After 900+ Games, A Soccer Mom No More

I am no longer a Soccer Mom. It is truly the end of a parenting era for me. It has been such a huge part of our family life, with 3 kids involved in house league, club, and school soccer for 18+ years. I calculated they have played in over 950 soccer games, with 1000s more practices, trips to the ER, games in literally every type of weather, packing coolers and filling water bottles, show tying, attending soccer parties and award nights, taking a myriad of pictures, even coaching when they were younger.

There was a viral post last year lamenting competitive sports. While I agree that some parents and players have unrealistic expectations, it was never our goal that our children would continue sports in college unless they chose that route. They played soccer because they loved the game—and they got so, so much more from playing soccer than simply the game.

My children have learned discipline, the importance of teamwork, how practice improves your skills, why eating healthy and staying hydrated is important, how to play with teammates and coaches they do not agree with or even like, that you don’t always win when expected, the unexpected victory, how sidelining injuries are frustrating, how to speak up for themselves.

We have formed close bonds with other families, whether for a season or for years. We have travelled for many tournaments including Phoenix AZ, Cincinnati, OH, Madison WI, Kansas City, MO. In each city we have tried to explore–enjoying hiking, a variety restaurants, shopping, and experiences from the St. Louis Arch to college visits.

The end of our family soccer era ended with suddenly, with an elbow to the nose and a 35-yard header that caused a horrible concussion. Not the way I expected us to end our soccer involvement, with trips to the ER, neurologist, physical therapy, and wondering whether Devon would even get to walk at graduation. Thankfully, she is on the mend but soccer days are over.

I doubt our kids can yet appreciate how much soccer positively impacted our family. It allowed us to spend many hours together, watching them grow, learning about themselves and other families’ dynamics, politics in organized sports.

In hindsight, I am so grateful for almost every game I watched—even the bitter cold and snow games brings laughter and memories now. So whatever sport or activity your child embraces,  join their journey. Watch them grow.  And know this time will end.  Quicker than you expect.

C

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A Familiar College Visit

Can you go back? To college, that is.

I loved college. My daughter Tara is now a junior at my alma mater, University of Dayton; my other daughter Devon is going to attend UD in the fall. I feel lucky to often visit this school that offered me so many opportunities, helped shape my adult life, and introduced me to some still-amazing friends.

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my UD graduation with my grandmother and parents.

UD has expanded, is way classier looking, has more fields of study, new restaurants to enjoy, but the heart of the school is the same . The upperclassmen housing area, the UD Ghetto*, is overflowing with students on porches and yards enjoying the first gorgeous summer-like weekend this year. The university still seems the happiest place on Earth. Sorry, Disney.

When I was a student, I never once had a thought that one –let alone two–of my kids could be living and studying here, drinking at the same bars, hanging out in the same houses did.  Kinda crazy, in retrospect. Every time I am on campus, I remember so much of my time as a UD Flyer. But as I walk through the Ghetto today, I feel like a …. mom.

It is this generation’s turn to experience college, make friends, find love, join new clubs, travel to new cities or countries, stay up too late, change loves and friends, sleep until noon then study until 2 am.

They will stress about  class projects and exams, life after college, money, health, jobs, fitting in, discovering who they are, and suddenly–what they thought they wanted to study, they don’t. That’s OK. Hopefully your advisors can help you change majors or classes. The emotional turmoil is part of the college experience. Know that these are some of the first adult decisions that you will make—and even after you leave school, many of you will change careers, change friends, move to new cities, have kids.

So, as I walk through the Ghetto with my daughter and a few other moms, I look with envy at these joyous, welcoming, sassy, smart, silly students and hope that you find your way. Experience all you can during these years—you won’t regret it.

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This weekend I will enjoy real conversation with Tara, the school sponsored 70’s themed block party, a few Ghetto gatherings, the infamous Timothy’s, running through the campus, the book store, then head home back to my daily life.

Until next time, when I will enjoy this campus again. Feeling like a … proud mom and UD alumni.

C

*term is UD politically incorrect, but student –and-alumni- correct. I know the school wants to eliminate that name but it’s been there since the 1960’s. Sorry admin.

Parents and Sideline Screaming

Overheard in 2 recent sophomore high school basketball games–

As an opposing team playing was being almost forced out of bounds by two of our defenders:

 Male Fan—he’s being molested out there.

Female Fan, who had been yelling non-stop the entire game, retorted—and the problem with that is?

Male Fan, after long pause—It’s not a female.

My reply, out loud, to the two—REALLYYY??? Major head shake. I couldn’t respond directly to the man, since I didn’t know exactly which DAD behind me said it. THAT is the lesson you are teaching your son? Appalling.

This weekend, we were at the end of an extremely close tournament championship game vs. a local private school:

The refs made a mistake with 5 seconds left, which had the other parents in an uproar. Then with 1 second left, the opposition threw the ball in, and one player for each team ended up on the floor.

A female fan for the other team had been strident and completely one-sided the entire game. When the final buzzer rang and we won the game—as one of her son’s coaches AND teammates both got technical fouls– the MOM screamed

Congratulations on your dirty win!

What a bunch of dirty players!

 And this lovely message was screamed on Martin Luther King Day, no less.

Parents, what kind of message are you sending your kids, their teammates, others in the stands with such obnoxious sentiments? What are they learning from your “coaching” on the sidelines?

I have been on plenty of sidelines where it was my childs team’s parents who were screaming at the players. In a fall outdoor soccer tournament, a group of parents was told by a ref—“Knock it off. These are CHILDREN you are talking do. If you yell again, I am going to remove this whole group of parents from the game.”

Remember that, parents. CHILDREN. I ask my kids about some of the most egregious diatribes, and oftentimes they do not even hear what the loudmouths are saying. But other times, they do hear. And they don’t forget, especially if it is directed to them. How do you think this can impact them in the long run? What if you heard someone directing such negative sentiments to your child?

We teach our kids to respect all and not to bully. So why do some parents think it is acceptable to scream non-stop from sidelines in a forceful, negative manner? Why do you think it is okay to bully and not respect the CHILDREN, coaches, and referees? Game after game?

When your child gets in trouble for yelling at a classmate, how will you respond? He or she is just mimicking your actions.

Go ahead and yell–positive, encouraging words, appreciation for actions well done. Please, please stop the ongoing negative, possibly sexual or misogynistic, inappropriate comments. They can hurt.

C

 

 

 

Family Dinners, Changing

Wisps of melancholy embrace this house. Tara, our eldest, returned to college this morning, after the Christmas break.   This sensation is a familiar one, the unbalance after the five of us have been together for some time and one of us is…gone…vamoose…. and that incomplete feeling returns. We sense it in the days before her departure, as some pull away and go silent,  others embrace every free moment.

It might be the realization that after today, the next time we will all be together will not be four months. Sad, but true. It’s a scene I know is being mirrored across our neighborhood and around the country. I often wonder if other families feel this separation even before it happens, how they respond.

Since our kids were young we have always tried to enjoy at least 4 nights of family dinners each week. That can be difficult, with work-sports-theatre-homework-travel-friends-life. But oftentimes it’s the only time we are all together uninterrupted for a conversation, to plan our upcoming schedules, a vacations, discussed politics, argued about religion and current events, laughed, and often welcome a friend or two who join us. We often joke that we could make a comedy TV show about our family dinners.

This last week home for Tara was unusual, since it was finals for our other 2 children, coupled with illness running rampant through the house.   So while we cooked and ate together, it was not the usual meals with all 5 chairs filled, lively conversation. But we tried.

I know that creative, calming, curious, time is important to all of us. I am especially aware of what these dinner have meant to bring and keep us together when one of the comments this morning was “bummer that we didn’t get to have family dinner for the last couple nights. ”

I know that as the days go on, the mood lifts, changes as we embrace the new energy in our house. While we miss Tara, we know that she is thriving at a school she loves when she isn’t with us. And this is the passage of life. And soon enough, we will be only 3 at the table. The fact that we all want to enjoy our family dinner time together says as parents—and children—we must be doing at least something right.

C

Summer Day Camp Lessons

Driving my son to basketball camp each morning, I am so impressed with the number of kids at LZHS summer camps, improving their endurance and abilities in football, cross country, baseball, softball, tennis, soccer, and inside the building is summer school, band camp, more I can’t see.

The older students mentor the younger ones, working alongside the coaches to work on batting stances, passes, dribbling.  There are bikes lined up along the school, t-shirts and water bottles forgotten while the cross country runners trek through town.

While I open my computer each morning, they start their work outs, keeping their brains and bodies sharp, instead of sleeping in on each summer day.  I applaud their courage to mingle with both friends and strangers, their tenaciousness in learning new skills, their spirits,  their joy.

I get tired of hearing the negative media about youth, and while I enjoy sharing in their individual successes, I am even more inspired to see them work together, to try, to maybe fail, to try again, for success, as one.

Our government could learn a little—maybe a lot– from these students. C

Learning to Trust your Gut

A youth counselor. A pediatrician. A neighbor. A teacher. A priest. A classmate.

Respected elders?  Sometimes.  But several recent conversations, these were the people who tried to take sexual advantage of either me or friends when we were younger.

Last weekend’s conversation reminded me of the importance of teaching our kids to “trust their guts”.   Even as adults, we are so programmed from our youth to respond yes to “authority figures” We should remind ourselves and our children that is perfectly okay to say NO.

If we TEACH our kids to trust their feelings, and to listen to their instincts, it might help them avoid a potentially dangerous situation.  We are animals, and our instincts have evolved over centuries.  We need to teach them to listen to their bodies, which can give them warnings that only they can feel:

  •  If a situation feels creepy, it probably is.  Get out, if you can.   It is NOT okay for a young classmate to expose himself to you—one, two, three times—while others smirk in the corners, watching the show created for you.
  •  If you suddenly hear the waves in your ears, ocean miles away, your fingers feeling electric with awareness, take a step back.  When someone asks you to “just send them a naked picture” or “wants to take a few sexy pictures with you” know that when it feels uncomfortable, you can say NO!
  •  That pit in your stomach, when someone touches you, even on our shoulder, when you want to pull away.  When the doctor asks you to strip down because you have a cold, ask WHY?
  •  That shrieking internal voice screaming “THIS ISN’T RIGHT!!”  means “LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE.  I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE.”  And do it.  Walk away, run away.

Kids, trust your parents, or an older sibling, or a teacher that you DO feel comfortable with. Try to talk to someone if a person has tried to hurt you, coerce you, threaten you, buy you, or you just know that something isn’t right.

Parents, trust your kids.  When they stammer that they don’t want to be around a specific teacher, doctor, babysitter, neighbor, they are most likely saying it because  their internal warning signals have said not to trust someone they are “supposed” to.  Great for them, that they recognized these feelings.

Sometimes kids—and adults—can’t verbalize WHY they don’t trust someone, don’t want to be around them.  And that is OKAY.

These recent conversations were scary because of how many people I know were preyed upon, fortunately with no success.  But another weakened day, and any of us might have been victims.  A life-lesson for me that “trusting my gut” is still important, sometimes my kids can be wiser than me about certain people, and teaching them to “trust their gut” can be life-saving.

Take tonight to talk to your kids.  Share these words with them, if you wish.  It is that important to me. C

2/8/12–Two updates.  One is the sad fact that an elementary school in LA is replacing their ENTIRE staff after arrests for 2 teachers committing lewd acts, a third one today.  Two is that it is incredible how many people reached out to me on FB today to share their similar stories.  TALK TO YOUR KIDS NOW!!  Have the squirmy conversations now, strengthen your kids–and yourself–for life.

Trouble 201

Boy trouble.  Girl trouble. Schoolwork trouble. Sports trouble. Friend trouble.  Hair trouble. Outfit trouble. Decision-making trouble.  Sleeping trouble. Waking trouble.

As the kids get older, helping them navigate their expanding worlds and changing brains and bodies gets more difficult.  The choices and decisions now seem so much harder to make than which diaper to buy, when to offer soft foods, when to let them ride their bikes around the block alone.

We help them think through their options but hope for the best outcome for them, in the longterm.  We hope to help them grow undamaged, supporting them through their tears and questions.  A hug. A smile. A tear ourselves.

I thought today about those kids without support, who cannot or will not approach their parents.  I thought about those whose guardians assume they the solve their own problems, resolve their own issues.  I thought about those raised in a hostile world, no where to turn.  No hope.  Only loneliness, confused ideas, unresolved problems. cornered, unanswered.

Isn’t that our job as parents?  Step outside ourselves when our kids are in need, listen, guide them as they talk through their feelings, their issues, their concerns.  Then watch, hope they  continue to move forward. C