Like most boys my age, I had a pro wrestling phase.
This “phase” lasted until I had kids and all my free time dissipated. But I’ll still fall down the occasional YouTube wormhole because, sometimes, you need to watch someone moonsault from the top of a cage.
I grew up on a steady diet of Bret Hart and Ricky “The Steamboat” Dragon. And, despite working at a library, I learned more about storytelling from Dusty Rhodes than I did Tolstoy.
But I don’t watch wrestling with my kids yet. I want them to be old enough to understand wrestling as theater. (And to know that you can’t solve problems by hitting them in the head with a chair.)
But who needs professional wrestling when you’re two years old? For a 2-year-old, life is professional wrestling. It’s a series of loosely choreographed jumps, smashes and feigned injuries.
And to play with a kid is to enter their exaggerated world, so here are five ways playtime with a 2-year-old is like professional wrestling.
- It’s all about character
Any successful playtime starts with nailing down the character.
Maybe you’re a clumsy tyrannosaurus waiter. (“How am I supposed to deliver brunch with these tiny arms?”) Maybe you’re a crocodile lurking by the riverside, waiting for the gazelle (read: your spouse) to get too close. Maybe you don’t warn your spouse that you’re a crocodile and you accidentally spill her coffee. Maybe you have to apologize to your spouse and spend the next 15 minutes trying to clean coffee stains from your carpet.
What matters is that you committed to your character.
And, like Stone Cold Steve Austin said, your best character is just yourself turned up to 11.
Unless you can be Mantaur. Then you be Mantaur.
- Working safe
It’s probably hard to tell with all the piledrivers and power bombs, but a professional wrestler’s most sacred responsibility is to make sure their opponent doesn’t get hurt.
Likewise, most parents spend the entirety playtime making sure their child doesn’t concuss him or herself.
- Someone’s still getting hurt
Of course, it doesn’t matter how scripted professional wrestling is. Someone’s still going to need stitches when it’s over.
Similarly, you can be as careful as you want with your kids. Somebody’s head is still going to bounce off the coffee table.
- You haven’t worked until you’ve worked hurt
That’s a Harley Race quote by way of Kevin Nash, if you need attribution.
The parenting paraphrase would be, “you haven’t played until you’ve played hurt.
After all, it’s a lark to pretend you’re a horse. Unless you just threw your back out and your kids wants to ride. Then it’s agony.
- You’re going to lose and the crowd’s going to love it
Until your child discovers his or her first antihero, playtime always ends with the villain losing.
And that’s going to be you, unless some older sibling is willing to serve as the Black Hat.
But don’t be disappointed that you have to be the villain again. Or distressed that, once more, playtime ends with your children jumping on your sternum.
Be glad that you got to be part of their story. It’s a privilege, even when you lose.