Last Friday, Ryan and I decided to surprise the boys and take them to see the latest “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movie at the local cheap seats. The boys were excited when they saw the theater, more so when they saw the title playing. We had great fun playing the trivia games that they show prior to the main film. (Mostly, Ben just echoed whatever answer Ryan said, and all the rest of us got a kick out of how predictably cute Ben was being…) When the movie started, the boys were drawn into the story line and laughed at all the appropriate times, despite having read the books and having a pretty good idea of what was coming next. Many times I looked over and saw Ben curled up in his dad’s arm, cuddling him tightly and both of them were looking pretty happy. Jake was smiling next to me, giving me the usual ‘don’t start, Mom’ look every time there was a reference to girls. (It’s adorable how he has little crushes now but refuses to admit he is starting to notice girls because he hates to be teased.) The movie was amusing and my family’s reaction to the movie couldn’t have been better. This mom was in heaven.
Heaven, that was, until the movie started getting uncomfortable. Just as the main character, “Greg” was about to get confronted on all of his mischievous debauchery, (you know… the part of the movie where you’re supposed to learn a moral lesson…) Ben got very upset. He really doesn’t like to see other people getting hurt, or even into trouble. He started burying his face in Ryan’s shirt. He started crying because he wanted to leave. Right around this same time, it occurs to us that it’s just nearing his bedtime… and of course being tired accentuates the helpless feelings little boys have when they are upset. When we left the theater, Ben kept telling us this movie was going to cause him to have ‘inappropriate dreams and nightmares’. He couldn’t elaborate, but he could repeat himself, endlessly, for hours. Literally.
We tried every maneuver to get his mind off the movie. Though he laughed all the way through he still somehow continued crying unreasonably. We shared stories, changed the subject, read his new ‘Ninjago’ books… but he was still crying and throwing a tantamount pity party. Suddenly, nothing in his life was good. (And don’t we all have those days when we’re exhausted? Poor Ben..) He desperately needed sleep, but instead, he felt like he needed to continue to complain about life. After hours of cuddles, we finally got him to fall asleep on the couch much later than he’s accustomed to staying up.
During the midst of Ben’s meltdown, he mentioned not having ANY FRIENDS and how there was NOTHING TO DO AT RECESS because he’s NOT GOOD AT ANY SPORTS EVER. (As much as these comments tug at my heart strings, I certainly remember Jake having the same sob stories when he was in first grade. First grade must be a really tough time for little boys to figure out who they are and where they belong… But no worries. Jake found his way, as will Ben.) Being the good big brother that Jake typically is when Ryan and I are at a loss to console Ben, Jake offered to teach Ben how to play Foursquare, and even suggested that Ben could play this playground game with him and his friends at recess. Amid Ben’s unreasonable breakdown, he couldn’t imagine this would be fun, but I thought it was pretty awesome that Jake had offered.
Luckily, after a good night’s sleep, Ben woke up, (had apparently greatly enjoyed the movie???) but wasn’t feeling very well. He was tired and a little punchy. (I suspect this also fed into the outburst the night prior..) We took the day fairly easy. But this morning, we were all feeling up to getting out and having some fun. We stopped at Play-It-Again Sports and bought a playground ball, and headed for the schoolyard.
Jake taught us the rules to Foursquare. In a basic description, there is a big square divided into four smaller squares. One person takes a position in each square. Apparently there’s different naming systems for each square, but essentially, one square is the lowest spot on the board, while another is highest. The person in the highest ranking square throws the ball to another square, and that person tries to get it into another square and so on.. and the players continue to volley until someone breaks the decided ‘rules’. The person in the highest ranking square (generally referred to as the King) gets to “declare” certain rules… In the basic format, each players has to have two hands on the ball to volley it, and can only allow the ball to bounce a single time in their square before getting it into someone’s else’s square. This was my favorite, so if when I got into the “King” square, I would say, “2 hands, 1 bounce”. Jake refers to this rule as “the Usual, or just ‘the Usj‘. The moment the ball bounced a second time in the same square, or someone volleyed with a single hand, that person lost that round, and went to the lowest ranked square. (FYI- Jake’s team refers to the lowest square as ‘the Toilet‘.) Everyone then rotates around and a new person is put in the King square, declaring new rules. Once you master ‘The Usj’ you can start making several more specific rules. There some silliness involving “spikes” and “cherry bombs” and things of that nature…
We all learned the basics and had a fun time till we got silly. We all had a chance or two at King, and we were all flushed to the Toilet at some point. After a while, Ben got tired of playing and thought perhaps were were being unfair to him because he was smaller, but I think we still had a reasonably good time. Ben will eventually learn that only he can control whether or not he has fun. No one else can have fun for him. I’m not too worried about this… As I said earlier, I think sportsmanship is a lesson that boys need to confront in first grade. To this point, Ben has always proved to be a good sport, and I’m sure soon he’ll find his way to that conclusion again. In the meantime, I can’t wait to play this game again! And I can’t help but be pretty proud of Jake for showing off his skills as an athlete, a friend and a big brother. What a lucky mom I am!