“If you’re gonna play rough, you gotta be tough!”


This is my new mantra. I say it every time a wrestling match, light saber duel, or trampoline jump fest goes from giggles to tears.

With three rough and tumble boys and one princess with a healthy shot of grit, most games and contests that start out as winning ideas somehow morph into wails and sobs after only a few minutes.

Of course, I don’t allow free-for-all violence in our home and then just wave away the ensuing injuries with a mere slogan. I have rules. I have a strict no shoes, no sticks, and no utensils policy on the trampoline. No dueling anyone unarmed. All participating parties must give expressed verbal consent in order to wrestle. No surprise attacks.

And no scratching. Period.

Any violation of the aforementioned will result in the wrath of mom.

But even with all of these stipulations, rules and provisos, someone still ends up rending the skies with their howls of physical pain and emotional betrayal every afternoon. I usually hear something like this:

“He did that on purpose!! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

After a tissue and a tight squeeze, I say something like:

“Remember, you were the one who thought it would be fun to get on an enclosed trampoline with four other kids, five basketballs and play your own unique version of dodge ball. Balls are gonna fly. You will get hit. There’s no way around that one.”

That’s when I plug my new maxim. I can’t help myself. I’m like a broken record. I look them in the eye and repeat most soberly,,

“If you’re gonna play rough, you gotta be tough!”

Before you get the wrong idea here, I’m not some ruthless mother trying to raise gladiators. I don’t make them play rough. I don’t even encourage it! My idea of a lovely afternoon consists of story time on the couch, coloring books, and baking cookies. It’s not like I’m taping their knuckles in the morning and locking ’em out in the backyard so they can reenact The Hunger Games. The only punching I ever encourage is punching down the bread dough after it rises.

But there is a fire in them that flickers and flares and then fizzles into fussin’ daily. So I’ve decided if they’re inviting the danger, stepping into the heat out of their own free will and choice and then want to cry about it? It’s time to toughen up. I’m good for a Band-Aid, a hug, and my new motto. After that, I’m sorry, but I’ve got dinner on the stove and bread rising on the counter.

“Hey, chin up honey. Say, why don’t you wash your hands and punch down this here dough for me?”

Homemade bread can be both delicious and therapeutic. Every time.