An Open Letter to the Coach at my Son’s Gym

Interestingly, Facebook just popped up “memories” of last year’s gymnastics Halloween party as I was writing this post and considering copying it into an email to the owner. Sadly, this year’s memories are of a much different flavor. Maybe I’m over-reacting. Let me know.

Dear Coach,

I am struggling with feeling so unhappy about how you treated my son during the Halloween Party at the gym last weekend. Yes, he was being loud and silly, wrestling IMG_3720with his cousin, as they got off the mat after the costume parade. But as he had rolled right over to my feet, I was about to correct his behavior when your booming voice and harsh tone sent my little four-year-old panicking into my arms. I comforted him and reminded him that he needs to be quiet, sit and listen, but I was a little surprised at your tone. When the owner of the gym came over to see why he was sobbing and if he needed encouragement to engage in the fun activities, I told her we were just taking a break, but the truth was that he was trembling and needed to calm down.

Later when you returned upstairs and said to me, “Your boys are being too wild,” I wasn’t sure exactly what you were referring to. However, I didn’t get a chance to dialogue about it as you shortly thereafter yelled once more at my Little Guy. Having just exited the bounce house, he was unaware that you had proclaimed the tumble track off limits. Had you held your tongue, I would have walked over to my son and explained to him that that equipment was not to be used and we would have found another activity. Instead, it was clear to me that my family had been targeted in your mind as “trouble” and we weren’t going to have a good experience anymore. You certainly did not raise your voice to any other children or families – only mine and my sister’s boys. So, I gathered up my guys and we left early.

You see, my children may look like “normal” children and they often act like “normal and active” little boys, but deep inside the brain there is a shift in the neurotransmitters and the neuronal connections which leaves them struggling with hyper-reactivity and very poor impulse control. It’s not a physical disability that you might see and have empathy for, it’s a mental one and clearly you have no empathy for a condition that occurred before they were born. But it is precisely for this reason that I have my boys enrolled in gymnastics, to teach them the skills of strength and self-confidence and self-control, all of which your employing gym espouses so frequently. Yet, your direct and harsh yelling shatters the self-esteem, demeans the child and breaks the spirit.

Furthermore, your rapid discipline of my children when I am right there takes me out of the equation. I’m not sure if you think me too permissive or incompetent at parenting, but your actions were completely disrespectful. When my children are in class with you, then you have the authority. When they are at an event with me, I hold the authority. Unless they are in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, then it is my responsibility to handle their behaviors.

Here’s what I expect of a teacher and a coach – someone who treats all people with respect and dignity. Someone who encourages a child to do their best and reach new goals. Someone who celebrates hard work and dedication. Someone who models what it means to be a strong, competent athlete and decent human being. Someone who works with the family to reach out to kids with unique developmental “challenges” and develop self-confidence, increase self-esteem, and develop sportsmanship. If you are unable to be that great coach, then we will find someone who can.

Please let me know.

Thank you,

A tremendously disappointed mother

 

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Cold sacrifices

People talk about the sacrifice you make when you become a parent. They talk about so many sacrifices for your kids. If was sounding pretty “yeah, yeah” to me…until yesterday. Until I sat in 42 degree weather with the sun pushing the clouds out of its way for miniscule moments of time before the darkness and gray returned and the wind whipped through tiny entrances of layered clothing to reach my very soul as I sat cheering for Super Tall Guy at his baseball game.

This, I thought, this is what “sacrifice” means. Every muscle in my body wanted to sprint for the warmth of the car. My head ached from the tense neck muscles as I hunched as far into the blanket as I could. I sat there wishing for just a couple more degrees of warmth and possibly for feeling in my toes.

I glanced at the coaches on the field, blowing on their hands to diminish the numbness. “Come on, kid, you can do it. We got a hitter here,” they would yell to the batter. These men, these fathers, were sacrificing their Saturday morning to stand in the freezing cold for what? For my kid. And for that kid over there. And that one over there. Sure the kidsbaseball were cold. Sure they were rubbing their hands. Sure Super Tall Guy asked if he could leave after the second inning (knowing it would take two innings to get to his turn at bat given his bottom of the line-up position). But the coaches coached and the parents huddled and froze so that the kids could play. And the kids played so that they could learn about sacrifice and being cold and persisting and being “tough” and showing up for the team and winning and losing….and well, because their parents made them show up in the hopes that they would learn some of those lessons.

It’s been nine and a half years since I turned over under the covers and slept past 7:30 on a Saturday morning. It’s been nine and a half years since I last woke up and said, “hmmm….what should I do today?” Going from single, carefree woman to “what am I going to do for and with you today?” has been a pretty dramatic adjustment. Learning to sacrifice myself and my desires and even my needs (like you know, to sleep, to eat (a warm meal), to get to the bathroom before desperation) has been a big change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy. I’m not complaining. I don’t mind leaving the movie theater right at the part I really wanted to see because the four-year-old can’t sit still any longer. I don’t mind staring at the huge painting in the dining room and wondering who shattered the upper corner of the glass. I don’t mind contemplating if the dampness seeping through my sock is urine or just water from the evening bath. I think it keeps me in shape to continually bend over and pick up those paper airplanes that missed their landing strip. I kind of enjoy slithering under the car to retrieve the soccer ball being melted onto the hot frame. I’d rather sleep on a narrow sliver of bed than spread out like an eagle and take up so much space. It’s keeping me limber and young and inquisitive, and so I really don’t mind….because I have three awesome boys…and I’ll get them back some day for all these sacrifices!

What are little boys made of?

Yesterday I pondered “Why don’t we let little boys be little boys anymore?”

My little boy is “misbehaving” in first grade. He is “playing in the bathroom” (no way?!? Really? He never does that at home.) He is “talking to his friends” (right – definitely a problem). He is “being silly” (Am aghast! A true offence indeed).

I mock. I mock because I struggle. I know, just as well as the teacher knows, that all of his behaviors are absolutely perfectly NORMAL six-year-old boy behaviors (and girls too!). The problem is that he is displaying these natural inclinations at all the wrong moments. Most likely when he’s supposed to silently wash his dirty little hands and line back up to return to the classroom. He’s chatting with classmates instead of sitting quietly on the rug for the Mystery Reader. He’s sputtering or spinning or bumping around when he should have both feet on the floor and tracing lowercase “h’s” for the 100th time in his short little life.

I was never a little boy. I do not understand all that goes on in my little boys’ brains. Their world is total insanity to me. They leap over couches and curl under dining room chairs. They throw each other to the ground and smack each other’s heads. They will never ever lift the seat before peeing. Rocks fall out of their pockets. Snakes slither across their hands. Boogers and blood go straight into their mouths…along with Lego pieces, plastic bottle caps, and marbles (and flower petals and miscellaneous bush berries and countless other potentially poisonous or choking hazards!).  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their chaos or their constant energy. It is like a constant death wish thwarted by a vigilant (exhausted) parent.

But I do understand that we (as in all of us) are doing this wrong. We have exorbitant numbers of young boys with ADHD and medication to “quiet” them down.  We have young boys expelled from day care centers. Behavioral charts. “Reward systems.” Detentions, suspensions, expulsions.

Gone are the days, it seems, when they played pick-up baseball in an empty field. Gone are the adventures around the neighborhood which ended when street lights came on or the neighbor caught them red-handed. Gone are the times of recess, dodge ball and tag.

little boys

From Etsy: Expressive Sprouts

I don’t want to be stuck in nostalgia. I don’t want my boys to get hurt (too much). But I do want them to be the “boy boys” they were created to be. I want them to be silly, impish, mischievous, creative, brave, daring, strong, boisterous, adventurous, wild, rambunctious rascals.

For I know that there are precious few years for them to be boys and so little time before they are whittled into “grown-ups” who act “mature.” Oh, what to do?

Dirty fingerprints on once white walls
Purple stains on carpeted floors
Beaten and ratty leather couches
Broken knobs on unhinged doors.

 

Tennis balls behind the piano
Abandoned socks under the beds
Ripped jeans and stained pajamas
Random “treasures” under their heads.

 

Gouges on the dining room table
Rickety wiggly dining room chairs
Board game pieces strewn haphazard
Window curtains marred by tears.

 

Dirty dishes, scattered toys
This is home to three little boys.

 

(Complimentary ear plugs and hand sanitizer available at the door. Please sign your acknowledgement of the dangers inherent upon entering such a place. Alcoholic beverages available upon request, signaled by a wink and a nod. Or a scream, yelp or whimper. Whatever works best for you. Welcome to our home.)

Gratitude

I sort of missed a posting last week. I did have good intentions, but exhaustion hit Sunday evening after staying up most of Friday night (and sleeping on a thin mat) in preparation for a yard sale Saturday morning. Then the fuzzy throat hit Monday morning and by Tuesday afternoon, I declared myself sick with strep (symptoms + nephew and neighbor positive for strep) and called in some antibiotics. (Sometimes that degree is really helpful since the leftover amoxicillin that I found in the cupboard was dated 2013. Probably too old, I surmised.)

Let me tell you, sick and single parenting is no fun. Just that. No fun. It’s even 50 times less fun when it’s pouring down rain, you are without an umbrella but with two kids in tow and running in and out of the doctor’s office and the pharmacy because the elder child has a sinus infection at the same time.

Somehow, my boys don’t seem to be old enough (or wise enough) yet to know that when Mommy is sick, thou shalt keep the noise level below 115 db, sit nicely and do your homework, and take yourselves upstairs to bed (and NOT require said ill person to sit and read Harry Potter Book 3 to you for just one night. Say “Please, just a few more pages,” as many times as you want, it’s just not going to happen).

It’s such an amazing feeling when your brain starts functioning again and you realize you haven’t actually been “all there” for three days.  And I realize in these moments that this single parenting is really a very fine line. Everything fits into the puzzle just right at this time. It’s working to juggle gymnastics, baseball and ice hockey. My job is flexible enough to cover random days off school. I’m keeping up with the house and the bills. But it’s all very fragile. Life is very fragile. Throw in a fever and you’ve got a kid home from school or a mommy home from work. Routines alter. Emotions jumble. It’s all unsettling for a day or two. The return to calm reminds me to be grateful that these “hiccups” are minor and that I have a wonderfully supportive network.

I was so touched when a woman I’ve met a couple times at churchdinner emailed last week and asked “although it’s a bit late and the month sure has been crazy, could I drop off a meal to welcome you all to your new home”? Tempted to reply, “oh no, really…we’re fine,” I instead responded with the truth – “that would be such a wonderful gift.” She brought over the most delightful steak taco meal complete with all the fixings including homemade guacamole, and the “last of the summer’s corn” from a local farm, a huge fruit salad and, of course, homemade macaroni and cheese for the “picky” eaters and DESSERT!! I just stared at the spread on the table as I unpacked the huge box ….grateful.

new home

Life is fragile. Be grateful. Touch others. Savor the moments.