Rough-and-tumble fathers

My Dad routinely beat me up when I was a kid.

Okay, no one call CPS or anything! I enjoyed it and look upon it as some of the best memories of my childhood.

You see, my Dad used to wrestle with us and play football with us (us being my brother and me, and my younger sister once she was big enough). He would take the couch cushions and use them as pads against us ramming into him. We were little, but enthusiastic. We always knew that we were going to have a really good match when Dad took his glasses off. We would climb all over him; he’d throw us off; he’d take our heads in his hands and beat our heads on the floor (with his hands taking the “blows” and with all the appropriate sound effects coming from him) – and if it was football, he had his own “time-out” sound effect that my siblings and I have never been able to duplicate, and not for lack of trying. My youngest sister, although we were far too big to wrestle with Dad when she became the right age to rough-house, got in her fair share of time with Dad, with my brother also joining in the fun as a backup wrestler when Dad wasn’t available.

And now everything has come full circle. The Munchkin has realized that Grandpa is fun to tackle and play with. He has begun to wrestle with her, and I have never heard her laugh so much. My Dad seems to have mastered the art (after 4 kids) of doing just enough rough-and-tumbling to not hurt a kid at all, but give them the illusion that they are really wrestling. Or sometimes the rough-housing can take other forms…

On Sunday, my Dad and my youngest sister got into a balloon fight with the Munchkin. My Mom had gotten balloons for a party, and while the foil ones had deflated, my sister had reinflated them with ordinary air (after doing a few helium-sucking voice tricks) so that the Munchkin could continue to play with them. The Munchkin loves balloons. She yells whenever she sees one – “bwoon!” Anyway, the Munchkin had a balloon in hand, and Grandpa and Auntie were both similarly armed. The Munchkin would charge and begin to whack at them with her balloon, and she shrieked with glee as the blows were returned. She would retreat, and then charge again for more. She took a good nap that afternoon, believe me. (On a side note, my Dad was pleased that his granddaughter was not a “wussy,” as demostrated by her willingness to go back for more, while my Mom told the Munchkin, “Yes, but please be nice to the Brain and Head tonight!”)

There is just something so necessary in all of this. In my opinion, fathers are supposed to be rough-and-tumble with their kids. Mothers are the nuturing, protecting ones who want to keep the kids from hurting themselves, and traditionally, fathers are the ones introducing (safely) the physical challenges. The Webmaster and I talked about this on our way home with the Munchkin dead asleep in the car after the balloon fight. I told him how much this was like my childhood, and inadvertently, I pointed out a lack in the Webmaster’s memory. He doesn’t remember his Dad doing this kind of stuff. He’s sure it happened when he was as young as the Munchkin is, but he doesn’t recollect rough-housing like I did. Part of this may have been that the Webmaster is an only child, and that his Dad worked a lot at an office before the move to work the family farm. He remembers doing physical activities and playing games like catch with someone else – his Mom.

Since I am slightly too pregnant to wear out an active Munchkin, obviously the need to rough-house has to be filled by her Daddy. Though I will be able to play catch with her, but that’s something else my Dad taught me, and her Dad should teach her. So, recently, the evenings at our house have been filled with squeals and giggles as the beginnings of what I’m sure will be many future rumbles commence after dinner. I watch with a sense of deep satisfaction and happiness. This is their time to play. This will build up their relationship, as it did for me and my Dad. This is what I wanted for her, and someday, her brother. This is how it should be – all laughter and love and a really good full body slam onto the couch.

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