Recently, more and more communities have mulled whether dodge ball should be allowed in public schools. It's not a new concern; parents have been arguing about it since the 1990s when the boomers started to get involved in their children's every waking moment. And oddly, dodge ball has become symbolic of just how much parenting is too much.
I'm graduating from lots of parental control to very little as my only child, Louie, gets ready to enter his senior year and creeps closer to graduating from high school. The balance continues to shift from me teaching him everything to me letting go. Fortunately, we're both looking forward to it. Maybe Louie a little more.
As I've learned to let go, it has made me see the wisdom of dodge ball and its valuable message. You can do everything right and the red rubber ball may find you anyway. It'll probably sting a little, maybe even bruise, but you'll live and go on to figure out how to duck a little better the next time.
You have very little control over anything, anyway. Apply this philosophy to everything and see how many problems clear up by themselves.
When Louie was small, a lot of schools stopped allowing teams to keep score. Losing lowered self-esteem. Now, it has been discovered that it's still possible for children to feel bad about "losing" at dodge ball, plus there's an element of danger. You could get beaned by the ball. So several states have banned it.
Louie played dodge ball as a kid. I played dodge ball as a kid on blacktop. Getting beaned had some real consequences. But I was back out there at recess the next day, very large plastic bandage prominently placed across my knee. I bear the scar proudly.
Louie has gotten whacked a few times by the ball and come home steamed about a bad call, telling me in great detail how he was wronged. My under-reaction let him know I view the world as a pretty safe place. Go have a good time and remember it can't always go your way. Go work it out yourself. He called me mean and went back to try again.
By the time he got to middle-school basketball, I saw the fruit of all those lessons. At first Louie was just good enough at basketball to make the team but spent most of the time on the bench. But instead of being resentful or feeling bad about himself, he assumed he'd get better. He showed up for every practice ready to try, cheered his team on enthusiastically from the sidelines and played his heart out every time he got in. And he got better. The next year he played all the time and started to score regularly. Now he's applying those same ideas to math, and hopefully one day he'll apply them to parenting.
I'd like to make one small, additional point. You have little control over anything except the stuff you create when you let go of all that you worried about endlessly. If you let the world take care of itself, you can grow. I've taken up drawing and long-distance running. Both are fun in completely different ways and involve possibly looking bad along with maybe getting beaned by a car or a dog or a critic. But I'm still setting out into the unknown, having a good time, and learning to deal with whatever comes my way.