Building Wings

I walked away.

I might have peeked back, to be honest.

But I walked away.

My nod was the signal. I passed the middle child off.

What’s your name dude?

~Gavin.

Thanks for saying hi to my guy.

~I rode with him before.

They circled the course again, getting good air.

On deck, Gavin called Mr. Ornery’s name. He lined his bike up with the riders and sat.

A new tribe.

I walked away.

There is growth.  There is learning to be done.

Pump. Jump. Spin.

Confidence. Persistence. Technique.

That part is not my job.

My job is to let the little boy find his wings.

My job is to find the safe space and walk away.

My job…. is to hold myself in check and be able to walk away.

 

The Difficulties with Being a Temporary Sports Mom

I’ve come to acknowledge that I’m a temporary sports mom. A temporary soccer mom. Temporary ice hockey mom. Temporary basketball mom. And this isn’t just because the season ends, but because the boys keep trying activities and then stop. It’s what I want logically; that is, I want them to explore and try out different sports to see which ones might fit them or which ones they develop a passion for and a desire to start improving their skills. I also have a long-term goal of giving them some basics in sports so that later in life they can join in with friends. However, I didn’t realize how draining this temporariness would be on me.

I know my perspective is limited as my boys are still very young and we’ve only just skimmed the surface of some of the most typical sports. There’s still lacrosse and badminton and wrestling and tennis to get to (but not football, no, not football). And yet sometimes, I just wish they would settle (like on basketball as an indoor sport so that I’m not exposed to hours upon hours of rain, sleet or snow!).

baseballIt’s a strange experience. Each time we start a new sport, I ramp up to learn more about it myself. Rereading the “you’ve registered” emails to see if there’s any information, scouring the internet, and then of course, showing up at the sporting goods store to ask tons of questions about what do we need and what don’t we need and to throw away hundreds of dollars. For example, I had no idea that hockey sticks were right or left-handed and that my kid would naturally use one versus the other as determined by swinging at pucks in the aisle over and over. Of course, when the salesman said, “Just take the stick home and cut it down to size,” I thought, “You’re kidding, right? I’m supposed to do that?!?” (Single mom. Townhouse. No circular saw in sight. Thank you, Pop, for doing that!)

Then you show up to the first practice and try to figure out how to put the equipment on the kid. Do soccer shin guards go over the socks or under the socks? Do you wear the cup in baseball practice or just for the games? How in the world do you get these fifteen pieces of hockey gear on? Without fail, I seem to forget at least one piece of equipment each season. First swim meet – no towel. First ice hockey practice – no mouth guard. First soccer game – no water bottle (and umbrella for me!).

soccerThen there’s the need to figure out the social context of each sport. I am constantly trying to find someone who knows about the sport and can give me some pointers. But there’s a whole dynamic to navigate around. There’s the super-competitive families, “My kid’s been playing baseball since he was 3 and of course you do it year-round and go to every clinic and summer tournaments and …” And there’s the never-played-any-sports at all families who are peeling the kids off their bodies and throwing them onto the field, begging them to just try to kick the ball one time. I tend to gravitate to the ones who seem to know at least one or two steps beyond me, either the kid has played a season already or their older kids have done this sport.

It takes a bit of time, but I eventually settle into a “group” of parents to hang with, because the reality is, you’re going to spend an hour or so a week just sitting together at practice and then again on the weekend for a game. You’re going to need to borrow a pair of hockey socks when you left your kids’ set in the dryer. You’re going to want to be able to complain about the rain or make comments about the coaching to someone. You’re going to want to have someone on the journey with you. The problem is, you then form a nice weekly friendship which suddenly ends abruptly when the season ends and you wonder – will I see these new friends again? Will we cross paths in another season or another sport? I realize that I am saddened by the loss of those relationships. Yes, you’ve exchanged numbers so that you can text about whether there’s a practice tonight in the rain or if they might let the coach know you’ll be a tad late (can’t find the bat). Yes, sometimes we connect over facebook or social media, but it’s just not the same as sharing your life weekly for 3-4 months in a row, discussing weekend plans or how your kid is doing in school. I didn’t realize I’d be mourning the loss of the baseball parents or the hockey moms or the soccer gang. That I’d be floating along wondering how such and such kid is doing or explaining to my boy that we might see them again sometime.

I suppose these temporary friendships might be a function of our current exploration of sports, so I wonder if some of my impatience with the boys’ switching around has to do with my desire to maintain some friendships. (It could very well have to do with the ever-growing piles upon piles of “last sport’s, now unused” equipment as well!) On the whole, though, I’ve been delighted to meet so many new people and develop some new longer lasting friendships.

Now if only we could stop switching schools so that I might get to know some of the classmate’s parents!

 

 

Parenting Boys 101: The Cup

“You are going to wear a cup.”

His eyes went wide as his brain tried to figure out how a drinking cup was going to go on his body. We stood in the “baseball” section of Dicks Sporting Goods. His younger brothers raced around the aisles and in and out of the baseball pants neatly organized on baseball
circular hangers. They each held a $19.99 pair of red baseball gloves that they were sure Mom was going to purchase for them as soon as she finished some eye-to-eye conversation with Super Tall Guy.

“It’s called a cup. It’s protection for your balls.”

Blank stare as he contemplated how a baseball had anything to do with this and needed to be on his body.

“Super Tall Guy,” I whispered, “boys wear these shorts when they play baseball. There is a hard piece of plastic called a cup which is to protect their private area from getting hit with a ball.”

I’m NOT wearing that!” he stressed.

“Oh yes, you are.”

No way – it will make me look big down there. I don’t want to be big. People will notice.”

I laughed inwardly, “Honey, apparently guys want to be big down there” 🙂

“Now into the fitting room.”

I’m NOT trying that on.”

“Oh yes, you are. And hurry up, we’re going to be late for your second practice.”

Tell them to get out of the room.”

Right – you want me tell wild, maniac 4- and 6-year-old dudes to sit quietly outside the fitting room door (without peeking under the door)?!?  “Okay, Mr. Ornery and The Little Guy, sit here while Mom helps Super Tall Guy.”

“Now, honey…quick….put this on.”

His dark brown skin turned a nice shade of pink.

It was Friday evening, the first day of baseball practice. Shelley, the assistant coach, was taking a break and we stood together at the fence talking about boys. She has three as well, though her youngest is eleven. We commiserated a bit before I asked her what my son will “need” for baseball (and what items are “nice” but not essential for the burgeoning kid-sport budget).
  1. Cleats – right….because those are different than soccer cleats (which we have) and football cleats (so that parents can spend a fortune if kids play different sports!)
  2. Baseball pants – huh, don’t have any of those yet…
  3. Glove – got that! (birthday gift this year just for fun)
  4. Bat is not essential but most boys bring their own – got that! (from the birthday. It’s metal, it’s dangerous and has sat in a closet for months to avoid concussing other children)
  5. She didn’t mention ball cap, but from the look of the field, Super Tall Guy is the only one who’s mother can’t remember to grab one from the house!
  6. And cup. “Okay, tell me honestly about that,” I said. “Because I’m clueless.”  She laughed, “I was too.”

I love parents. I love parents of boys, especially of just boys, because they get it!  They know that the kids are dusty because they just somersaulted down the hill. They know that I just opened the minivan door in the parking lot and found the younger two buck naked in there! They know that we spent the entire beach vacation arguing over who was sitting beside whom. They know that I search for a Mute button while pointing a remote at the boys. They know that the couch pillows are torn and duct-taped together from pillow fights and couch trampoline events. They just know. And I know to turn to them and start the conversation because sometimes I need to be reminded that yes, the boys are “normal” and “going to be okay” and will “eventually grow up.”

My job is to love and encourage and protect (every inch of them) along the way!

The Sports Mom (ahem….Tiger Mom?)

It’s hard to be a competitive person by nature, and to channel that trait in parenting active and athletic boys (good thing my boys are not anywhere near Olympic potential or I’d surely be in trouble!). I stress out enough as it is, trying to instill the values of sportsmanship, of having fun, of playing your best, of staying in there for your team, of respecting and listening to your coach, of learning the game and not worrying about the score. After all, let’s be honest – the boys are only 8 and 6!  Of course, these little guys are hard-wired to be competitive – you don’t have to keep score, they keep it themselves! They know who won! So my typical pep talk has nothing to do with scores or winning, despite what my loud cheering on the sidelinesflag football might lead you to believe otherwise.

This Spring my older two played flag football (not “real” football because I’m a mother and I’m a pediatrician and I have a fetish about keeping brains intact). My eldest is not a natural at football but he seems to really enjoy playing and names it consistently as his favorite sport. So we arrived on the field and I was all smiles and happy to find out that he’d be coached this season by a former NFL player. Wow. Swoon. Or not.

Soon I was dealing with a sad, disappointed player who spent more time on the sidelines than he did on the field. And when on the field, he was allowed only one chance to actually carry the football, because there were 3 or 4 other players who were really good players. And they got to be quarterback and they got to be running back and they got to catch the ball and run. And it gets a little hard to have your boy look you in the eye and say, “Why don’t I get to play, Mom?” (especially when you know you paid $140 for your kid to PLAY!)

At the end of the first game, the coach went around the circle and told every single boy what he noticed about their play during the game. “S, way to get the flag that time.” “J, excellent run, you had great speed today.” “The medal goes to JL for that end-of-the game interception.” And when he got to Super Tall Guy who was last, he said, “Um, you man, you have two eyes.” Ouch. Now there’s a self-esteem builder. Two eyes. Fortunately Super Tall Guy is not socially savvy enough to know that he was just offended – but his mother is.

So, the next week, I decided to double check my perception. I grabbed a notecard and a Sharpie from the gym bag and recorded who was off the field in the first half. Kid #15 was on the sideline for 16 plays (his mom said he asked her if he could play his DS — I mean, really?!? The kid is sitting on the grass for so long that he wants to play a video game because he’s bored!)  #29  was out 11 times, Super Tall Guy was out 9 times….and the two coaches’ sons stayed in the entire half.

Don’t mess with Mama Bear.

Being much more bold than I almost EVER am, I marched right up (timidly) to that 6 ft- 4 in muscular giant and said, “Coach, you are not rotating the kids evenly. Some of them are spending a lot of time on the sidelines” and I showed him the card. My heart pounded!! He looked down at me and said, “I play them only if they are paying attention and every kid gets to carry the ball once.” Once? That’s football?! You get to touch the ball one time?!  And you want 8 year olds to sit on the sideline and learn by watching? I believe developmental research indicates that children learn by doing! Heck – most adults learn by doing!

Shaking from the interaction, I returned to the other side of the field and watched Super Tall Guy get out on the field at least a little a bit more that week. Over the rest of the season, though, he was called up mostly when the team was on defense (he’s a solid mass, probably seems more intimidating than his actual flag-pulling ability). And if he got on the field for offense, he got to snap the ball – and get his one carry. Not only did Super Tall Guy notice this, but the coaches of the teams we played against also noticed that the talented players played more.

Believe me, I’m not naive. I understand sports. I know that you’re not going to be able to

play if you’re goofing around. I know you have to work hard. And some day, if my boys want to try out for a school team and expect to play in the games, they are going to have to figure it out. I won’t be coddling them. But for this season, I invested in this particular sports league because of its promise to be non-competitive, to focus on the joy of the game and learning all aspects of the game, and to play every kid an equal amount of time. I want my boys to have fun. I want Super Tall Guy to feel like he is part of a team. I want him to look forward to the games.

Super Tall Guy has played two other seasons in this league. He’s not dumb. He knows this isn’t right or fair. But he also can’t quite figure this out in words. He can’t express the disappointment he’s feeling. And he’s certainly too shy to try to talk to a coach. Until he learns how to stand up for himself and be able to demand what he is due – until that day, then it is my job.

I do not like confrontation. I am a peace-maker. But I will also fight for fairness and justice for my boys, for your boys, for your girls, for all children.

I asked Super Tall Guy to write a thank you note to each coach as we do every season the boys play. He wrote it willingly, sealed the envelops and addressed them to “Coack” (spelling his own). I know the coaches volunteer. I am grateful for their willingness to share their time and talent. I truly am. But I will also hold them to a high standard when they touch the life of a child.

Sure glad to be done with this season. Tiger Sports Mom is moving on.

Martial Arts and the “Real-Time” Mothering Failure

I have decided that “real-time” parenting is just too difficult. I would like a playback reel, a coach….maybe the SuperNanny. I mean, if split-second decision making was in line with my personality, I would have become an emergency room doc, not a primary care physician who sends the sick ones off to the hospital.

And I’m pretty sure that Micah is going to be the one kid that I never figure out – and therefore keep making bad in-the-moment decisions. We worked hard the past couple weeks on a “star chart” to earn his gi uniform for Martial Arts class. I was impressed –

The star chart...apparently got a little crumpled in my rant???

The star chart…apparently got a little crumpled in my rant???

we’ve never had a behavioral chart work before. He actually brushed his teeth in the morning. He put on his clothes without being asked. When he did a really kind thing (rare….but happened) to one of his brothers, he would look up at me with a great smile – and I would nod – and he’d run to the fridge and put a star on the chart. It was idyllic. So you know what that means.

We talked for days about finally getting the uniform at class on Wednesday. I even brought my big camera along. I was ready to be so proud. Yet, I strode out of the building in silence in front of him thirty minutes later….fuming and emotionally choked up with sadness.

He wouldn’t get out on the mat. He clung to my arm. He pretended like he was going to decide to out and join the class. The teachers cajoled him. I urged him. My friend encouraged him. But finally, I declared “you know, I would rather spend time with Noah and Seth and get to put Seth to bed, then to sit on this couch here with you.” And off we went.

I gave myself plenty of good pats on the back for remaining calm….and then Dragon Mommy reared her head the moment we were in the sound proof car! “What do you mean you don’t want to go to class? What was that all about? You worked so hard to earn your uniform and then you just sat there? What’s going on? What are you doing?!?” Now any parenting book will tell you that this method is 100% guaranteed to fail…..and I know that 100% as I talk….but it’s definitely more for my benefit to ramble on because clearly he’s not listening to me….until my rant turns to “I’m not going to pay money to sit there on a couch! I’m not going to pay money to sit around for flag football or soccer if this is what it’s going to be.”  Huh – had no idea that was such a powerful phrase. Mentioning his favorite sports sure got his attention.

Yes, not so proud of that moment. Frustration makes you do crazy things. I was ready to be proud of Micah. He was not ready for the excitement. I wasn’t ready to see that he was not ready. This kid is so complex, I go nuts trying to think through the psychology of it all (….afterwards ….). I think I get one piece figured out, he pulls out something else. I just don’t keep up so well in the real-time with him.

But still.

I was ready to be proud of you.  And you blew it.  You see, it’s all about me.

Me trying to figure you out.

Me wondering why you hide so much behind my skirt (which would make sense as a saying if I actually wore skirts).

Wondering how much do I push?

How much do I wait for you?

How do I encourage you?

How do I build your confidence but not self-centeredness?

How do we dance the joy of morning snow forts amidst the clash of evening wills?

How do we navigate the still waters and the crashing waves?

You push and I pull.

You pull and I push.

We win. We lose.

I haven’t figured this out yet….but I’m still here….for the next round.

Soccer Mom – It had to happen….

It has to happen at some point, especially if one has a boy.  At some point, I have to become a Soccer Mom, if only for a season.  I’m secretly wishing that it’ll catch on with at least one of the boys since I like the sport.

On the other hand, maybe I should wish that they will all have a preference for basketball.  It is at least an indoor sport!  I thought about this last weekend when we arrived at the field in a torrential rain storm and I prayed for game cancellation despite my sons’ enthusiasm.  We had just the day before gone to the soccer store and purchased cleats for both (poor Seth can barely walk in regular shoes) and socks and shin guards and balls.  Noah would have worn the cleats and shin guards to bed if I had let him.  So when the coaches started yelling out “U8 games are cancelled” I was very happy.  The boys, however, decided that the now sprinkling water shower was actually enjoyable and they spent the next 30 minutes sloshing about in a mud puddle….in their new shoes!

So here’s my list of things you need as a Soccer Mom…in very little particular order…and with the caveat that we’ve only had one “game” for each kid and my thoughts are highly likely to change over time.

  1. The perfect water bottle.  The ones that leak all over the neighboring diaper bag while at the bottom of the stroller are not so ideal.  The ones that shrink to one third the original size as a result of dishwasher cleansing even if on the upper rack are also now worth only recycling.  The ones that Micah has chewed on the pop-up value so much that they can’t close anymore are also of little value.  I know….probably should get a Nalgene.
  2. Collapsible captain’s chair.  I have two of them.  They work fine, but they really are a pain to carry on one’s back while pushing a stroller through damp grass to the farthest field EVER!  And who wants to fold them and put them back in their “handy” bags?!?!
  3. A golf umbrella.  Let’s face it – despite years of ridiculing my father for such a HUGE umbrella, last week I looked on other people with envy as they kept “mostly” dry with kids scurrying around under their feet.
  4. A really warm parka.  Again, back to the basketball.  I’m not sure I’m cut out for rainy days, cold days.  I might need inside sports to avoid the damp cold (and I certainly don’t plan to be the one to teach the boys to ski!).
  5. Rubber car mats.  After playing in the rain and the mud, I’m pretty adamant that they remove their shoes as they clamber into the van….before stepping on the seats as they make their way into their carseats (and thank goodness for babywipes when they do get things muddy!).
  6. Extra shoes to have the boys change out of cleats when they finish playing.  I haven’t figured out the logistics of this yet – which is why 3 of them (my nephew also plays at the same time as Micah but on a different teams so they don’t strangle one another or just stand on the field making potty sounds at each other) wore cleats to the movie theater see “Finding Nemo 3D” yesterday afternoon!
  7. Extra food in the car.  Even though the boys get a snack after the game (and I was wondering today what I’ll do when it’s my turn), they still pile into the van and ask “what do you have to eat?”  I must remember that they eat every 2 hours no matter what and are not capable of “calmly” overcoming this strong impulse.
  8. A duffle bag to keep team shirts, socks, shoes, shin guards and balls in whenever a straying item is found throughout the week so that by Saturday morning you can just grab it and go.
  9.  Grandma!  Yes, she is vital for pushing a stroller through long damp grass, carrying folding chairs on the back, taking siblings to the “potty” while the other one plays (or just changing a diaper on the ground), cheering loudly, and generally just helping with everything!
  10. A strong heart to swell with pride at every goal, every good  defensive play, pretty much every move.  It’s amazing how teary-eyed I get while watching the boys.  I don’t know who sports is better for – them or me.

Please help me – what else do I need?  I know I’m forgetting something.