This weekend I gave my kids the Referee Bop Bag (official name per the internet) you see pictured above. It was a gift, but it’s been in the back of my closet for about 6 months waiting for the perfect day to make its appearance. Three kids, rain, cold, 800 square feet and late afternoon restlessness was all it took. This thing is awesome! Poor guy.
Who knew the entertainment factor for this thing could be so off the charts. Apparently there’s no end to the delight achievable by punching, kicking and tackling a 4-foot tall, plastic, pear-shaped dummy.
I’ve had a number of thought-provoking observations in the 24 hours the Ref has been in our lives. Like whether a free-for-all approach is preferable to taking turns. Or, the fact that my 2 year old daughter apparently has a face of steel – she’s been the victim of more than one gravity-based backlash from the dummy. But, perhaps the most surprising thing I’ve noticed is how very particular each of my kids is in the way they go about playing…or pummeling…this toy.
Bear with me here on these observations. As someone who spends a lot of time helping people figure themselves out – I never quite get away from noticing these sorts of things.
My oldest is gentle and systematic, but persistent. Single left jabs over and over and over again right between the eyes. Punch the dummy, the dummy bops back up, punch the dummy again. He’s like a metronome. Maybe he laughs or smiles a little bit. It seems therapeutic in the way knitting or coloring is therapeutic. He seems to value the consistency and the rhythm of it.
My middle child is all out, free for all, anything goes on The Ref! Laughing, singing, dancing, kicking, carrying and (once or twice) throwing. It’s like the dummy gives him permission to unleash every ounce of energy he has stored up. And he loves that thing – he said goodnight to it, checked in on it first thing in the morning. I’m sure before we know it the guy will have a name. Come to think of it…they’re the same height. At least the dummy is tolerant of this passionate play.
And then there’s my daughter. At two years old, she more or less goes for the dummy in the same way my middle child does, but since she’s smaller and the thing towers over her she tends to collapse in giggles and spend more time on the ground laughing than actually punching it. Her kicks almost always knock her over instead of the dummy. It’s hilarious.
When my kids are punching that dummy – there’s no agenda. They’re just punching away in the way that feels most natural and most satisfying for them. As long as they’re not hurting anyone, there aren’t really any rules. There’s no right and wrong.
As adults, we spend a lot of time judging others for the way they do things or judging ourselves for the ways in which we go about dealing with the challenges in our lives. To be fair, sometimes the ways in which we deal with the world around us are harmful (to ourselves and to others), but lots of times they’re not. Like the way my kids tackle the dummy, we’re faced every day with tackling life in own unique way.
I like to imagine how we can grow from taking the bop bag as a reminder of the fun, freedom and self-awareness needed to confront the challenges that we face by owning up to what works best for each of us. We benefit greatly from looking honestly at what inspires us, moves us and brings us home.
So as I sit here staring at that bop bag and knowing that come 4:00 PM the kids will be back in here punching away, I’m using him as my own reminder of the importance of taking things at my own pace – sometimes slow, sometimes hectic, always steadily on to the next day (or place).
Oh, and before I forget, if you’re interested in your very own Referee Bop Bag, it looks like you can buy him here.