posted by Andy Hatcher
Overcome by March Madness, I bought a free standing Little Tikes basketball hoop this year for my eleven month old son Kai. When I told my buddy, he said, “Cool. You gonna let your boy play with it, too?” Touché.
He’s not far off; to be sure, my own participation in this activity has been exuberant: I colored in the grooves of the ball that came in the box with a Sharpie to make it look more like a real basketball. I bought three extra miniature basketballs for a dollar apiece. I even wedged a children’s board book version of Romeo and Juliet under the base of the hoop to compensate for the already-slanted rim—this as a former high school English teacher. Who said you’ll never use Shakespeare?
I’m happy to report Kai has become adept at slam dunking. He’s long for his age, and his stature relative to the backboard at its lowest setting would make Wilt Chamberlain envious. The first time Kai put the ball through the hoop with two hands, we showered him with the accolades reserved for Poet Laureates. He must have thought us easily entertained. The same went for the second time and the third and every time since—it seemingly never gets old for any of us. At this point, he’s taken to dunking two balls at once and mimicking his dad’s cartoonish, triumphant groans; his versions sound more like high pitched shrieks, and they are awesome.
One afternoon as I lobbed long range shots from across the living room, my wife turned to me and asked, “Would you be doing all of this if we’d had a girl?” She’s asked me this question before in other forms. Would you be…buying fire trucks/ wrestling so much/throwing around every type of ball imaginable if we had a daughter? The easy and honest answer is, of course. (For the record, my wife and I have made it a point to also buy Kai a baby doll and plenty of standard, paradigm-free toys.)
But her question gave me pause. I’m just doing what comes naturally to me as a provider of recreation, and Kai has responded in kind every time. I can’t think of one thing he hasn’t enjoyed or encouraged me to repeat. I’m sure the day will come. In the meantime, I see it as my responsibility to pull ideas from my comfort zone while also pushing myself to think of activities I’ve never done before or that the three of us can share.
The more nuanced answer to my wife’s question is I’d still be trying all of these things, but I think I’d be more surprised if my daughter liked them. This is our first child, so I have no other frames of reference. Maybe all kids want to do the things their parents are doing if they look fun and enjoyable, and gender-based predilections have absolutely nothing to do with it. If it all comes down to presentation and sound effects—whether you’re talking basketball or Brussels sprouts—sharing joy with your child should be as easy as dunking a miniature basketball in an over-sized hoop three feet off the ground; in my case the two just happen to be one in the same.
© Andy Hatcher and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2013