Sometimes Simple is Better


Last week I spent 4 days at our son’s house. Brian was out of town and our daughter-in-law, Melissa, was sick. I went to help with their 7-year-old (Owen), 6-year-old (Ella), and 6-month-old (Asher).

Brian had just set up a tetherball in their yard for Owen and Ella, and I was looking forward to playing the game with them. It was one of my favorite schoolyard games when I was their age. But first I had to pick up Owen from school.

One of my favorite things ever is to have a grandchild see me, yell my name, and run to me with their arms wide open. And that’s exactly what Owen did when he saw me waiting for him at the school gate. My heart was smiling.

We climbed into the car, and after a few minutes of chatter, I told Owen I was excited to play tetherball with him and that I had been a tetherball champion when I was his age.

Owen started sharing a story with me about the game he had played that day with the school’s reigning champion. He mentioned words like “holdy” and “ropey” and “double-bubble.” Confused, I asked him what those words meant.

  • “I thought you said you were a champion,” he replied.
  • “Well, I was, but we didn’t use words like that. If you held the ball we said, ‘You held the ball. ‘ And if you touched the rope, we said, ‘You touched the rope.’

Owen wasn’t impressed and proceeded to explain all of the “real” rules to me. Later, once we actually started playing, there were even more rules.

During one game, Owen touched the rope, and I called him on it. He told me that shouldn’t count. I asked why, and said that if we didn’t count it, it would be giving him an advantage.

  • “Well,” he responded, “I’m thinking of the player who is losing against the champion, and so it shouldn’t count, to give the loser an advantage.”
  • “Really? You just made up this rule now because you’re losing, right?”

With an adorable grin, he replied, “You got me.”

I totally give him credit for his imagination and ingenuity, but .. no ..we didn’t adopt that “rule.”

During the next game, we played by the rules as I remembered them.

  • You can’t hold the ball.
  • You can’t touch the rope.
  • You have to stay on your own side.


Owen’s good at tetherball. I didn’t “go easy” on him, and we ended the 4 days with a 7-6 score. I had 7 and Owen had 6. But as I was hugging him goodbye, Owen said, “Let’s just say it was 7-7.”

Yeah, sure. I can break the rules now and then too.

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