Remember the scene in “Revenge of the Nerds” when the titular nerds have to sleep in the gym after the jocks steal their dorm building? They sit on cots, lamenting their place on campus separated from basketball practice by a big nylon curtain. Occasionally, a ball will sail over and smash their chess pieces.
That’s the YMCA’s “Family Fun Gym” in a nutshell. Kids aged 3-10 roll around on mats while just on the other side of the nylon curtain, street toughs played pick up basketball. At one point, I made Luca go over to watch and he screamed, “Haha! That guy missed the hoop.” The man in question was not one to say “Haha” to.
I knew I had a minimum of 2 hours to kill before Diana would let us come home to play X-Box again. And the number of people in our family who enjoy playing ball-based games is zero. So I had to come up with a plan.
“Hey guys, have you ever played dodge ball?”
I grabbed an armload of dodge balls and, as the official family bully, I nominated myself to be the thrower.
I took it easy on them. Lead them too much. Threw it at about 1/100th power. But every once and I while I would whip the ball as hard as I could. Over their heads, of course. It would bang off the walls and echo over to the basketball toughs, who must have wondered what kind of cool dad was over at Family Fun Gym scaring the crap out of their kids.
Eventually I let Elijah throw the ball. And when he hit me I crumbled to the floor and cried. He was delighted to feel the power of bullyness.
But I told him not to let it get to his head and definitely not try it at school.