Posted by Amy Appelle on February 01, 2024
What does wrestling have to do with parenting? It turns out, almost everything.
Evenings are hard on parents. Our tanks are empty. And the older kids get, the later the night drags on. I often notice a part of me is desperate to reach the day’s finish line, to flop into bed for a few minutes of solitude before slumber. There is another part of me screaming internally about all the unfinished business that is pulling for my attention. This repetitive cycle of pushing and surrendering repeats itself day in and out. Just as this tension between relentlessness and respite peaks at 8:30pm, in comes WoW (Women of Wrestling), a fun family tradition with my daughters, to save me from the agony.
“AAAhhhhh!!”, yells my 9 year old as she swings Gudetama (stuffed egg squishmallow), sideswiping my head, signaling play has begun. I grab Ingy (purple cow squishmallow), cross- checking my daughter horizontally onto her bed. I jump on her leg and dive in for a tummy zerbert, she blocks it and launches Gudetama again. I take a few hits, feigning defeat while regaining focus. My hair is wild, I’m breathing hard. She believes she’s won. I capitalize on her misguided sense of triumph and toss her upside down. Screaming, she wiggles her legs out of my grip and growls with vengeance. I howl and threaten tickle punishment for her attempted escape. You get the picture.
After several rounds of failure and defeat, tickle, tackle, and torture, we fall into a red-faced, crumpled mess and call it a night. Sometimes it involves a lot of yelling and growling, other times we laugh hysterically at our wrestling characters and the outrageousness of their behavior. So what’s the significance you might ask?
It came as a surprise to me that WoW brings me great joy – the kind of silly, in-the-moment, spontaneous, wild fun that is much easier to find as a child. The kind of play that has no obvious purpose, no expectations about outcome, and no rules for behavior. Just fun. We all know that playing with your kids is important, but as they age, this can be harder to find and manifest. WoW has unveiled more than just play to me. It’s offered me many insights about myself, my children, and our relationships.
WoW lets us be characters, we get to make up names, strengths, and sayings that are not our own. We pretend to be other people, which permits us to relate differently. I’m not her mom in those moments, asking about her day, helping her with school. I am released from my job, and what a relief it is to the both of us for those 10 quick minutes.
WoW lets us be strong, to flex our muscles and be aggressive. It’s something to be celebrated and promoted. We rule.
WoW lets my tween and teen daughters see the fun and decide whether they want to be a part of it. They rarely opt in, but on occasion, they will laugh or jump on us for a few seconds. I’ll take these acts as a willingness to play, even though it’s hard being a teen, always working to show us they are independent and not needy.
WoW helps with communication and boundaries. As you might imagine, WoW can get out of hand. Talking through what is too much and what is ok, and respecting these limits with one another, is a practice for other moments in the day.
WoW helps with compliance at bedtime. Once it’s over, my daughter is more willing to move on to the regular bedtime routine. It’s a release of energy and then it is time to rest.
WoW gives me a boost when I need it most. It shows me that even when depleted, shifting the mood or the activity can be surprisingly helpful. It shows my daughter that I can show up for her, that I can say ‘yes’ even when she knows I may be more inclined to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ or ‘maybe tomorrow’.
WoW is a made up character-driven, action-packed, semi-violent 10 minute wrestling match and I’m holding on to it as long as possible.
Related link on the importance of play:
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