Why does an 8-year-old fall to the floor after the slightest contact from a sibling? For the same reason NBA players do. It’s all about gaining an advantage with the refs, er, mom and dad.
A few weeks ago, Owen, my 8-year-old, was walking across the living room. Stella, my 5-year-old, stuck out her leg to trip him. It wasn’t exactly subtle. Owen saw the outstretched leg. He could have stepped over it.
But in the eternal postseason of big-brotherdom, Owen tried a different tactic. He threw himself into Stella’s leg. He flailed his arms. He collapsed on the floor. Owen ended the performance lying on his back and wearing the outraged expression of someone who has been wronged. In other words, he flopped.
Lately, I’ve felt less like Dad than an NBA referee being worked over by Jae Crowder or P.J. Tucker. Another time, Owen was in a chair watching TV. Stella snuck up behind him. Now, I didn’t see what Stella did. Parents can be like James Capers in Game 4 of the Finals. I figure Owen got a light pinch or maybe a love tap—a common foul in the Curtis household.
Since then, Owen’s interest in the art of flopping has only grown. He flops with splayed limbs and pleading eyes and great comic flair. When kids hit the deck in youth basketball, parents figure they’re imitating the NBA, or perhaps Euro 2020. But Owen hasn’t watched much basketball or soccer. What he’s doing suggests an interesting idea. Flopping is a rite of being a kid. It looks like the NBA version and happens for the same reasons.