Bringing reality back into focus takes second-graders

June 17, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

It was a week like no other.

It was vacation time.

No more features. No more hooks. No more sources' dirty looks.

No phones.

No desire to follow those pesky pro hockey or basketball finals.

And no concern about the Hagerstown Suns or the scores I couldn't find on the Municipal Stadium scoreboard.

Sports were the furthest thing from my mind.

Heck, while the world debated the creative use of bottle stoppers, the only cork I cared about was in the bottle of wine I shared with my wife JoAnn.


This was a chance to relax and play stepdad for a week. My first duty? Volunteering to help at Maugansville Elementary School's Field Day for my stepdaughter Brianna.

It wasn't the Olympics, but what did it matter?

I wasn't working.

When I showed up, Ms. Parks, one of the teachers, asked if I was going to report on all the pint-sized athletes and their endeavors. I just smiled and said, "I forgot my notebook."

I got my orders and was deployed. I was to assist Mr. Mahon, the school's gym teacher, at the obstacle course - the 12th of 13 events in the kids' day of frolic and rolling.

Oh, there were intriguing stations. One had the kids collecting marbles from the bottom of a vat of Jell-O with their feet. There was a soccer kick, games of kickball and a couple of relay races - like dunking sponges in water before sprinting downfield to squeeze them out to fill an empty bucket.

It all paled in comparison to the obstacle course.

Mr. Mahon used a combination of traffic cones, mats, tires, bamboo rods and small-scale gymnastic equipment to set up a running test that parents would love ... the kids burned off a lot of sugar and were ready to sleep.

Still, the event proved interesting.

I stood and watched each class come over to our station and study the lay of the land as Mr. Mahon described what needed to be accomplished - leave the starting line, pick up a ball and balance it on a cone, jump over two hurdles, weave through cones, make the turn for home while leaping over a higher hurdle, crawling through a tunnel, running through a tire maze like a football player en route to the goal line.

I had the important job. As the kids lined up, I said, "Go." Mr. Mahon must have thought I was a broadcaster.

One by one, each runner put on a game face - that look of determination that comes in the heat of battle. Some begged for a clock to validate their efforts in time.

Almost every one of the competitors made two attempts at motoring through the course.

Brianna's second-grade class took its turn with exuberance.

Brianna made the first run and covered the challenge with a big smile, enhanced by the sun's reflection off her braces. One by one, Brianna's classmates followed in assembly-line fashion ... first Brandon, then Jessica and Lexie, followed by the 14 other miniature daredevils.

Most of them came back and gave me a hug or a High Five in celebration of finishing the course.

The most impressive effort came from one of the fifth-grade girls. She was the first to try the longer, improved course and navigated it with relative ease.

One or two tries weren't enough, though. She cut into the line and took five more tries, proving you can't get enough of a good thing.

All in all, this became a day that stoked my sporting pilot light. It was a case of pearls of wisdom coming from the bouts of babes.

We spend so much time mulling over the actions of self-absorbed owners like Steinbrenner, Davis, Snyder and Modell and their "Must Win" attitudes.

We clamor over the high-price antics and contract negotiations of the Iversons, O'Neals, A-Rods, Clemenses, Bondses and Mosses of the athletic world.

We endure as some parents blur the line of healthy competition for a few printed lines in the sports pages, fueling the pressurized hopes of a college scholarship, vicarious fame and an unrealistic hope for riches.

The games themselves become moot because basic reality is lost.

Kids just love to play. Kids love the challenge. Kids feel good when they enjoy success, no matter how minor the competition.

Kids compete because they want to ... and they do it for free.

What a novel idea.

Now, that was a vacation from the ordinary.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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