Two Can Play at That Game

THWACK! is a beautiful sound.

So is SSLRP!

These are two noises I easily associate with my youth, and, in particular, my youth while around my dad. We’re playing softball. He pitches, I swing, he catches.

Rinse and repeat.

These buzzy, breezy, warm summer afternoons are all snugly tucked deep into the depths of my childhood memory treasure chest.

I’m also totally addicted to the sound of PING and PONG.

100515pingpong (800x354)

These tiny blips of sound snippets fill the space between my son and myself as we face one another and focus on the small, plastic white ball that rapidly zips between us.

It is an addiction we share—this undeniable craving to master the trajectory of an object in motion as well as the desire to outwit one’s opponent.

I’m not sure which one is more important to me—skill or sagacity.

Okay, maybe crushing my challenger ekes out smidge above pure talent, but surely I cannot be blamed for that. Perhaps that is Mother Nature’s way of saying, Genetically, this version of a person doesn’t totally suck. Let’s make her a fighter and see what happens in the wild.

Table tennis was another one of those gladdening games my father took the time to teach each one of his kids. It didn’t require an enormous amount of exertion, but rather focused on hand-eye coordination with a hefty sprinkling of on your feet, forward thinking dexterity. Not something your average nine-year-old has mastered, but if you set up a rigid, unrelenting schedule of early rising, all day training under the guidance of a brutal drill sergeant, your proficiency skyrockets.

Except, we didn’t do that.

My training was filled with way too much giggling to be taken seriously.

And it is what I love most about playing ping pong with my son.

When put into the same room with a sixteen-year-old boy, one often struggles—nay, labors with intense strain to find common ground—a place where he can hear my parental pearls of wisdom and I can be assured that his language skills still exist and are being exercised.

And one must toil in this manner if one hopes for a future where one is not surrounded by a group of unfortunate, drooling elderly who feast on antipsychotics for breakfast, sit for much of the day slumped in a wheelchair and chew on their hands for entertainment.

No. I’ve documented these last few years, and will continue to do so, in an effort to prove to my son that even though most psychologists agree there is no other reasonable explanation for why teenagers behave the way they do other than the fact that aliens have covertly swooped in one night and sucked out their brains,

100515straucers (800x677)exchanging it for the contents of a jar of Marshmallow Fluff, I will not resort to the easiest solution. I will not institutionalize him as long he will not institutionalize me.

Seems fair enough, right?

Therefore, through the rigors of trial and error, we have hunted to find a shared activity. I have discovered that getting our nails done together is out. Watching soapy chick flicks with a pitcher of margaritas between us is definitely out. And sharing the writing of this week’s flowery batch of rhapsodic fan mail to Neil deGrasse Tyson will likely be a flop as well.

We are left with sports.

Since one must bend to the lowest common denominator here— meaning my son cannot/will not attempt baton twirling or curling on ice, and I have more than a little bit of trouble throwing myself in front of a soccer ball traveling at breakneck speed, we are left with some softer athletic choices.

Ping pong it is.

We’ve spent a couple of months sizing one another up. It’s been years since I’ve played competitively … okay, I’ve never played table tennis competitively, but I am a very competitive player—and my son knows that. I usually don’t shy away from the ball, unless he is attempting to lodge it in the space between my eyes. And as much as I’ve requested that these games between us do not include any skeletal denting, I’ve also told him not to go all soft on me.

I aim to beat him.

Because the point of this endeavor is to teach him how to be a good loser.

Thus far, we have lost seven ping pong balls—four to the dog who sees them as neutral flavored, un-legged white mice,

100515mouse (800x767)two behind the ancient organ that magically sucks them up and transports them through a Wurlitzer wormhole into another dimension, and one to a full, crushing body slam that may have damaged a few internal organs, but was impressive enough to justify.

We have both lost a layer or two of some of the skin that protects our hands, arms, and hips, as the sides of the ping pong table are about as sharp as Winston Churchill’s rapier wit.

100515winnie (749x800)

And we have lost hours of precious playing time arguing whether or not a ball was on the line, off the line or possessed by a demonic spirit that should not be attributed to our skills or lack thereof.

If my aim was to teach my son how to lose graciously in life, I think I’d have to admit to having learned the same lesson.

When it comes down to it, we’ve lost ourselves … in the fun of it all.



Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.


60 thoughts on “Two Can Play at That Game

  1. When I used to play with him he had a fun little game called “try to break Chloe’s glasses with a single serve”

    My brother is ruthless

    Happy madre’s day

    • Yeah, sorry about that. It was clear from the beginning that his middle name really should have been, “Oh yeah? Just watch me,” but by the time we realized that, it was too late to give him back and get a puppy.
      Thanks, kiddo. ❤ ❤

  2. It is important to ensure your children understand that you, as parent have the upper hand in as many of the competitive arts as possible. It keeps the last little bit of respect alive …… and keeps them at their studies for a bit longer than they might otherwise agree to, thereby ensuring that any bits the aliens haven’t sucked out are at least relatively creative and relatively intelligent – and hopefully maybe relatively law abiding too…….. I was never any good at table tennis so we didn’t play that 🙂 However I am a dab hand at word games and puzzles and I beat the pants off them for years. Until recently. I’m a bit afraid they might institutionalise me any day …. xoxo

    • Words of wisdom, Pauline. And ones I will keep as close to my chest as the cards I hold in my hands. It doesn’t surprise me that you excel in all things riddle related. And I have seen the amazingly creative products that dab hand of yours churns out-one after another. I’d say you’re still on top of your game.
      Cheers! xoxo

  3. If I had a table tennis table here I’d have to move one of the beds out. I have to rely on the more cerebral skills and the greatest of these is telling bare faced lies with a straight face. Since I’ve always taught my daughter and nephews and nieces it’s wrong to lie, I have far more practice than they do.I play Balderdash with them. I’m competitive but very gracious in losing, I usually let them back into the house after just a couple of days. Of course Scrabble, Trivial Pursuits and other games have their place but Balderdash rules.
    If board games aren’t your thing then break out the cards and learn Chase the Lady (Deadly enemies), Crazy 8’s (friendly enemies) or Nomination Whist where hopefully your devious skills will make sure your offspring don’t achieve their calls while you do.
    I honestly believe there’s no better thing than playing games with the family to keep the laughter going and a proper competitive interaction between the generations.
    xxx Massive Hugs Shelley xxx

    • I adore Balderdash, David. It’s probably my favorite board game to play with a crowd. And I’ve got a closet full of myriad others as well, but like you, this one takes top spot. Card games are a great deal of fun too, specifically Gin Rummy, but you’ve named a couple I’ve not heard of before and aim to learn a bit more about.
      And hey, Mike can sleep on the tennis table, can’t he? Might have him rising a tad earlier on days he visits so you don’t have to tiptoe around. 😛
      Cheers, David. xoxox

      • You mean if I accidentally knock the leg of the table and one half collapses slowly depositing him on the ground? I promise not to let him know who’s suggestion it was.Great Idea.
        xxx Humongous
        ps. If you have Hearts in the games on your computer that’s Chase the Lady but in the real version you’re not allowed to pass the queen of spades along at the start.

          • ah, thanks DRrosser: weave had a bunch of spirited fun and guffaws and outright sniggles (and a lotta beer) with Balderdash. our son got to the point where he’d win maybe 75% of all the games. we like both (there aren’t more than 2, are there?) B’s: the original, just werdz; and #2 with dates, acronyms, names, (and werdz).
            and then there’s Risk …

  4. Great piece Shelley, I can relate totally – nothing like a dash of sports to bring out a person’s true character! I used to have the same relationship with my Dad but over a game of golf! You wouldn’t believe how vicious golf can be when you’re determined to win! By the way you didn’t appear in the Reader this morning for some reason? (PS Love the Flying Staucers Robin !)

    • Ah, golf. One of the most vicious sports I’ve ever played. The fellas I used to golf with would try every dirty trick of distraction they had up their short-sleeved, collared shirts. They may have been dapperly dressed, but they had mayhem on their minds. I learned a lot from that posse of players. Mostly, that I had a lot left to learn. 😛

      And yes, it seems there’s been a snag in the Reader last night. I’m guessing most folks won’t know I tossed out a new bit of drivel this week. We’ll see what the fine folks at WordPress can do to solve the bugaboo.
      Glad you found your way here regardless, Jane. It’s always wonderful to see your words.

  5. You crack me up, dear Shelley!… Great post!
    The ping pong ball properties of teleportation were absolutely unknown for me… Until I came across your post!..
    Well I think that you are right: it is a sport that require coordination… Thus after the ping pong games you shall try some hip hop lessons!… o_O
    I think that it is awesome that you guys spend time playing a real game and not games on the Playstation and all that stuff which isolate people from Life… (Exculpatory note due to specific circumstances> Nevermind Blogging is not included among them!)… Best wishes and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!. Aquileana ⭐

    • Hip hop and me would be a hilariously hopeless endeavor. Nobody wants to see that unfold, Aquileana. And yes, I’ve found that actually using a ball rather than a joystick has us interacting on a whole new happier level of fun. And we always end the games with a hug for the loser. Long may it last and long may I last. Win or die trying is the name of the game, but it’s a bit like dying from a laughing attack.
      A warm and wonderful week to you too! Cheers!

  6. Loved this, Shelley. What a wise mum you are.

    My son is now in his thirties – we’re still great friends – although he said recently that he was considering imposing a nonsense tax on me whenever I go to stay with him -apparently a lot of what I say is – well – nonsense.:) But he’s the person who makes me laugh the most in all the world.

    Love the ping-pong mouse too by the way – and Winston – and – oh all of it.

    • I cannot imagine a surfeit of wiser words than those that spill from your fingers, and, therefore, imagine they easily trip from your lips as well, Anne. You and nonsense must never occupy shared space in a sentence! I shall forgive your son just this once, but I understand the true realization that one’s parents are far wiser than one gives them credit for being can be a slow journey. It’s a good thing he has the ability to make you laugh. With that talent, nearly everything is forgivable.
      So glad you liked the post. It makes me happy to see your words here. Cheers, Anne!

  7. For some reason this didn’t come up in my reader, but I can’t go without my Sunday fix, so went direct to your blog. Have ‘unfollowed’ and followed again just to make sure I don’t lose you again!

    ‘We will fight them on the ping pong tables’. Classic Rob, I’m still chuckling :P.

    Great piece Shelley. We had a table tennis set as kids, but neither parent played with us, so it never really took off in our household. Now board or card games, that was a different story: Careers, Cluedo, Monopoly, Scruples, Rummy, Whist, Canasta, etc .
    I’ve finally found a crib game compatible to download to my PC and so far the computer has only beaten me once. I’m beginning to feel sorry for it, especially as the last three games it was ahead until the last hand when I left ‘him’ standing as I had 18, 24 and 12 with it being my’ first show’. 😀

    • Yep, seems to be a slight snag with the post showing up today. We’ve got the fine folks at WordPress searching for the snafu. I suppose when things go well and smooth we tend to take it for granted, but occasionally we’ll find ourselves running about and frantically searching for the hole in the hull. (oops, that really was a poor example for you, Mrs. P! sorry!)

      So glad you liked the piece though, and you too have named a few card games I’ve not heard of before. And I’m a big fan of them when I can find the time. I have this wonderful warm vision of myself hosting card parties with friends like my folks used to do when I was a kid. Now, if I could just find the time … and the friends, we’d be set. (not enough people play cards anymore!)

  8. What a delightful post, as always. Such a sage and artful Mom you are. Playing with your children is always fun, and beating them as often as possible is even better. When my sons were little we played the card game Uno. As they got older we graduated to the more physical forms of bonding, usually requiring a ball. Great times and great memories. Thanks for sharing yours and Happy Mother’s day.

    • I remember the days, Benson, when I used to ‘let them win’ in order to keep a sense of peace and harmony in the house, and the enthusiasm to return to the game for another round at another time, but the switch over was a subtle one. Now I’m truly doing my level best to keep my chin above the water line. The day my kids start ‘letting me win will be a sad day indeed. I shall throw off my cleats and called it a day.
      And thank you for the lovely wishes. It’s been a grand one thus far. Cheers!

  9. We are a competitive bunch here too, Shelley. In fact, I’m that horrible mom that never let her kids win. If they won, it was because they beat me fair and square. It mattered not that it may not technically have been “fair” that an adult was playing Trivial Pursuit against a 10 year old. 🙂

    • I’m going to guess, Nancy, that your kids rose to the challenge. It’s a taste of the real world real fast, and that gives them a clear picture of just what’s up ahead and probably has saved them years of therapy dollars not pursuing the nagging question of, “Why doesn’t everyone think I’m as perfect as my parents do?” I’m guessing your kids are fighters, Nancy.

  10. Our game is badminton. 🙂 I did play some of that ping pong as a kid, and recall many balls getting “bunged” (as we called it) from a hard thwack. Happy Mom’s Day to you, Shelley! You’re clearly doing a fantastic job!

    • Ah, there is nothing like the sound of a fabulously well-struck ball of any sort. It’s spine chilling. And yes, badminton was a great yard game I adored as well.
      I’m all in favor of the world going back to a few more family sports on the lawn and a few less indoor sports on the couch.
      And a very Happy Mother’s Day to you too, Sue. Cheers!

  11. Oh my goodness. I need all the belly laughs I can get (don’t we all?) and first from your hilarious blog, then Pauline and Lord David. Goodness. Write more often!

    • It appears I am in excellent company, Lisa. You’ve named two bloggers I would love to squish into pill form and take as a daily vitamin.
      Glad I could have a small part in the general health and well-being of your abdominal muscles. 🙂

  12. What fun it is to visit your blog!
    I love the statement in bold “I will not institutionalize him as long he will not institutionalize me”.
    Just think … someday far in the future, the two of you will still be competing over the ping pong table all the while laughing over the memories of those line arguments, and missing balls.

    • You’re so kind, Laurie. And if I have it my way, the two of us will be playing it while being propped up by our walkers and wheelchairs. But chances are we’ll both be in some facility, put there by folks less agreeable to the aged and ornery. o_O

  13. ah yess … what to do WITH the kids (with as in up-close&persunull, knot deferring, sumhow) — Betty taught my later-to-become-an-American-footbawler-son HOW TO PASS (& catch) — perhaps i’ll diggupp photos of them awn the beach playin’ catch. they all played tennis. years pass. on those (rare (snff)) occasions where we’re together we’ll go on a run together (Betty trails on the bike). and if we three guys pass a tavern with the dart-board available, well …

    • Jay, I have a severe weakness for dartboards too. In fact, there’s one right next to the ping pong table–which may not have been the wisest of location choices simply because one of us always has easy access to something pointy and sharp, and with a very good trajectory.
      Go Betty!

  14. No need to sell me on the beauty of onomatopoeias…thwack, clunk, slurp…I love all their sounds. Even more so the ones from non-English languages. May you have many giggly summer afternoons ping-ponging with your son!

  15. have y’all considered some form of instant replay, perhaps haggis could be the official (i can already see him perched atop the empire’s chair, glasses on nose, and checking his omega paw watch when the game goes too long)?

    p.s. “Wurlitzer,” put me in such a good mood.
    p.p.s. hope your mother’s day was fun and if you played a game hope you won.

    • His Omega paw watch!! Oh, good heavens, Mac, that has me in stitches.
      Not too many folks around who still appreciate the sounds of an ancient awesome organ.
      And yes, I beat the pants off the fella. I was in rare form. Or maybe it was my Mother’s Day present??

  16. Flying straucers…cracked me up. You are a wise table tennis playing Mumma. Keeping the connections going whilst trouncing (wishful thinking) your offspring at this nuts and fun game. You never know, the senior Olympics may be beckoning you in the future….just a little more training and a bit more ageing… 😁

    • I can think of so many categories where I would qualify for the senior Olympics if they should ever go global. Competition like: Quickest to lose car in parking lot, or First to complain about the overbearing heat, or Longest string of drool created while taking an afternoon nap.
      Yes! I am ready, Cheergerm!
      Or almost. I just have to take my pills and find my compression stockings.

  17. I have no doubt you also lost a layer of friction between you. Hopefully your son will not use these skills during his college years for beer pong. Oh, I didn’t say that! Excellent parenting! Hope your son has to take care of the ping pong ball dog poop.

    • Egads, JB, one more year of warning him off of all the things I’m going to beg him not to do, but he’ll be nearly first in line to try. Can’t. Think. About. It.
      But the innocent version has been a few great months of fun thus far–ball-shaped poop and all. 😛

  18. I barely made it through this post. I’ve been belly-laughing since the paragraph about getting your nails done together, and had to pause to catch my breath. Then I started laughing again. If you want a break from writing, I think you could make a go at stand-up comedy.

    I applaud your ability to find that common ground. As mom to a pair of teen boys, I appreciate that unique challenge. Your memories with dad are a such a gift, and in turn you’re passing your own gifts to your son. I wish I had met him on our visit.

    Another piece of engaging writing. I’m going back in to take notes.

    • Oh, Alys, you have such a lovely way of totally making my day. Thank you!
      And I’m guessing you’ve got a few of those memory-making designs going on with your own two fellas. It all goes by in a whoosh, doesn’t it?

  19. I haven’t played ping pong in years, but it sounds like a great bonding activity… and I’m sure one full of hilarity. 🙂 Of course, I can’t imagine ping pong as anything but extraordinary in your household. I’m sure your table levitates, or the dog has scored more points than both of you combined. 😉

    • It’s almost as if you’re right in the room with us, Alex. Because if by ‘levitates’ you mean topples to the floor when one of us dives across it to whack at the ball a hairbreadth out of reach, then yes. And if by ‘scored more points’ you mean ingested more balls, then again, ding ding ding!. I love how you’ve imagined our games and I’m totally okay with the way I’ve redefined the word extraordinary. 😀

      • Haha! I’m okay with it, too. 😉 we had to stop playing any kind of sport with a ball in our house because my sister’s head seemed to be a magnet for them…. Now, it it were ME of the Steel Skull, it would have been okay, but they kept hitting HERS at a velocity that made us think she was comprised only of peaches and grapes. 😛

        After enough ‘cherry Koolaid’ came out of her scalp, mom took all the balls away. 😛

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