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.



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.





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


“I will never….”

Ah, the self righteousness of the inexperienced and the innocents.  From the mouths of blatherers both well-intended and inspired and in the unspoken words but obvious body gestures come the thoughts of those who have yet-to-experience certain phases of life.  Parenthood, I’m thinking about specifically, right now.

We all know them, and we have been them ourselves, whether we admit it or shake our heads no.  My friends and I sometimes joke now about never saying “I will never…” since it might come to pass that “I will… ” in fact do what I pinky swore not to do.

There are the things people say before having children like “I will never take drugs during childbirth-give my baby formula-lose my temper with my child-use disposable diapers-let my child run my life-stop staying out until 3 am (well, that one might be true…)-put my child in daycare-be a stay at home mom-work outside the home”.

When you hold that tiny infant, hope to protect it from all the evils and bad influences that surround him or her, you don’t remember all those “I will nevers” as you manage to get through each day, perhaps adding another child or puppy or lizard to this mix.  Watching friends and strangers in the world, thoughts then become “I will never buy my boy a toy gun (but then realize that boys turn ANYTHING into a weapon)-let my child get really hurt in the playground-use the TV as a baby-sitter-let my child have a sleepover until he/she is 10-feed my kid chicken nuggets and other beige food several times a week-let my child wear designer clothes-walk to the bus themselves.”

The list gets longer as the children get older.  “I will never let my son play tackle football-spend a fortune in time and money on travel sports-be as involved in their school as my mom was-let them be too busy-nag them-when they are teenagers, let them go to the mall/amusement park/Chicago/movies with no adults-ride a car with a 16 year old driver-ride their bikes on sidewalkless busy roads-yell at my child-worry enough to check their text messages.”

How many of your “I nevers” have you done?  In hindsight, I will try to abstain from the “I nevers” since life is so unpredictable. The list I would have for when my eldest turns 16 would be sickeningly long.  I do know that I will never knowingly let my kids host a party that involves alcohol while they are underage, and after seeing my neighbor’s daughter go out recently I will never let my daughters go out in THAT dress. 

And I hope I will never have a blue grey curly perm when I am in my 70’s.  But no promises. C

Relish Your Ink-Free Days

The clock is now running at high speed, hands spinning faster and faster as we hurtle towards the start of school, trying to absorb the ending summer days while working and shopping for school supplies and marking schedules on the calendar and starting practices and buying clothes and STOP! 

Lean back slowly, close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose while counting one-two-three, exhale through your mouth, and suddenly the clock decelerates to normal speed, frantic thoughts flow in a straight line and some of the extra mental weight simply vanishes.  As we parents consciously strive to Slow the pace down, our children can hopefully follow our paths, frenetic movements disappearing into the haze.

It is not easy in today’s environment to Slow down, take a breath, when everywhere we see HURRY!  NOW!  GO! The thought of falling behind the group is terrifying at first, then acceptable, as we realize that we don’t need to fall out with our friends simply because we say NO sometimes to one more outing or one more label or one more activity.

I have spent this summer physically and mentally trying to Slow down our family, and it is not easy.  But it’s working, and we all seem happier, more relaxed. (see 23 June post for more information on Slowing down)   Two weekends ago, with my daughters just back from camp, we were swimming in our nearby lake, lounging on our huge blow-up raft nicknamed The Island of Doom- the best $60 investment I made last summer–when my older daughter asked me “What else are we doing today?”

“This is it.  This is all I have planned, ” I replied as I watched the clouds dancing across the sky, a cool breeze shimmering over the water.

“OK,” she smiled, diving into the water.  And we hung out on the water and the beach, until the kids were ready to head home to start dinner.

This past weekend we amazingly had our second free consecutive Sunday.  After an early morning grocery run, we spent the day not filing or shopping or cleaning but going on a long bike ride with a picnic, as I wrote about yesterday. 

When given the freedom of an empty calendar, don’t always feel the need to fill it in.  Explore your local area, have a picnic with friends, take your kids shopping, lay in the hammock, work in your gardern, go to the movies, play a game, visit somewhere you have never been or somewhere familiar that you have not seen in awhile.  Do not let the lack of ink on that day scare you-as I think it does some-but embrace your free time.  

I find that the more days we have carved a singular activity out of an ink-free day, the more we crave it.  As our family has become closer and more content this summer, I hope can extend this Slowness into the school year. C

A Separate Life

I have long thought of my children as a part of me, an extension of me-my husband-my parents-our upbringing-our beliefs-their friends–where we live-their hobbies and interests-but always a part of me.  While they head off to school each morning, then to their activities and other outings , I have long felt they were an integral part of who I am.  As they are growing older, I am becoming more aware of them choosing what to claim as their own.

This becomes abundantly clear as I peruse the daily online camp photos, searching for pictures of them in new activities, giggling with people I do not know, and involved in camp rituals of which I will never be a part.  I miss their laughing faces, I yearn to know what they are becoming as they test the waters (literally) around them. 

It becomes a more separate life, as our children grow and reach and develop into who they will become, as we did. They will have their private codes, things hidden from me, secrets they keep from their friends, and thoughts they will even hide from themselves.

I realize that I can only guide them on their journey as they create new paths, follow some already lain, get lost and hopefully found, in a quest to Be.  May the voyages never end; I am still searching and wandering my own paths, not knowing where they will lead.  Camp is a short stop in their trek, but one where they will hopefully learn to fend without their parents and usual cohorts. C