Thursday, May 25, 2006

Playing Defense Against Your Children

Your children are trying to become evil. Whatever else is part of the package of Original Sin, selfishness is hardwired. Our attempts to raise children as responsible members of society and fulfilled children of God looks a lot like playing a team sport against them. Metaphors don’t usually provide any spectacular insight, but they do make ideas easy to remember in moments of stress. Plus, guys like to reduce everything to sports metaphors.

To be technically correct, you are playing against the forces of barbarism and evil as they present in your children, with scoring on offense being like “putting good things into your children,” but that makes for an overcomplicated metaphor. Also, it doesn’t feel like that day-to-day. On the front lines, parenting is a lot like basketball defense against children who are attempting score by doing something they shouldn’t.

You can go for the full-court press, a smothering, in-your-face approach designed to keep your children as contained and as far from the basket as far as possible. It’s great, but it’s wearing. Worse, just as in basketball, once they learn to beat the press (usually involving deft passes to siblings and friends) you are wide open. You had better have something else you can do, saving the press for special occasions.

You can play a soft zone, leaving your child enormous room to maneuver so long as they don’t get easy shots (a private door to the outside, as I had in highschool, would be an easy shot). Playing a physical defense with spankings and intimidation is fine, but it’s easy to get carried away and start fouling – and you really don’t want to foul out, Jack. Or you can concentrate on interceptions and rebounding and surprise your children in fast-break transition. That’ll teach the little bastards to get cocky.

Your personal failings are like scoring on your own team. Doofus.

Personally, I prefer the half-court trap, lulling your children into a false sense of security and then unloading the double-team on them. But the actual point of this entire metaphor is that you need them all at various times. No one type of defense works forever.

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