Conan, a twelve-year-old homeschooled friend of ours, is obsessed with the Revolutionary War. He spends his days reading about the war, re-enacting the war with figurines he made himself, and playing in the local fife and drum corps. An eleven-year-old homeschooled friend is a teaching assistant at Harvard. He spends his days doing problem sets and helping undergrads with their proofs. Another homeschooler we know cooks all day and reads cookbooks late into the night with a headlamp.
Like most homeschoolers, my sons have large swaths of unstructured time during which they can follow their passions as they so chose. What do they do with all of that time?
They spin tops.
If I’m not encouraging them to do something else, they are battling with their BeyBlades – fancy little tops that collide against one another in an arena until there is only one left spinning. I wake each morning to the clarion call of all Bladers – “Let it rip” - followed by the clashing sound of metal and hard plastic. I pry the tops out of their hands as they fall asleep each night. And I say something like, “No, you can’t bring your Beys to church,” or “No, you can’t spin Beys on Daddy’s computer screen,” many times a day.
It’s kind of like having a kid obsessed with calculus or great literature, except, you know, not so much.
Instead, I have two sweet boys who love BeyBlades, most especially Zach. He turns nine next week, and he wanted a BeyBlade party. To pull that off, I had to learn a lot about BeyBlades. And strangely enough – or perhaps not strange at all – learning to appreciate his passion is reminding me what an incredible gift he is to me and to the world around him.
- You can reconfigure Beyblades to add speed, stability, or strength. Watching Zach hunched over a stadium to see how the latest change will effect his Bey reminds me of his strong desire to get things just right – like yesterday when he noticed that the library’s encyclopedias were out of order and quickly rearranged them.
- Huddled around any stadium are both popular boys and those who can’t normally figure out how to get in. Watching Zach invite bystanders to play reminds me of how incredibly welcoming he is. He considers every child a friend, and this is a game whose welcome matches his.
- Anyone can win, and battles are over in a matter of minutes. This makes losing tolerable to my son who hates to lose. He loses hundreds of times a day now, and I heard him say today, as we watched another boy fall apart after losing, “I used to be like that.”
- Because of the anime show that preceded the toys, there is a story you can enter as you play, a story with structure and rules and recurring lines. As I hear Zach engage in this form of imagination while he plays, rather than simply spinning the tops, I am reminded that he wants to be part of a bigger story, even if he’s not always sure how to do that.
When Zach was born, five years after my first husband and child died, I lay in bed staring at him and weeping. I was overcome with gratitude for a gift I could not have imagined. I didn’t know then that he would one day be a fierce Blader; but watching him spin tops today, I find myself even more grateful than I was then.
Next week I may panic that we haven’t started long division or cursive. And I may get a few knots in my stomach when I hear the other mothers talk about books their children are writing. But during Zach’s party tomorrow, I will thank God for the gift He gave me nine years ago – the baby that, like so many of God’s gifts, was nothing like I was expecting and so much better than I deserved.