Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Equalizer

(Imaginary Reader: Oh. Is she going to start talking about... death? Or dying?)

(Me: No. Not death. Not today.)
(Imaginary Reader: Phew. I was just hoping for some cute kid pictures or something light like that...)

So, as I was saying, I'm here to write about The Great Equalizer in our home. 

Or rather in our yard. 

Our trampoline.

Many of you out there with boys or with brothers or maybe even girls and sisters know the strange blessings and curses of competition among family members. Sometimes competition is an effective motivator. The playroom gets a quick pick when all the little hands try to be the fastest. 

Other times competition can throw a wrench into what I was hoping would be a simple project. Or even a simple mealtime! (Overheard at our table: I have drank all my milk. I am the healthiest!) The dominating force behind this sibling competition usually seems to me to be selfishness on the part of the "dominator". I tire easily when listening to the "dominatees" claim that they are actually the healfiest ones because they have eaten all of their scawambled eggs and you haven't eaten ANY! The face-making and the cries of "You ow NAUGHTY!" soon follow. I tend to simply excuse those who can't use good manners at the table, done with meal or not. I'm sure I could be doing a better job of training my crew in this area.

Other times, the desire for competition is sought out by one sibling and the other sibling simply will not reciprocate or comply. And this produces frustration. For everyone.

"Hey. Wanna swordfight?"
"No. I'm reading."
"Hey! Let's wrestle!"
"No. I'm reading."
"Let's play NINJAS!"
"NO. I'm READing!"
"OW!! I'm NOT playing with you!!"

Our two oldest boys are often mistaken for twins by people in the grocery store or at the park. Daniel and Michael are the same height and build and haircut. While even as parents we tend to lump them together as "the big boys", they are almost 2 years apart and God has given them very different personalities. At 8 years, Daniel seeks out competition so long as he can be assured of victory. Michael knows this has been Daniel's modus operandi for the better part of his 6.5 years and he declines almost all offers of Daniel's competition accordingly. This makes our days with the 2 of them... interesting. 

Enter the trampoline.

We were given this wonderful, rusty safety hazard for free last summer. At first, we had firm plans to find a safety net and a pad to cover the springs. And we had rules. Absolutely only ONE person on the trampoline at one time. 
Well, that's still the rule for Mercy and anyone younger than her but I've relaxed it for Daniel and Michael. And I'm so glad that I have. 
Suddenly it seems that there is now a place where both boys are on equal footing. The games that don't seem to work between them inside last forever on the trampoline. I'm sure they still argue out there and sometimes someone's head bonks someone else's while they are playing "Llama Trainer" and they have to come in to clean up the blood.  But they spend literal hours daily out there together... and they choose too!

Oh. And are these pictures from last summer? With the shorts and no shirts and bare feet?
They are from last week. Brrr!

I welcome any suggestions or observations about competition in this context. I'm so thankful for the trampoline and what it provides for these guys but ultimately I'm praying that God would continue to bind their hearts together as brothers and friends.


Carla said...

That looks just like our trampline, rusty exposed springs and all. The rivalry sounds very familiar too. It's strange how our kids can be each others best friends and biggest tormentors all in the same day. My two biggest competitors are my boys who are 3.5 years apart! Poor little brother is always trying to bust out of his big brothers shadow..which is hard when he's more proficient at everything that boys consider cool (and they couldn't be more different in personality). this results in ridiculous conversations and competitions. drives a mommy nuts! I think as they continue to grow they will find very different interests and talents beyond who can do the awesomest ninja moves :)Then they can both be awesomer!

amy said...

Oh man. I have been waiting to comment on this one because I felt like I should be able to come up with something helpful to say. But I haven't.
Trampolines are awesome.
My boys/kids are always in competition.
My boys are always (more and more) physical in their aggression (sometimes happy, sometimes energy, sometimes mad) with one another.
Sometimes I think it is good and smile. Sometimes it drives me crazy. Sometimes I don't know what to do.

I liked seeing pics of your kids. Great job blogging these memories!