Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How much is too much?

Jacob loves sports. There is no doubt. He came by it honestly, thanks to two parents who love sports and a TV that frequently shows sports in one form or another. He liked throwing balls right from the get-go, and is now really good at it...to the point that those playing with him frequently cower in fear as he winds up. Granted, his power is generally better than his aim, but we'll work on that. His favorite words right now are "Knighthawks" and "hockey", with the old standby "ball" still hanging in there. He frequently stops cold and will do his baseball swing, or he'll turn any elongated object--food, a hairbrush, writing instruments--into a baseball bat, hockey stick, or lacrosse stick, complete with the appropriate motions. When we first gave him a little baseball bat, he carried it around with him all the time. Same thing happened when we gave him a mini-hockey stick, and then in the past couple weeks with a little lacrosse stick. However, he seems to be most attached to the lacrosse stick, which he will whine for whenever it goes missing. When he starts repeating "Knighthawks" over and over, looking worried, I generally know that's what he wants. He screams whenever we try to take it away to do something where it would be inappropriate, unwelcome, or easily lost, like daycare, church, or mealtimes. Even bathtime and bedtime aren't immune. And even when we take it away and try to distract him, he still asks for it back. At mealtime, after about five bites he's saying "All Done" and trying to get out of his seat. The second he walks into the living room most of the time he's pointing to the TV saying "hockey" or "Knighthawks", which is his cue to us to turn on sports. And we do have the MLB Network and the NHL Network as part of our cable package, so there is, indeed, always sports to turn on. Of course, lately I've been putting on Sesame Street off the DVR instead, just so it's something to distract him from an empty TV screen.

Now, all of this said, I know how kids are. I've heard enough stories about kids who have to wear their PJs to school, go to bed with their fire helmet on, or have to have their food cut into certain shapes to eat it. Kids are weird sometimes and they have strange phases with strange hangups. They obsess over things for a time, and within reason you might as well just let them be weird and pick your battles over more important things. However, I still worry that Jacob's just too obsessed with sports. While I'd like to think he spends his days at daycare interested in drawing and singing and playing in the toy kitchen, I still have this nagging suspicion that they spend half the day trying to keep him involved with the other kids and preventing him from dragging another ball out of the ball bin. He's frequently playing ball when I get there, which only adds to that theory. But regardless, once he gets home, sports is at the top of his very short list. Yes, he'll play with his other non-sports toys once in a while. He loves his stuffed animals and was giving them lots of kisses yesterday. He'll play around with other things--his Little People cars and parking ramp, his Incrediblock, miscellaneous trucks, and his Elmo Live, but almost without fail, the next time you turn around, he'll be playing with some sort of ball and some Jacob-sized sports equipment. Or sometimes he'll try to use a non-sports toy as a stand-in for sports stuff. His Little People have had to be rescued numerous times from their use as hockey pucks. I have no idea why he has it in his head that they should be pucks, but no amount of logical discussion has convinced him of that yet. If he's not playing with something sports related, he's checking out the sports on TV or paging through an Amerks magazine or one of the many sports media guides sitting on our bookshelf.

And while I think his obsession has its cute moments (I have some cute videos...I can't remember if I posted them here, or just on Facebook...ugh), I do worry that it's just a little too all-encompassing and that it may be distracting him from learning other, more important things. I mean, if he's going to obsess over something, I'd certainly rather it be sports than, say, Barney or the Wiggles or even Yo Gabba Gabba...for my own sanity's sake, anyway. However, I would like him to be learning his letters and numbers a bit, or heck, even good manners...and I'm not sure sports teaches any of that...at least not at this point. Hence the reason I've been turning on Sesame Street whenever I can. But still, I couldn't help but be a little nervous when it seemed like sports was taking over his vocabulary. He'd been saying certain words for a while and a few times recently I've asked him to repeat them...and all I got was "Knighthawks". Maybe he's just being a difficult 19-month-old who knows how to push all of his mama's buttons, but can you blame me for being a bit nervous when it starts taking over everything? I'm sure things will balance out, but in the meantime I'm trying to think of ways to divert his attention and broaden his horizons without withholding the one thing he truly loves. I try to stay firm when it's not a good time for him to cart around his lacrosse stick, like tonight when he screamed through his whole bath because he wanted it there with him, or whined a bit at bedtime because he couldn't have it there either. Maybe I shouldn't bother, but there are limits and there's no time like the present to start teaching him that. I can appreciate that he's into something, and it's a really cool thing to be into. I just hope that we as parents can guide him into other interests as well, or at least use his sports interests to enhance other areas of his life. Maybe he'll be the only kid in his fourth grade class to master long division (unlike his mama) because he's been calculating save percentage, goals against averages, and batting averages since he was in kindergarten. Who knows? You can't fault a kid who has a passion, but as parents we can channel it. Let's just hope we figure out how to do that...


Mom B. said...

I think this is much better than sucking his thumb. (I preferred fingers until 6 or 7ish. He isn't even 2) I took the stick away 3 times this weekend as we went to the game, to eat, and to shop, and he handled it well as long as something good was coming. You worry more than me which sets a new world record! lol

AmyRyb said...

(Post above is from my dad...who was apparently signed in under my mom's username...)

Dad, while you're probably right, remember that you're the grandpa and he's more likely to be a good boy for you :) I take it away and he screams for his entire five minute bath or the entire walk into church or for his entire meal!