Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Another Pickup Game of Calvinball

The world is changing around me. The flowers are blossoming, the trees are budding and love is in the air, especially in the way of playing. Birds are playing their own games of tag, squirrels are chasing each other, couples are walking the trails hand in hand and kids are playing all sorts of games, some old, some completely made up and new, with ever changing rules… Like Calvinball – a glorious game involving an ever-changing tide of rules, songs, zones, and fun. No sport is more unorganized than Calvinball, and no other can possible be as much fun!

There is only one permanent rule to playing Calvinball, stated by Calvin himself:

Any player can declare a new rule at any point in the game. The rule can effect any player involved, be positive or negative, make sense or make no sense. New rules will take effect once they are said out loud, or thought (depending on the zone the rule making player inhabits).


All you need to play the game are masks, flags, a field, a ball, any other equipment that the player chooses to use and a great imagination… especially with the songs. Songs are sung throughout Calvinball. There’s even an official Calvinball song which is goes as follows:

The Official Calvinball Song

Other kids games are all such a bore!

They gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!

Calvinball is better by far!

It's never the same! It's always bizarre.

You don't need a team or a referee!

You know that it's great, 'cause its named after me!

If you wanna...

But any song will make the cut, no matter how beautifully or badly it is sung.

Score may be kept or disregarded. If you do keep score, it shall have no bearing on the game nor will it have any logical consistency to it. (Legal scores include 'Q to 12', 'BW-109 to YU-34, and 'Nosebleed to Pelvic Fracture'.)

There isn’t always a clear cut winner to the game. The whole point is that you played.

Now to me, Calvinball is just another way of looking at motherhood. Think about it…

The only permanent rule about raising children is that it will never be done the same way twice. Every kid is different, has different needs, and what you did with one child will not necessarily work with another. The rules are constantly changing! Just when you think you’ve got one figured out, something will happen to send you into total confusion. By the time you get a handle on it, someone will change another rule on you.

And the rules affect each member differently. One rule will make one child cry, while another may be filled with bliss, while another still may be bewildered by the rule itself. Parents have to play all the rules, with all its meaning, at the same time.

The playing fields are constantly changing. The equipment is recycled or used as needed. Often a new one is bought to keep the “game” going.


You are constantly running into a new zone without warning – disciple, protection, friends, school, hormones – you name it, you will encounter it at some point without any premonition, and you are fully expected to know what to do to solve any situation – with ease, warmth and hugs thrown in for grins and giggles.


You will wear many masks as a mom. A mask of encouragement when you really fear for your children’s emotions, a mask of comfort when you only want to strangle them, a mask of confidence when you know full well that you don’t know what to do.

And there are so many songs involved in motherhood, whether it is a forte of yours or not. Your children don't care if you are off-key or a singer extraordinaire. They just want to hear you, be near you and crave the love behind each note. It’s the same with any book reading, bedtime story and talk-time, too.

And at the end to the day, it doesn't matter if you have kept score at all. You know that you have had a day with those you love, a little more love from your kids. And that made the game worth it all.

Even if, especially if, you were making it up as you went along.

Being a mom is the ultimate game of Calvinball. Hard to play, but worth ever second of grief, misery, embarrassment, and laughter that evolves from this game of love.

The wonderful thing is that I can’t wait to start the next day so that I can play it again.

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