Why I let my boys throw balls in the house

Yes, I let my boys throw balls in the house.  Seems like a bad idea, right?  But it’s true.  Over the years of our boys growing up, plenty of balls were thrown in the house (no baseballs – we’re not totally nuts). I distinctly remember how it began. It started when Son Two was in his crib and Son One and I crawled into his room on our hands and knees to see if he’d woken up.  As was typical, he was calmly sitting there blinking at us.  Looking way too mellow, we went to the pile of stuffed animals, picked out a pink-eared bunny and tossed it into his crib.  Always one to catch on quickly, even at 1, he tossed it right back.  “Launch a bunny” was born.  It had variations but it involved a happy three-some hucking bunnies and bears at each other.

Not long after, I would sit on one couch and they’d be on the other couch and we’d toss a soft Nerf ball back and forth.  They graduated to “pillow baseball” and then to Nerf basketball by the front door when they were bigger.  Any visiting boy was recruited to be a  player so as it rained outside, they got sweaty inside.  Did they break anything? I can hear you asking.  Well, yes.  Sometimes.  Actually they played baseball in the backyard so often that we had lanes literally dug into our lawn, including a deep, bald spot where home plate resided.  Only one small window ever broke but that’s another story.

But playing inside was so much fun.  Why did I allow it?  Why did I actually start them out and encourage it?  Well, none of it was calculated at the time but now I have a clearer idea of why I was okay with my walls getting beat up and having a few items fall from the walls, breaking into pieces on the floor.

Our friend Eric is just about to turn 21 and he was a chronic offender when it came to playing rambunctiously at our house.  He broke a few things and I have the scratches on my hardwood floor to prove it.  Recently he was telling his new girlfriend about us and he immediately told her the story of breaking the plates that my grandfather had collected and my mother gave to me.  Yes, they are smashed.  Sigh.  “And they don’t hate you?  You went back there?  They still love you?”   She was as surprised as he is that no, we don’t hate him, yes, he’s been back many, many times and yes, we still love him.  This is an important story to him.  It confirms to him that he can make a mistake and still be loved.  He doesn’t have to be afraid to come back.  In fact, he’s welcome anytime and he knows it.

My students learn the word ‘fastidious’ well because I tell them of how my parents kept my childhood home: immaculate.  For many reasons, I liked that because we never lost anything and there was never any dirt or dust on anything.  Ever.  The downside?  We couldn’t really live in that house, especially as children.  I remember being told we couldn’t go in the living room.  I can still see the plastic on the furniture, shiny slip covers so unappealing, they taunted us with a ‘you can’t sit here’ attitude.  The lamp shades all had the same plastic wrapped around them that were put on in the factory.  They were perfect for keeping off dust!  But for actually living? Not so much.  I remember when my brothers and I used simple logic: but the living room is for living!  Eventually we won out but my father sighed often as watched the wear and tear on carpets and couches.

Once in my own home, it didn’t take long to discover that the carpet will get stained, the walls will get dinged and the glass will break.  But, thankfully, there’s paint, spackle and glass shops that will replace that glass for a whopping one dollar.  Big deal.  Would I like to live in pristine surroundings?  Yes!  But at what cost?  What’s more important to me is that my kids made fun memories and they could be kids in their own house.  Now that they’re gone, I don’t regret one bit of it.  So what if I have a scratch on my floor?  All I see is that scratch means someone didn’t feel exiled; he felt accepted.  One picture frame is not like the other.  I could care less.  The picture shows a boy who was deeply loved and played with and could be free to enjoy activities he loved – even if his mom had to hunker down in her room so she wouldn’t get elbowed during their intense game.

So if you ever come over and notice a poorly patched wall, be happy for me.  For our house shows that we did some real living in these walls and no one needs to be afraid to enjoy themselves here.