Throwing a birthday dodgeball bash

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bailey celebrated her 10th birthday with a friendly game of dodgeball at a Jackson fitness center last weekend.

When it comes to your first double-digit birthday, you want to celebrate in style.

For Bailey and her friends, that meant dividing up into teams and throwing rubber balls at each other.

When I was growing up, dodgeball was a standard part of PE in schools. Over time, school officials and gym teachers moved away from such a recreational pastime.

But it's clear that you can't take the dodgeball out of children.

In today's health-conscious society, it's also nice to know that fourth-graders can find fun at a fitness center.

As parents, we want our children to be active. We just don't want them throwing rubber balls across our living rooms. We prefer they engage in that type of activity at a fitness center with trained staff to monitor the situation.

At Bailey's birthday bash at Main Street Fitness, a staff member made sure the girls and boys understood the rules.

Contrary to popular belief, you aren't supposed to kill people with the balls, the staff member pointed out.

I'm not sure Bailey and her friends actually paid attention to the safety tip. During the games, they threw the balls with the kind of excitement generally reserved for SpongeBob of cartoon fame.

SpongeBob would have loved it. Bailey's birthday cake featured a plastic SpongeBob decoration. Bailey loves the cartoon. She could watch it for hours -- unless, of course, she's playing dodgeball.

It's hard not to appreciate the enthusiasm of fourth-graders who can find fun in just running around a room.

They played one game after another of dodgeball. They liked it even better than eating birthday cake. It clearly was the hit of the party.

Even the opportunity to tackle the climbing wall didn't compare to dodgeball. Throwing colorful, rubber balls at your friends is just plain fun when you're 10.

Even our 13-year-old, Becca, and a friend of hers enjoyed throwing the balls.

Joni and I watched from the sidelines, retrieving the balls that landed out of bounds from time to time and making sure that the paper cups filled with Hawaiian punch didn't get knocked over.

Thankfully, there weren't any serious injuries.

Joni and I thought it was highly entertaining, particularly since we weren't being pummeled with the balls.

Of course, maybe we would all be better off if we regularly participated in a game of dodgeball. It's certainly one way to relieve stress.

During the competition, Bailey and her friends regularly changed sides. As soon as they were hit, they crossed the center line and became part of the other team. Sometimes they let the ball hit them just so they could join the other team.

You needed more than a scorecard to tell these teams apart.

But as we get older our birthdays get a little more sedate. We don't celebrate our adult birthdays by throwing rubber balls at our dearest friends.

For one thing, it gets harder and harder to dodge balls the older we get.

And no matter how much we try, we can't dodge the years either.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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