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Personal Essay: Father-Son Bonding
And the Crowd Roared
By Gary Zenker
“Why is there a soccer ball in the shower?” I ask my then-six-year-old son Seth. The soccer ball is a new addition to the usual assortment of action figures and nerf guns. The shower is oversized and can accommodate two people and a few child toys…and apparently, a soccer ball.
“I invented a new game. Come play with me.” Any game that encourages a six year old to take a shower on a regular basis without begging, pleading or threatening is a good one. So I tell him “okay.” He turns on the water and strips down before entering the shower.
Then I see him kick and hear the sound of the ball bouncing off the shower walls. “See?” and he explains the rules to me. “I kick the ball and it bounces off the wall. If I block it from hitting the wall behind me, I win. If I miss, the ball wins.”
Two things become immediately obvious. The first is that the kid is an inventive genius. The second is a less happy revelation. My son is an only child and lacks playmates. He is adopted and one of the roughest stories of adoption most people have ever heard. The time and money it took to make it happen made a second adoption impossible to consider. He’s surrounded by a loving family but it is moments like these that I feel guilty for not being able to give him a brother or sister.
So, after watching him for a minute, I strip down too and enter the shower. “How about if you play against me?” I offer and see a smile light up his face. We lightly kick the ball at each other in the confined space, trying to get it past the legs blocking the wall. The cascading water almost sounds like the sound of a crowded auditorium…if you pretend a bit.
The tight space and the state of undress inspired an important rule on my part. “No aiming above the knees. Please.” He nodded and added his own. “And no tickling me so you can get the ball past me.” And the game began in earnest.
Our score was five-four and the crowd was cheering when the shower door suddenly swings open. “What are you two doing?” We hadn’t heard his mom enter the bathroom or call for us.
My “Ummm,” is interrupted by my son’s direct explanation. “We’re playing Shower Soccer.” She stares at the two of us for a few seconds before shaking her head, shutting the shower door and walking away.
I guess some things only a father and son can understand.
8/13/2019 07:43:36 am
This is a short and sweet essay that lovingly conveys the connection between a father and his son. Well done.
8/13/2019 09:45:45 am
What a lovely story. It captures that moment when a parent ignores society's rules and follows his heart that leads us to laughter, imagination, and play and repeats the phrase, "Why not?"
8/13/2019 10:16:09 am
Great, heartwarming story. My grandson (now 4 years old) also used to require some incentive to take a bath or shower, usually involving toys or having someone shower with him. He's over that now, but your story recalls similar memories. Thanks!
8/13/2019 11:34:31 am
Hey, a little ironic insight for those who read. This story was rejected by a well-known everyday fiction type of online publication about a year ago. The rejector took paragraphs to tell me how she didn't understand why we couldn't go outside and play soccer in the yard because it could be dangerous to do it in the shower and several other reasons why she didn;t like the story! Really, I had to laugh that she was exactly like the "mother" in the story and couldn;t even see that. You can't make this crap up.
8/15/2019 11:13:23 am
8/15/2019 12:22:05 pm
8/16/2019 12:48:29 am
What a great story. Sometimes the most fun can be had by just encouraging your kids to be creative and then playing along. You sound like a great father.
8/18/2019 03:20:32 pm
Very sweet story. Maybe you're inadvertently giving your son opportunities to become more creative-- one of those hidden gifts found even in a situation you wished were different. Glad you could share this.
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