The Playroom: Rest-au-rant

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

My son plays a lot of sports: soccer, hockey, baseball, swimming, karate. Flag football is on the table for Friday nights this fall. We’ve tried tennis but didn’t have time last spring. And I keep thinking he might like golf, but we don’t have five minutes for that one. With all the youth sports come the youth sports parents.

There is one father we often cross paths with — his kid always seems to be on the same team or in the same league or going to the same camp. His dad yells at him when he doesn’t score enough goals or perform up to expectations. The boy is 9-years-old. I feel sorry for him and wish his dad wouldn’t yell at him so much.

In our house we focus on the intangibles of organized sports more than the outcomes. We cheer for getting outside, being active, spending time with friends and having fun. We also support the elusive sportsmanship award my kid never gets. We pride ourselves on our good sense and parenting, on how well we handle try outs and whatever angst and frustrations we may have with our kid’s wrist shot. We never yell at him about practicing more or missing shots in a game.

I’m thinking about all this, the kid whose dad yells at him and our own smugness about our great parenting as my husband is yelling “restaurant” at my son this morning. They are reviewing spelling words.

I’ve written them all down, drilled my kid all week. We’ve practiced them even past bedtime when he’s tired, when he doesn’t want to give “greed” another try, still I’ve drilled him. And here on Friday morning, there are still three out of 30 words he can’t bury.

I’ve circled the ones he gets wrong. The list is sitting on the kitchen counter. It’s the second week of school and he’s already lost his A bringing in a weak performance with “break,” “stain,” and “magic.” He shot wide to the right with “brake,” wide to the left “stane,” and passed right to the goalie’s glove with “mageik.” A game-time performance that late in the sixth period landed him a C last Friday.

My husband struggled with spelling. Despite his nearly perfect academic life, he got Cs in spelling, and he doesn’t want his kid to make the same mistakes he did. He’s yelling at my son, “I still can’t spell this word and you need to learn how to spell restaurant!”

My son yelling back at him, “It’s a challenge word, Dad. I don’t have to know the challenge words.”

And my husband countering, “Oh yes you do, the challenge words count just as much as the other words and I don’t even know why they call them challenge words. You will learn them! RESTAURANT, AU, AU, AURANT, RESTAURANT!”

I’m looking at chicken sausages made from slaughtered free range chickens who aren’t as happy as they used to be. I’m thinking the unhealthy pork ones looked much better and wondering why I’m pushing these healthy options on my kids. It occurs to me that growing up in the 70s, a decade of Kool-Aid, Fruit Loops and Chef Boyardee, that maybe I am trying to do a better job than my mother, feeding my kids healthier options.

Turns out my son managed a B on his spelling test, the challenge words weren’t on it and as I fed the healthy sausages to the dogs that morning, all I could think of was how much I liked Chef Boyardee and how so many meal times, so many mornings, I feel like I’m running a restaurant around here that’s going to the dogs.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at