From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Kids and Grown-Ups: Different as Knight and Day

You don’t realize just how grown-up you really are until you have a kid.

We like to say things like “I’m a kid wrapped in an adult body” or “I feel like a kid again.” But aren’t we really just, ahem, kidding ourselves?

As much as we like to think of ourselves as kids, our bodies and our hearts are always there to remind us that we’re grown-up.

I suppose I knew this all along, but the realization hit me the hardest while engaged in a little friendly jousting.

What, you don’t joust? It’s the hottest thing going, at least in our house.

Jousting, the competition between two knights on horseback, where one knight tries to knock the other off his mount, was a long-ago sport—about 800 years ago—equivalent to soccer in Europe or football in the United States.

Try to explain that to a toddler, though, and all you’ll get is an empty stare, followed by “Come on, Daddy, joust.”

So between my legs goes a makeshift horse, which is in reality a cardboard tube leftover from wrapping paper. In my right hand goes a makeshift lance, also a cardboard tube leftover from wrapping paper. I am, almost always, Bad Knight.

About thirty feet away is the condensed version of me, about three feet shorter but packing about ten times the energy. He is, almost always, Good Knight.

Our eyes meet. We raise our lances. And then in unison we call out, “Charge!”

Almost always, the battle ends with Daddy in the moat, which also happens to be the cat’s water bowl. The cat is not a fan of jousting.

You do some things as a parent that when you were childless you swore you’d never do. Jousting is one such thing.

I liked thinking of myself as a kid at heart. But the lesson I’ve learned from jousting is that I am an adult in both body and spirit. Not only do my knees creak when I struggle to get up after being knocked down, but also I lack the heart of an honorable knight.

While I stand holding a cardboard tube between my legs, I find myself frequently turning my head, checking to see if any of the neighbors can see me through the sliding glass door.

Lately I look for excuses not to joust. “Not right now,” I tell the Good Knight, “Daddy’s washing dishes.” Yes, I’d rather wash dishes.

The Good Knight looks down, dejected for a brief moment, but then returns his battle-worn eyes to mine with a childlike glimmer of hope and throws the dagger-like response: “After?”

Beaten once again, I sigh and surrender to his magical power over me.

After the last dish is washed, I stride to the horse stable, which is, in reality, a large wicker basket. I pull out my trusty steed and grab hold of my lance. The Good Knight beams as we square off on opposite sides of the room. Finally, we raise our makeshift lances and call out that one word the Good Knight has been waiting to hear all day: “Charge!”

Randy Richardson

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