Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Boom Boom Room

My son approached me very excitedly a few days ago and demanded, “Mama! Play ‘Boom Boom’ with me!” I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him to show me. He carefully backed up to the other side of the room, then ran at me at full speed, crashed into my legs, and announced, “Boom! Boom!” And then laughed maniacally. He immediately did it again, knocking me down. At that point, he knew I was at his mercy and he sailed through the air like a pro wrestler, aiming directly for my gut as I lay turtled on the floor. Luckily, I had just enough wits left about me to catch him, or at least to slow his descent towards my vital organs.

I often joke that we should have named him “Crash,” since he loves to crash into things – walls, doors, furniture, small children, large adults. Fortunately, he’s pretty tough and although he usually remarks, “ow!” after a crash, he rarely causes any actual damage. Well, he rarely causes damage to himself. Damage to other people, particularly other children, is a whole other story. The difficulty in teaching him not to hurt other people is that since he is so tough, he doesn’t understand how knocking someone over hurts them. He’s not hurt when he falls over, so how could they be? In fact, he thinks it’s fun and he just wants to share the fun by playing Boom Boom with the other kids.

I was vaguely mortified by his Boom Boom behavior at his gymnastics class yesterday. He (and the whole class) had behaved really well all through class, so at the end of the session the teacher let them play on the “tumble track,” which is like a long, narrow trampoline that the kids can run back and forth on. There were a couple of new students in the class for the first time, and they were both a bit young and fairly shy. My son is very social and loves to walk up to other kids and introduce himself: “Hi, boy. I’m Ryan!” So I was not surprised when he tried to play with the two new kids on the tumble track. The trouble came when he – without warning – plowed into a petite little new girl, knocking her down and making her cry. And to add to my embarrassment, her mother (who was right there and saw the whole thing) just happens to be my eye doctor. I immediately pulled him aside and scolded him, then made him apologize to her, which he actually did very politely and even a bit penitently. I think he was genuinely confused by her reaction. Boom Boom is a fun game! You’re not supposed to cry!

There are a lot of advantages to having a big, solid, tough kid. He doesn’t hurt himself easily. You can roughhouse with him without fear of hurting him (no comment on any fear of him hurting you). He can shoot hoops with a full-size basket. You can completely skip the Cozy Coupe, Big Wheel, and tricycle stages (he’s too tall to reach the pedals without chewing on his kneecaps) and go directly to a bike with training wheels. He can already use a full-size toilet. (Even standing up!) By the time he’s 10, I won’t need a stepstool to reach things on the top shelf, because he’ll be able to get them for me. And he’s got a pretty good chance at some kind of athletic scholarship someday, whether it be basketball, football, wrestling, hockey, rugby, or lacrosse.

But the disadvantage is his complete lack of awareness of how different he is from most other kids. He loves it when you beat on his head like a drum, so he wants to do the same to his baby sister (bad idea). He likes it when he sits in a chair and you sit on top of him and squish him, so he wants to do the same to other children (also a bad idea). And he loves running full tilt into anything and anyone who doesn’t jump out of his way (even worse idea).

So I’m trying to teach him that being big and strong is a wonderful thing, but when you’re bigger and stronger than someone else, you have a responsibility to be careful with them and treat them especially gently and kindly. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad lesson for a child to learn. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad lesson for an adult to learn, either.

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