by Cheryl on February 8th, 2013 | Posted in Parenting
I am killing my kids’ childhood, one sports practice at a time.
At least, that’s what the self-proclaimed “anti soccer moms” would have me believe. They pat themselves on the back because THEIR kids are going to enjoy drippy popsicles and hours spent building lego castles and letting their imaginations take them where they will. Instead of, you know, consorting with The Devil.
Congratulations. And thank you for the implication that because my kids play sports, and because I am not only a soccer mom but a baseball and softball mom and a swim mom and a sometimes dance mom and a former gymnastics, karate and art class mom, I am somehow depriving my children.
I love mommy wars, don’t you?
I guess it’s cool to be the ASM. Like it’s cool to be the free range mom right now. Giving a big eff you to The Man.
The Man, in this case, being sports.
I take it being a soccer mom means you shove your kid into a sport in which he or she has no interest, drive them all over creation, screw the family dinner, look like a tired mess, never have any down time and leave that child exhausted and pining for his or her, er, iPad.
The only accurate part is the looking like a tired mess. But that’s only because I am also Homework Mom.
My kids like playing sports. Maybe yours don’t, and that’s fine too. Forcing your kids to do something they’re not into doesn’t make you a soccer mom. It makes you a frustrated mom.
Listen. It’s not about making sure your kids don’t fall behind some mythical Keeping of with the Joneses family of elite athletes. It’s about giving your kids the chance to try things that interest them. When my kids ask me to sign them up for a sport, I do it. My job is transportation. Well, that and uniform washing. And, of course, spectating. I sit and watch them practice: baseball, softball, swimming, soccer. I cheer them on at games. I make sure they have water and a snack. And, most days, matching socks. I play catch with them in the street and kick the soccer ball around in the yard until they want to do something else. Or nothing at all.
Sawyer has an entire group of friends from another school across town he met through playing soccer and baseball. These boys come to his birthday parties and he goes to theirs. When they leave their elementary school in a few years for the big mixed stew of four elementary schools that is middle school, Sawyer will already know a ton of kids. David and I are good friends with the parents, from hours spent bonding on concrete bleachers and saggy canvas chairs. There was the time Xander peed on the potty I set up on the bleachers and the other moms cheered so loudly the kids on the field stopped practice to wonder what was going on.
Because we are all moms. Regardless of whether there’s a sport in front of our name or not.
I could go on about the health benefits of active kids. Or that sports teach discipline and how to work as a team and be a good teammate and how to lose and also, how to win graciously. I have watched passion develop. I could tell you about the priceless looks on their faces as my children learn to throw a ball that pops into a glove; when my son hit the ball onto the outfield grass on the fly for the first time or my daughter scored two goals against a team a year older.
But you’ve heard all that kind of stuff.
So let me tell you a secret: My kids stay out on the street playing with the neighbors until dark. Sometimes til after dark. They play basketball and kickball and kick the can. Ride bikes and scooters. Toast marshmallows over a fire pit. Hang out and play video games. They have playdates. Go to birthday parties. Get dirty. Watch TV. Sell Girl Scout cookies. Read. Turn cartwheels. Play Barbies.
They even eat popsicles.
Those memories will be as much a part of their childhood as the moments they spent on fields and in the pool.
Besides, what my kids will remember about playing sports won’t be the practices or a missed dinner or skinned knees.
What they will remember is that I was there for everything.
I was there.
I’m a mom.
I’m a mom.
by Cheryl on December 31st, 2012 | Posted in Just me
Today is my birthday and I should be writing my year in review. I should write about how I looked in the mirror and cried a few days ago because of all the wrinkles and lines around my eyes, the sagging skin under my chin, the final realization that whatever I used to have is gone and will never be again. I should write about how I spent the past year wondering why I couldn’t breathe and how I can no longer lift my left arm parallel with my body and how I’m actually looking forward to the surgery I’ll have to have to fix it because even rolling over at night causes me to cry out in pain. I should write about how I can’t keep weight off anymore, how my jeans pinch and I want to give it up and let it be. I should write about how I add up the years and know when Xander is my age I’ll be 84 and wonder if I’ll be vital enough to take care of his kids so he and his wife can escape for awhile. I should write about how I know when I’m 84 this age will seem so very young to me.
But then there’s the quiet. Sunset walks with only my thoughts and my dog, leading me through the darkening streets as stars silently dot the sky. The hilly, brutal run which, a couple of months ago, I had to walk most of, but now I’m a few steps from running the entire thing. Sawyer wrapping his arms around me, or staying up late reading only to come downstairs triumphantly telling me he’s finished his book. Sage, smearing makeup on her face, talking her father into buying her wedge-heeled, sequined sneakers, yet still sleeping each night with the lovey she got as a baby. Xander’s eyes lighting up when he first sees me coming into his classroom, insisting on holding my hand on the walk through the parking lot.
The writing. Always the writing. The manuscript which undulates and sings and screams and pouts until it can’t anymore. Until I can’t anymore. And then I can. Because I have to.
I am everything I have been and nothing I will be. I am fire and water and love and glory and shame. I have finished but have yet to begin. I am here yet I am unseen, invisible. Inside me I am shouting.
I am sobbing.
I am dancing.
I am 44.
by Cheryl on December 17th, 2012 | Posted in Just me, Parenting
This morning I took Sage and Sawyer to school, an hour before their classes began, for a flag ceremony honoring those who lost their lives in Newtown.
I have questioned myself since Friday, when I walked onto the elementary school campus – walked right on, as anyone can do. I stopped in the office to sign in, but I didn’t have to. No one would stop me from walking around, would question why I was there. Our campus is wide open. No one ever asks to see ID.
Kids eat lunch outside under a covered patio. That’s where I stopped first, to collect Sawyer.
“Wanna leave and go have lunch?” I asked.
We walked down the outside hallway – because in Southern California, schools are open air – and opened the always unlocked door. Sage and her classmates sat at their desks, still pushed together in the two big blocks we’d created for their Thanksgiving feast. They busily colored cards they created for their families.
My heart would’ve leapt through my chest. If it wasn’t already right in front of me, wearing sparkly jeans and shirt.
I couldn’t be without my kids that day. They asked why they got to leave early. And I told them, in the simplest words possible. Then we went to lunch and out for froyo.
I’ve questioned myself ever since. Should I have interrupted their schedule? Told them at all?
What happened in Newtown is difficult enough, impossible, for an adult to wrap a head around. My kids didn’t seem all that fazed. Because the reality, wasn’t, for them, and for that I’m grateful.
But should I have kept them sheltered? Did I need to share? I’ve seen all the posts, experts and parents weighing in on how to talk to kids about what happened. I’ve listened to other parents debate about whether – and what – to tell their own kids.
The things is, the way we process information isn’t at all how our kids do. We can ascribe certain emotions to them that we think they’ll feel, but it’s all through our own – adult – filter.
I don’t think my kids need a lot of details. But I don’t want to completely shelter them, either. Honesty without elaboration.
Sawyer and Sage were interested but not overly so. This morning Sage said she was glad it happened so far away and not here. And, in her mind, if it happened far away, then it CAN’T happen here.
What do I tell my kids to do if there’s someone shooting? Hide? Run? Play dead?
What do I tell them about living in a country where this happens? Where the unthinkable is, suddenly, knowable.
The flag ceremony was organized by the girls scouts and boy scouts. Sage is a Daisy. I asked the kids if they wanted to attend.
She got to help with the flag. A friend’s daughters came. The youngest, Sage’s age, stood next to me and I put my arm around her, needing to squeeze a young, beautiful child. In case she needed it. In case I needed it.
I went to first grade in the town right next to Newtown. We had a huge paper mache dinosaur in our room that had a recorded voice inside the teacher tried to convince us was real. I wasn’t fooled. But I loved that green dinosaur. That’s what I remember from first grade. What will my daughter remember?
The flag was raised all the way up, then lowered to half-staff.
We said the pledge.
We had a moment of silence.
A handful of teachers looked on. Parents. Kids. The principal and assistant principal.
And then it ended and we went back home for breakfast and packing lunches and gathering homework and backpacks.
Ready to start another normal day of elementary school.
But for me, nothing was normal.
Nothing at all.
by Cheryl on December 13th, 2012 | Posted in Just me, Parenting
The birthday of an eldest is always a time marker for the mother, too.
The day your life shifted irrevocably in ways you’d never imagined.
Nine years ago it happened to me.
Nine days after his due date, Sawyer emerged and changed the world.
Nine years later, he continues to challenge us, make us laugh, break our hearts, remind us why we wanted him so much in the first place.
This was the year he fell in love with baseball and finally decided to give swimming a try (and discovered what we already knew: he’s good at it).
This was the year he fell in love with reading. He recently finished Hunger Games, and many nights we have to go upstairs an hour after we’ve said goodnight to make him turn off his light and go to sleep. He is so his mother’s son.
This was the year his baby brother graduated from his crib and insisted on sleeping with Sawyer in the top bunk, and he lets him. Because even though they are just over five years apart and don’t always have common interests, Sawyer will always be a big brother.
This was the year he rode Space Mountain, and despite not being a daredevil, wants to ride any roller coaster for which he’s tall enough. Over and over and over again.
Now he’s in his last year of single digits. He spent his final evening as an eight year-old with 23 friends, playing video games and running around and eating pizza at his birthday party.
When he wakes up Thursday morning, he’ll be nine.
Another year of change.
For both of us.
by Cheryl on December 7th, 2012 | Posted in Blog Events, Parenting
They started talking about it the moment they hopped into the car.
“Xander,” they said, “you’re going to love it.”
As soon as we arrived in Disneyland, Sawyer and Sage – each holding one of Xander’s hands – made a beeline for It’s a Small World.
They couldn’t wait to ride it with him. They know he’s scared of the faster rides and, after the two of them when on the ride the last time we were at Disneyland, they didn’t want their baby brother to miss out this time. They didn’t let go of him while waiting in line (and yes, he’s winking).
They were right. Xander adored it. The ride, like the rest Disneyland and California Adventure, are done up for the holidays. The kids couldn’t look around fast enough.
It truly is beautiful. The best part was it set the tone for the day. The kids really enjoyed each other. The holiday spirit, perhaps?
Right after lunch, we met up with other bloggers invited to spend the day at Disneyland. We took in the Haunted Mansion together, with its Nightmare Before Christmas Theme. Xander even went on it. He got scared and kept asking if the ride was almost over. Definitely not his favorite. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean, where 19 of us rode in a single boat, and the kids had a blast.
After watching a fun holiday parade – including an ice skating Mickey and Minnie Mouse – we spent most of the rest of our day with Kelly from Just Spotted OC and her family. Our kids love each other so much that last year, Xander was in their family’s portrait taken at Disneyland. As wonderful as Disneyland is, it’s even better when you’re sharing it with friends.
Well, those friends, too.
One ride I wanted to take my kids on was Space Mountain. When I went to Disneyworld as a kid, Space Mountain was the most awesome ride in the history of ever. My family only went to the park once, so believe me, I remember. I loved it so much I couldn’t wait to ride it again as an adult.
Let me just say, things happen when you’re older. And by things, I mean the contents of your stomach threatening to revisit your mouth. I *might* have spent the majority of the time with my eyes sealed shut.
That wicked amazing ride from my youth became my personal torture chamber. When the ride mercifully ended, Sage wobbled off saying she didn’t feel well.
But Sawyer? Best. Ride. Ever.
It’s good to be 8.
I told him next time his father could take him on it.
Our next stop?
Oh, how we love this place. The scene was truly something out of a movie, with lighted garlands and wreaths stretched across the streets, and it became more magical when we could see the fireworks spectacular from there.
We had been given Fast Passes to Radiator Springs Racers, which is my absolute favorite ride at the park. Sawyer and Sage love it, too – especially when we could avoid the almost two-hour wait. This is definitely a not-to-be-missed ride, no matter how long it takes you to get on. When we were done, David and Kelly’s husband wanted a turn. So while they went on the ride, Kelly and I took the kids to other rides we hadn’t yet tried. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree was a huge hit with Xander and Kelly’s middle son, as they giggled and shrieked with laughter the entire ride.
At 10 p.m., we still roamed the park. The kids didn’t want to leave, and convinced us to hop on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. How could we say no? No line at that hour and the kids simply didn’t want the night to end.
The grownups didn’t want the night to end, either. Watching our kids’ faces light up as bright as the Christmas tree on Main Street made the entire day that much more memorable. For all of us.
Disneyland Holidays runs through January 6th. It’s truly the perfect time of year to visit the parks.
Our family received one-day park hopper tickets and fast passes from the amazing folks at Disneyland. Opinions – and happy smiling kids – are my own. And Kelly’s kids, too.
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