On Wednesday I got home around 5 p.m. and heard a lot of yelling coming from behind my house. I walked around back and found nine boys wrestling all over the backyard: Peter Pan and a bunch of his brothers (I can't keep them all straight), Joey, Picasso, Jay-Z and Oldest Brady Boy. At one point, they had Joey on the ground and were kicking him, then some of them grabbed Jay-Z by the arms and legs and swung him back and forth a few times before dropping him to the ground and pounding on him. Of course there was also the obligatory pile, when all of them just jumped on each other in a giant heap.
In my years of dealing with children and teenagers, I have learned a few tricks. The most important ones are: never freak out and don't get mad unless you can use it for effect. So I stood there and watched the scene for a few minutes, looking for an opening. "All they need is a football," I thought. "They're already having a great time tackling each other."
There was the opening. "Hey, you guys," I said. "Why don't you get a football?"
Peter Pan liked this idea. "Yeah," he said, turning to Oldest Brady Boy. "Don't you have one over in your yard? Go get it."
Oldest Brady nodded and ran off.
"Anybody want some water?" I asked. Peter Pan said yes and so did the rest of the guys. So I went in the house to get a pitcher and plastic cups, thinking I was pretty slick.
Not so fast. By the time I came back out with the water, two guys were tossing the football around and everybody else was back to killing each other. "Water break," I yelled. They broke off and came to get cups.
"Guys, how about if you make teams and play organized football?" I said. "I really don't want you busting somebody's head open back here."
"Can we play tackle?" asked one of Peter Pan's littler brothers.
"Yeah, you can," I said. "Just play fair. Don't kick each other. I have to leave. I'm going to Big Picture to help some kids apply to college." I put Peter Pan in charge of making sure all the cups got stacked on the back porch after they were done with the water.
I stayed long enough to watch and see if they started making teams. Once it looked like Peter Pan was setting them up, I split. When I came back I didn't find any corpses or puddles of blood, so I guess they made out all right. One of Peter Pan's little brothers had used a gray marker to put his name on his water cup. The same marker was used to tag my composter. I'll have to go talk to his mother.
- ► 2009 (82)
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