It is true that our kids have the benefit of being raised in a spontaneous and fun environment, with opportunities for adventure and exploration. However, the predictable and routine activities of childhood are sometimes missed—things like boy scouts, gymnastic classes, music lessons, or team sports. They may get these “extras,” but they will have to be on our schedule and fit with our family rhythms. Sometimes this works out perfectly. For example, we took a ten-week beginner ice skating class for homeschoolers when we lived in Clearwater. Sarah had the opportunity to take riding lessons last spring as part of her birthday present. Here in Marathon, we found free music classes for children at the United Methodist Church, and that has been great as there is little obligation.
But doing a team sport is a horse of a different color. Firstly, the practices inevitably overlap the dinner hour, a sacred time for us, and eat up weekends, preventing spontaneous boat trips. Then there is the expense of specialized shoes and uniforms. Of course, every kid is on a different team and you end up running around like headless chickens. Finally, the atmosphere of competition can make something intense which should be (in my opinion) fun and relaxing for children. We don’t need any extra stress at the end of the day. So, until now, we have steered clear of things like soccer, basketball, and football. But when the opportunity arose to join in “pick-up” games of kickball on Friday nights at the local park, I ran it past the children and they responded enthusiastically. There is no sign-up, no cost, and no record-keeping. You just show up and play.
It has become the highlight of my week! With the bread baked, boat clean, and dinner prepared early, our day of rest has begun. What better way to start the weekend than with a time of family fun? The first week, Sarah bailed out after the first play of the game, and since they were short a few players, Sam joined in. The players are supposed to be ages 6-11, so, at 3, Sam is a bit young. I stayed nearby to coach him on kicking, running and stopping at the bases. After he got the hang of it, he was unstoppable. Literally. The adults helping out never let the kid be “out.” If he kicked it and ran, it didn’t matter who tagged him, the umpire shouted “Safe!” All he talked about for the rest of the week was how much fun kickball was and when could he play again?
The weeks since have brought much improvement in play. As all the kids get the basics, the game moves a little quicker and everyone seems to have more fun. Our kids have the added benefit of having extra practice time at Homeschool P.E., another program the Marathon park puts on during the week. Last night, there were lots of kids and the game was fun to watch. Sarah joined in and got three runs for her team, plus a great play when she tagged someone out at first base. Eli and Aaron both got in some good kicks and runs, as well as fielding the ball, and Sam kicked well and made it safely to every base.
I usually laugh myself silly in the stands, and cheer the kids on, but last night had us rolling and crying. At some point, Sam got tired of playing infielder and started making his own fun. He started by turning circles until he got dizzy and fell down, then moved on to headstands and forward rolls in the grass. By the end of the game, he had corrupted another small player and the two of them were rolling around by the pitcher’s mound, occasionally impeding play and being told to “roll back over there.” Then they started building sand castles out of red clay, completely oblivious to the game going on around them. At one point, the ball rolled right between them and someone made a comment about kicking the ball between “the two goal posts.” In a culture where children’s lives seem so scheduled and organized, it’s good to find a time and place where kids can have some spontaneous, old-fashioned fun.