When my boys play together it always ends the same way. It doesn’t matter what they are doing, the result adds up to intertwined bodies, leg locks and takedowns. In a word: wrestling.
Wrestling, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Wrestling as a sport can be athleticism at its best. Wrestling for the fun of it is harmless and… fun.
My boys know little of the intricacies of the sport of wrestling; it can also be said that they do not know how to wrestle for the fun of it. This concept is beyond them. Wrestling that starts out as fun culminates in illegal moves, injured bodies and broken furniture. The term fun competition is an oxymoron at my house. Competition means there is a winner, and having a winner means someone must be the loser. My boys will do whatever it takes to avoid being losers – especially when battling against their brothers.
When they build LEGO cars, they race them to discover whose is fastest. When they toss the football, they look to see who can throw the farthest. They create contests to determine who can eat the most fried eggs, who can take the quickest shower, who can put forth the biggest burp or who has the cleanest bedroom. I’m just kidding about the bedroom. That would be too good to be true. But I think you get the point. Competition is in their blood.
Competition, when it comes to brothers and wrestling in the living room, is not a good thing. Because of this, we have a no-wrestling rule in the house. It is a rule that is strictly enforced – and often broken.
A good wrestling bout can break out at any time of the day, but my boys seem especially prone to this sort of play in the morning, when they are supposed to be getting ready for school.
It is a 20-minute period of high-energy, high-stress and high-activity. Things must get done. Hair combed. Teeth brushed. Homework assignments located. Beds, breakfast and backpacks all need attending to. The bus will not wait. There is no time for wrestling. No time.
Yet, it’s hard to ignore the unmistakable sounds of grunting, groaning and grappling coming from their bedroom. These noises have nothing to do with tooth brushing or hair combing. I don’t even need to see them to know they are breaking the no-wrestling rule.
Almost every morning we interrupt them in some sort of wiggling, giggling, tussling state. It usually takes two or three reminders, coupled with a raised voice, to put a halt to the wrestling and a start to the bed-making.
It can try the patience of the most patient parent.
On one especially long and wearisome 20-minute morning last week, it looked like the wrestling would win out and we’d never make it to school. No one had combed his hair. We couldn’t find socks to match. The youngest brother spilled syrup on his pants during breakfast and had to make a quick change. Still, they found time to wrestle.
I let out what must have sounded like a tired sigh because my husband looked up from his tooth-brushing to give me a knowing look.
“It’s infuriating,” I said. “I have to ask them over and over to comb their hair because all they want to do is play!”
As the words flew from my mouth, I listened to them and had to smile. I saw that my husband was doing the same through his toothpaste foam. We were frustrated, yes. But we both heard what I said: All they want to do is play.
What parent can fault a kid for that?
Isn’t that what we all want – to stop everything and play? Wouldn’t it be great to forget about life’s responsibilities and settle all discord through a simple bit of wrestling with our brother?
Life should only be so simple. It really should.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.