Not so long ago, I could whip my kids at everything. I was physically dominating and intellectually superior. I was faster, stronger and smarter. Of course, these were also the days when my boys, twins, would still tell me they loved me and would jump in my lap on Saturday morning while I sat in my recliner and watched Sportcenter. Still, I gave them breaks. I played with them and let them beat me. Not all the time, but certainly quite often. Back then I was a loser by choice. When we played football, I’d fall to the ground with ease. I’d tumble down in a heap just to hear their pleasing, little boy laughs. When we played cards, I would be sure to let them win enough to keep their interest, peeking at their hands or tossing away winners while we played Go Fish. In our room I’d give them a good toss onto the bed, watching them bounce up and flail back down before I lay prone while they piled on. “I submit!” I’d yell, and they were the champions. When we played video games I’d maneuver in a way that let them get the best of me.
As I write this I consider my current standing and wonder if I was perhaps a bit overzealous in my desire to lose, as I fear it might have hindered my ability to ever reclaim my paternal, silverback role in the home. Right now, my boys (I say “my” but I really mean “our.” My wife, who deals with more bathroom humor than Alcosan does sewage, has managed to teach these two hellions grace, humility and kindness, and she gets many voluntary “I love yous.”) are in the back yard chucking a lacrosse ball around with their friends. I am quite certain they are not even aware I am here. I am also quite sure that their friends would speak to me before they would. Just today I was painfully reminded of how uncool I could be. We were walking across our cul-de-sac and I purposely grabbed my one son’s hand, just like the old days. He was so distracted that I felt his hand actually hold mine. After about two seconds, he realized his egregious error, and in one deft motion as if a caiman had sprung from a swamp and sunk his needle like teeth into him, ripped his hand away while spinning to face me and delivered a right legged kick to my shin. He laughed, his brother laughed and like a baby I said “Don’t kick me!”
My dilemma is now this; I have a hard time winning even when I want to. When we wrestle, I am in essence tangling with a 200 pound man with four arms, four legs, four knees and four elbows who possesses dexterity that is unparalleled, resilient stamina and no comprehension of his own strength. Multiple blows rein down on me with a ferocity of a young Mike Tyson. A favorite tactic is for one of them to distract me, or better yet choke me while the other runs at a full sprint from down the hall and launches himself kamikaze style into my rib cage. I become completely defensive and generally curl up in a ball until the beating stops or worse, when my wife says “Boys, you are going to hurt daddy!”
The last time I played Madden football on our game station against one of the boys, I was schooled to the tune of 88-0. That’s right; my son scored eleven touchdowns, and while he was at it, figured he should go for the two-point conversion every time. I ran three plays every series before punting and totaled about 25 yards. There wasn’t a beating like that since my 6th grade basketball team was thrashed by forty points at St. Malachy’s tournament and I threw up at center court after the game. After his fifth fade route touchdown off of play-action, I foolishly inquired as to how in God’s name he did it. He replied, “circle, triangle, triangle, R1, square, L2, circle.” I asked him if I couldn’t do it by simply hitting “square” on the controller because I had no idea where those other buttons even were, let alone being able to hit them in that exact order in under a second. While his fingers glided over the buttons like Yngwie Malmsteen’s over a fret board, mine fumbled about like tourists after a booze cruise in Barbados (I know of which I speak.)
I could go on but the point is this. They are eleven years old now and already do many things better than their old man, and in eleven more years will probably be doing everything better. They are tall, smart, athletic and handsome, and while they get supreme enjoyment from making a fool of me, or hurting me or otherwise just beating me, they never fail to show mom the attention she deserves. They may not sit on my lap anymore, but we still watch Sportcenter Saturday mornings. All of that is fine, because in eleven years and eleven after that I still get to be their dad. So there, tough guys, try to beat that out of your old man!