Where have all the playgrounds gone?

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 8, 2008

Where do you play tennis around here?

I suddenly was asking myself that question recently.

My son is approaching the age of 13, and in the last year or so, it is obvious his interests are changing. Yet I have always tried to maintain some special things that he and I do together—you know, anything to keep that connection.

I guess the idea is that you want your kids to like you to a certain extent, but you also need them to respect you enough so they might actually listen to you as they get older.

To me, now on child number four that I am raising, that has always come through a combination of doing things with them so they have fun with you, but also maintaining the position as the parent with a certain level of discipline.

I think the wife and I have handled the discipline thing OK, and that is probably the hardest thing for most parents.

But I think one of the toughest things for parents comes as the kids become teenagers. Now it is really hard to find things the kids truly enjoy doing with you, and I think the involvement together is an important part of keeping the connection so you get their respect.

It’s tougher these days. Now we parents have the Internet, video games, MTV, I-Pods, texting, Instant Messaging and more to compete with. The technological world has made the old-time, simple parent almost unnecessary for kids—or at least they might think so.

You and I both know that we are still the ones who have far more answers than most of them might want to believe. But again, the key is to have the right relationship with the kids so they respect you. And I personally think that some of that begins with getting them to like you, by knowing you are putting out the effort to find fun things to do with them.

Kids might not act like it as they become teenagers. But I’ve got a little secret for you. Psssstt!! They still like to play games and have fun with their parents.

But of course the tough thing for us is to find something the teens really, really want to do, and something they really, really are having fun at.

For me, the newest thing has become tennis with my almost 13-year-old.

We decided to try the game after swimming during the summer at Belle Terre Country Club. We would leave and I noticed the tennis courts that weren’t getting used a lot during the late afternoon heat. More than once I remember thinking, “hmmm, tennis? Maybe that would be something Mikey would like to try.”

Mind you, my boy is not your typical athletic freak. He likes to play sports to the extent that he and I play a little basketball in the driveway, or we throw the football around a little bit. But his involvement with recreational sports was one summer of little league baseball, after which he informed me he really didn’t want to do it anymore.

He always told me he just liked playing sports with me. So I was obviously happy enough with that.

But now we are trying tennis, and quite honestly, having a great time with it. Not only have we gone almost every day for the last week, but he told the wife that he was having a great time doing it. Great!

The only place we have found to play, thankfully, are the very nice courts at Belle Terre. And believe me, they are great.

But I sure wish there were some courts closer to my house in Garyville. We drove to a lot of different schools and parks a couple of weeks ago, looking for some public courts that we could play at. But we have yet to find one other place in this parish other than Belle Terre.

Now I can guess Riverlands Country Club has tennis courts as well, but that’s just as far a ride from Garyville, so that doesn’t help.

So far I’m just figuring that tennis is not the sport of choice in St. John Parish. I know in St. Tammany Parish you could find tennis courts at many small subdivisions, and at various parks around town. But not here.

So if you know of anywhere else in this parish where there are public tennis courts for a dad and his 13-year-old son, let me know.

Think of it as helping good old dad keep the bond with his boy.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at kchiri@bellsouth.net