Once our boys got to high school, wrestling became more of a special event than a regular thing. It’s hard to say exactly how we knew each time that a wrestling match was called for, but the need for it was usually obvious to all the parties involved. Sometimes it came after a couple of hours of strenuous homework when they just needed a break. Other times it came because there was tension between us. Regardless of the reason, someone usually declared “it’s ON!” and the preparations would commence.
For the most part the preparations involved clearing the area of disinterested people (Mom) and the dogs that were too interested and wanted to join the fun. Furniture that might be a hazard was moved out of the way. There was also personal preparation that involved taking off watches and glasses and removing good shirts that we didn’t want to get ruined. It was quite the production and the beauty of it was that by the time we got this far into it, the original reason for the whole thing was often already forgotten.
That’s because they had begun DOING something.
Sitting around pondering a problem just doesn’t feel like progress. Progress requires action. Even if our actions don’t directly relate to the problem at hand, we can still feel like we’re making progress if we do something. This is why guys keep driving around when we’re lost. If we’re moving, we’re making progress. No movement, no progress. It makes no sense to us to “stop and ask for directions” because that would require us to stop. See? It’s all perfectly logical.
Logic plays a big role in our problem solving. So does efficiency. Guys like to solve things quickly and get on to the next thing. I think it’s because guys just aren’t capable of holding too many things in their head at once. If a problem pops up, we like to address it immediately so we can get our brains back to solving the really important issues in life, like who’s going to win the Heisman trophy this year. Unfortunately, many of life’s problems don’t have quick solutions. This is really annoying to most men. Faced with this kind of problem, many guys retreat into their “man cave” of silent contemplation and don’t emerge until they figure things out. Interestingly, many men in this situation arrive at the SAME conclusion! They determine that the path toward a solution requires action, so the obvious response is…to blow something up!
Large fires are good too, but whatever the mechanism there needs to be destruction. It may not specifically address the problem, but at least we’re doing something, so it’s progress. Besides, explosions and big fires are awesome! Of course, most guys don’t have access to a lot of explosives, or enough lumber for a satisfying fire, so the only readily available alternative is to place ourselves in mortal danger.
Which brings us back to wrestling.
Even within the confines of a loving home, wrestling can be rather perilous. I still have a click in my jaw because of an inadvertent head-butt during one wrestling match years ago. Recently I finally gave in and had surgery on my shoulder for a torn rotator cuff that was either caused by, or at least aggravated by, wrestling with my boys. One time I noticed a set of bruises on one arm fading to green while a new set rose purple on the other. All of these were a result of wrestling, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for two main reasons:
1. Guys think wounds are neat. Scars are even better because they’re visible and permanent. They are evidence that we have faced adversity and survived. As our boys were growing up we made a point to be more impressed than concerned when they got “owies”. It’s amazing how quickly a young man’s outlook about a scraped knee or a puncture wound to the forehead can change when his parents are getting all excited about how cool it looks. Just think of the awesome scar you’ll have! Man, what a lucky guy!
2. Wrestling is also an acceptable form of affection when boys get too old for that sort of thing. No one can blame a teenager for being a little embarrassed when his parents try to hug or kiss him, especially in public! After all, he’s nearly a man now and that’s just baby stuff! But a wrestling match is manly. The fact that dad plants a big kiss on your cheek after he’s pinned you is completely out of your control. You don’t lose any guy points when that happens.
One thing I didn’t really consider about this wrestling thing until it was almost too late was that my boys were continually getting bigger and stronger while I was pretty much done growing. For years I had a weight advantage on them, but there came a day when I noticed that my weight wasn’t much of an advantage anymore. Unfortunately they noticed it too. I supplemented with some tricky wrestling moves for a while, but eventually the inevitable happened.
Gerrit pinned me.
I had lunch the following day with some fellow dads and told them about the pin. I was looking at the whole episode as another milestone in my son’s development and perhaps an indicator that I was approaching some milestones of my own. My friends were not so convinced. Though neither of them had boys old enough to present any real challenge to them yet, they felt strongly that I should not let this challenge to my dominance go unanswered! They were mostly kidding, but none of us could shake the feeling that something important hung in the balance. We weren’t sure what exactly, but it seemed to have something vaguely to do with my manhood. And since I didn’t have the resources to blow anything up and couldn’t think of anything to burn, there was only one solution…
I went home that night and pinned Gerrit. Then I declared victory and retired.
Sometime later I went through the same process with Tucker and retired from wrestling with him as well. There have been challenges from both of them since then, but I remain steadfast in my retirement. I would love to be able to accommodate their requests, but since I beat them the last time we wrestled it probably wouldn’t be fair. :-)
Philip and I still wrestle. He’s sixteen now and getting pretty big.
I feel another retirement coming on.
originally published 12/12/11| next post Moving Mountains