As a mom of four, I’ve learned that I should truly NEVER feel completely comfortable and at peace. If you’ve got 3 or more kids, you totally get me. “Calgon – take me away!” Nope. Not if you have lots of small people. Even the most luxurious of baths can’t ease your constant and necessary “at-the-ready” tension. In fact, I’m often most tense when I need to take a shower. For some reason, as soon as I’ve shampooed – and I’m reaching that perfect full lather – it is always right then that I’m convinced I could just barely make out the sound of a child tumbling down the stairs, or one sister ripping out the hair of the other. On the worst days, I’ll hear sirens and assume one of my children needed to call the police/fire department/ambulance or all 3.
So – it didn’t come as much of a surprise when my son’s small at-home birthday celebration on a lovely, sunny and 65 Texas late winter afternoon became fraught with peril – – – and all it took was a game of two-hand-touch football.
I feel the need to preface the picture I’m about to paint for you with a few words about my crew. My kids are amazing and they feel all things profoundly. They love deeper and stronger than anyone else I know; they hurt longer and they empathize more for others; but they are also fairly quick to anger over even the slightest injustice. You can likely almost imagine the ups and downs in my house if you truly grasp even a bit of the emotional intensity within my children.
It started off great – – a handful of friends, a couple of cousins, sunshine, karaoke, chips and sports. We enjoyed a shirtless rendition of “Final Countdown,” as performed by my 80s music loving 10-year-old. We giggled at the interpretive dances going on behind my 12-year-old’s “Beautiful,” by Cristina Aguilera. My niece’s version of Sia’s “Chandelier” brought to mind the mellifluous sounds of mating cats. I may or may not have delighted the crowd with my karaoke “Ice, Ice Baby.”
The kids enjoyed some free play and soccer and pizza and cupcakes. Then – it was time to move the party to the street for a “friendly” game of two-hand-touch football. A friendly game would have been the perfect way to end the festivities. But our game? Not so friendly.
The birthday boy himself became very hostile almost from the very beginning when his friends decided not to throw him the ball when he was open. I don’t think I’ve ever seen DeanO yell at anyone before – but he really shouted at his teammates, killing the friendly atmosphere at once. My husband, bless his little heart, was playing the part of referee. My brother-in-law, bless his little heart, was playing the part of that belligerent player who questions all calls and gets up in the ref’s face. I think there was even a hat pulled off and thrown down. My niece came over to me and said,”What’s with all the tension between my dad and Uncle Anthony?” Football, Maya. Football.
Then, my husband the ref thought it best to help the birthday boy’s team win by going particularly easy on the calls against Dean’s team, Los Pollos Locos (The Crazy Chickens). At one point, Isabella – captain of the opposing Teletubbies team – indignantly pointed out to the ref that several crazy chickens were shirt grabbing the Teletubbies when they were out of bounds. The ref stated “If it’s out of bounds, I’m not calling it. It’s ok if it happens out of bounds.” Stop me if you know where I’m going…
My Isabella is nothing if not a rule follower. So, the next chance she had – when Dean ran out of bounds – Isabella saw it as the ideal opportunity to turn the tables and show Los Pollos Locos AND her father, the ref, how wrong it is to not call “late hits.” She grabbed her brother by the shirt and threw him down to the dirt. Hard. No mercy. When siblings attack.
Thankfully, this nervous momma didn’t actually see the late hit of all late hits. I likely would have called all the kids’ parents for an early party pick up so I can take my son to the ER to be x-rayed everywhere – just for my own peace of mind. Instead, I watched as the football game that was meant to be the crowning jewel in Dean’s party, started an unrecoverable downward spiral. The ref ordered Isabella out of the game for her unsportsmanlike conduct. She argued – perhaps correctly? – that what she did was out of bounds, so as the ref earlier stated – it was totally ok. So, she refused to get out of the game. Thankfully – a few short (and yet painstakingly LONG) moments later, the kids’ parents started coming to pick up their kids. The game was over. The party was over. The fun in my house – – just beginning. The lesson? Never let your husband referee a street football game between two teams captained by opposing siblings. OR – have all kids’ parties at the local gymnastics place where other people are in charge and there is no competition. You’re welcome.