I grew up wrestling with my dad, who never lost, even if he hurt me along the way. And then I wrestled sisters, occasionally cousins, and eventually boyfriends. My love for wrestling is deep and convoluted. It satisfies a need for touch, yes, but also for testing myself, a proving ground of sorts. I’ve always been strong, wiry, and here is a way to showcase my type of strength, which isn’t a race-winning, pull-up kind.
Enter my own two children, with whom I have wrestled since they cared to tangle. We all have wrestling names: Lieutenant Burrito, Banano (me), Captain Punch, and The Princess (who is now old enough to want a new name).
The problem begins when my kids wrestle others.
A few days ago, my son began wrestling with a friend in the snow, another boy just a year younger but much more slight. They were bored of the surroundings and beginning that spiral into hunger that neither recognized. The wrestling idea came during a game of tag where one fell into the snow, laughing, and pulled the other down. Suddenly they were grappling, which is how it always starts.
My son is strong, big-boned, tall for his age, but still 10. His body can cause harm before his brain thinks ahead enough to pull back. Add in the emotional component where his anger can surge into play after being dominated, and there’s a risk involved to both the health of the child involved and to the underlying friendship – even the friendship between parents is challenged by this display!
It’s difficult for me to watch wrestling because my fears of both judgment and physical harm, and so I turned away from most of it. The other children watched, clapping and cheering for good moves, clearly picking favorites. Maybe it’s this part – the onlookers – that changes the game from friendly to serious. By the time they quit, the other kid had a split lip, and I felt stressed.
I wondered if the other parent would take a long break from seeing us because of this. I wondered if my kid acted “too” agressively, careless with the body of another child. I wondered what I “should” do when both kids are engaged in this effort, though it doesn’t always seem carefree. I, The Parent, do not know.
Yet both boys hit the cars happy, with that full-body exhaustion wrestling produces. They shouted goodbyes and didn’t seem resentful. But I am still worrying.