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WOSTER: Parenting is a young man's game

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opinion Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
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WOSTER: Parenting is a young man's game
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

When I reached the kids' place in Chamberlain a while before sunset a week ago Friday, I parked the truck, got out and leaned over in the driveway to scoop up Sage, our 3-year-old granddaughter who came sprinting across the concrete to welcome me to town.


After a hug or two with Sage and some pleasantries with her parents, I found myself in the trampoline with Nancy and Sage, bouncing around like jumping jacks and generally acting like something other than a senior citizen who ought to be thinking about calling it a night.

I tired rather quickly. Sage didn't mind that. She crawled off the trampoline and ran for her bicycle, yelling for her grandma to hurry and ride around the yard with her. Nancy has way more stamina than I do. She gamely climbed on a bike and pedaled across the driveway and around the yard while I flopped into a lawn lounger and caught my breath.

The mosquitoes made their evening presence known about that time, and we all had to abandon the yard and get behind a screen door. That didn't slow Sage. She dove into indoor activities, coloring up a storm and making up stories with a handful of princess dolls that all looked to me like old-fashioned Barbies.

Saturday, after I spent part of the morning at a South Dakota Hall of Fame brunch, Nancy and I hung out with the kids before returning to Pierre. The afternoon was more trampoline, more bicycles and generally more running all over the house, driveway and yard, a 3-year-old in the lead, the grandma right behind, the grandpa lagging and sneaking breaks on the lounger every chance he got.

As it often does when I'm around Sage, it occurred to me that raising kids is a young person's game. Keeping up with a 3-year-old for an afternoon and evening is a young person's game, too. I guess I must have been at least moderately good at it, once upon a time, but it isn't easy to remember back that far. Our three children were as active as most others, but I don't recall feeling so overmatched when we were out camping or at a park. Sage is perpetual motion. If scientists could identify exactly what makes her go and produce vast quantities of it, our concern about energy independence would be gone for good.

The little girl is always on the go. Some days before the Hall of Fame trip, she and her parents visited us in Pierre. They brought the bicycles along, and Sage pedaled hers -- training wheels squeaking like the geese on Capitol Lake in the dead of winter -- down to the Zesto for ice cream and back. She churned out the blocks one after another, her little legs going like pistons. She likes to pedal furiously for a while, doing the 3-year-old version of a Tour de France breakaway from the pack. After she opens a gap on the field, she keeps the pace for a few strokes and then slows gradually to a standstill. When we catch up, she speeds away again. She can't sit still for long.

Her dad was a lot like that on his first bike. He was quite a bit older than Sage when he started riding, so the training wheels didn't last long. But even when he had the extra wheels, he fairly flew along the sidewalk and across the backyard. His early bicycles didn't have gears and shifters, but Scott never traveled in anything but road gear. The throttle was wide open, every trip.

Like Sage, he showed no fear. He cut an incredible dimple in one cheek when he was about eight, racing so fast down a hill that he lost control, dumped his bike on the lawn of the high school and ran one handlebar through the side of his face. That would have made me stop and consider whether bicycle riding was for me. Scott, he got patched up, had me help him straighten the handlebars and tighten the seat, and he was off again.

I see a lot of him in his young daughter.