling each other out of the quicksand carpet.
They’ve even guided me through the living room for my own protection while I’m on my way to tell my wife that we either need a new house or new children.
I’ve read parenting books (or parts of them) and none of them have mentioned lava or quicksand but it seems to be a major part of childhood. In fact, my new theory on parenting books is if they don’t mention quicksand and/or lava they’re worthless.
There are countless not easily understood theories adults have about children. I’ve come to believe, however, that there are countless not easily understood children about whom adults theorize poorly. I’ve read about helicopter parenting, free-range parenting, quality time parenting, and what I call cool-parent parenting.
For me, I don’t think helicopter parenting works. In my opinion, helicopters just aren’t able to obtain the necessary supersonic speed today’s parents require and don’t carry enough weapons load. And as a father of four girls I’d suggest fighter jets, not helicopters, are better suited for strafing any and all approaching boys that come within twenty yards of my daughters? Wait, I know what you’re thinking. It should be thirty yards just to be sure, right?
Free-range parenting? Firstly, I don’t trust anything that has the word “free” in it. Secondly, if your kids learn to fend for themselves you lose all your leverage as a parent. What good does that do? I thought that’s why parents sent their kids to college, to keep them helpless and aid them in becoming the brooding basement dwellers we always knew they could be.
Quality-time parenting seems to me to be the opposite of quantity time. Quality time means I’m not going to spend a lot of time with my child but I’ll take lots of videos of us at the zoo, park, or museum. Seems to me that’s the job of a field trip chaperone, not a parent. I think parents should be there as often as possible to hear their children yell, “Dad, watch this” or “Mom, look at me.” I think children enjoy trips to the museum but remember most the time they used Dad as a pillow, the time Mom let them choose the breakfast cereals for the family, the sing alongs of the horrible themes to terrible children’s shows, the search for lost air pumps, helping them work on basketball shots in the driveway, and playing catch. I believe the quantity of time spent with a child is the quality they treasure most.
The theory of cool-parent parenting just makes the kid the parent and the adult just someone who desperately wants to be liked. I’ve found that I’m doing my best parenting when my kids are mad at me. Some say parenting is harder nowadays. I’m not so sure. I think parenting was always hard, we’re just softer.
So anyway, I’d just about given up on finding the air pump for my daughter’s basketball. I sat down on the couch to think where the air pump might be.
My 13 year old daughter asked, “Should we ask Mom?”
“Whoa Whoa,” the boy, who was wearing a dinosaur costume and holding a sword, exclaimed. “If you ask Mom we’re going to have to clean and put things away where they belong.”
So the thirteen year old and I discussed where we last saw the pump as the little one acted as if she was being pulled under the couch by a monster and the boy pulled her with his left hand and stabbed under the couch with a Styrofoam sword with his right.
Clink! He struck something metal? Aha! I dropped to the floor, reached under the couch and pulled out…a forgotten Christmas ornament! Darn. But, undeterred, I reached back in and wrapped my hand around…THE AIR PUMP!
I raised it in the air, victorious. The kids cheered. I had a crazy thought momentarily that perhaps we should pull out everything from under the couch but thought better of it. Let’s not invite problems into our lives.
I pumped up the basketball and I’m sitting here on the front porch watching my daughter shoot baskets in the driveway as the two little ones, who are now wearing football helmets, throw tennis balls at each other on the front lawn.
“Hey Dad, watch this,” they each called to get my attention. I watched and clapped and told them they’re awesome. To the untrained eye it may look like I’m not doing anything at all. But I call this quantity time.