Very Round Peg, Very Square Hole.

It has finally come to me that despite his amazing athleticism and my clear joy in spectatorship, Mr. Ornery appears to be little interested in organized sports. At 18 months of age, his day care teachers remarked at his persistence in shooting basketballs into the miniature plastic hoop. At 4 years of age, I strapped on ice skates and he took off across the ice with me stumbling in awe behind him. Put him in shoes, in skates, in skis, on wheels and he just goes. Give him a ball, a bat, a glove, a stick and he gets it.

In his short 8 years (well, four really when you consider that he didn’t start until age four), this boy has done sports! He has played more seasons of soccer than he cares to have joined. (“But, Mom, I didn’t sign up for soccer,” he whined one evening last Spring as we drove to practice. Evil grin from the driver’s seat.) He has played basketball for the past three winters. He tried ice hockey for a year and decided to “retire” shortly after I sunk money into the “travel bag” to carry all the gear that I had already sunk money into! He played a season of flag football. He was fast. He can run. But he didn’t care to catch the ball. He tried baseball last Spring. His coach was amazed that it was his first time ever as he caught, threw and hit with ease. “Yep,” I said, “I bought him a glove a week before the first practice.”

Scattered in all that was two years of gymnastics, getting to the point of twice-a-week practice to look toward competitive gymnastics, but he was not interested. He joined his brother and cousins in karate for a few months, but had no stamina for working toward a hierarchy of colored belts. He was on the swim team last summer and has a beautiful stroke, but doesn’t care to show any speed. We even tried a session of water polo, but for a little seven-year-old, treading water in the deep end of the high school swimming pool was a bit too exhausting.

But look him in the eye and ask Mr. Ornery what’s his favorite sport and he’ll say, “I’m going to be a BMX biker when I grow up.”

Mind you, I love watching all my boys play sports. I happily drive them to practice after practice. I put money into sign-ups, equipment, and Gatorade and tons and tons of mileage. I want to expose them to as many sports as I can (okay, I probably didn’t need to do all of the above in 4 years I realize now as I list them!). My hope is that one day when they are on the college campus and someone yells out to them, “Dude, want to join us for a quick game of …?” they will actually know how to play that … and jump right in. (Golf, we need to do golf. And tennis and rowing and cross-country….)

But Mr. Ornery has other ideas. He’s a round peg. He wants round things under his feet. He glides with ease and flies to the top of ramps on a small BMX bike. He is working on how to do an Ollie on a skateboard (see what I’m learning?). He just learned how to “drop in” on a scooter from an older kid at the skate park. He’s watching YouTube videos of people biking and skating and scootering. He’s begging me to take him to the indoor bike park several times a month and rates their one-week bike camp as the best week ever. He cajoles the babysitter into taking him and the Little Guy to a nearby skate park as often as he can (though her rule is that they leave when the teen mass enlarges towards the evening and the language gets more and more foul).

And, Mr. Ornery has spent this entire weekend creating his own miniature skate park in his bedroom after spending his allowance on “fingertip” skate boards and torturing me with the world’s smallest nuts and bolts to put together a Tech Deck. (That’s the towel rack from the bathroom, by the way. Sigh.)

Give me a sport that I can understand and cheer for and I am happy. Put wheels under Mr. Ornery and he is in heaven. He’s a round peg. He doesn’t care for my square holes. But we are learning to compromise. He keeps up a sport to garner the lessons of persistence, sportsmanship, listening to a coach, and working towards a goal as a team. I keep the bike tires pumped up, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches packed for a quick snack, and the back of the van loaded with two BMX bikes, two scooters, two skateboards and two helmets at all times (naturally, the Little Guy is following right along).

And, I keep the prayers flowing as I watch him soar, hoping for soft landings.

Love my round peg. (And…. he’d love you to “subscribe” to his video. It matters to an 8-year-old, apparently 😊). 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

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.