Thursday, June 20, 2013

Big Boy Trouble, Little Boy Trouble

It's summer here, and that means baseball.

Three of my four boys play baseball -- on four different teams. How can that be?, you may wonder. Well, Boy #2 actually plays on two different teams, his regular team (which plays during the week) and a travel team that plays in occasional weekend tourneys.

All of that baseball means that I spend most of my evenings at the ballpark. And last night at the ballpark, as the kids unwound by playing yet another game of baseball (yes, you read that correctly: the kids who had just finished playing segued into a pick up game with their friends/opponents, siblings and any other kids who happened to be around), the parents talked parenting around the concession stand.

Another mom of boys (she has three vs. my four) shared that her middle son recently got a speeding ticket. The consequences were pretty severe because he still has a probationary driver's license and had one more passenger than allowed under our state's graduated licensing program. But of course, the consequences could have been worse. The state trooper that showed up at the door to inform the parents of their child's driving infraction could have been carrying far worse news.

We chatted some more. The conversation turned to summer school, and I shared that we've already gotten a call from a teacher regarding our seven-year old's behavior. On day 3 of summer school. (For the record, he is taking exactly two classes, Phy Ed Fun and Math Munchies.) Our son, it seems, is being disruptive and not listening in class.

"See?" the other mom-of-boy said. "Little boy problems, big boy problems!" Her boy is in trouble for an offense including  a thousands-of-pounds moving vehicle; he could have died. My son is in trouble for talking during class; he could have landed in the principal's office.

It's true: as our kids grow, the consequences of their actions become much bigger. An older child who makes a poor decision may not be able to find a job, or may run afoul of the law. An older child who makes a poor decision might kill himself or others. Younger kids who make poor decisions often end up in timeout.

But really, isn't it all the same? I want my sons to learn to respect others. To respect themselves. And to live peacefully in society. What my son learns now -- at age 7 -- will affect his behavior at age 17. So while I'm glad that his actions still have relatively tiny consequences, I don't think his problems are any less significant or worthy of attention.

We lay the foundation for our kids in the early years, and spend the next many years shoring up that foundation. What we do now matters, whether our boys are big or little.

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