Posts Tagged ‘activities’

Great (and Not So Great) Expectations

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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Sometimes, I think the hardest part of being a parent has nothing to do with my children and everything to do with how I react to other people.

I know most are well-intentioned, but their expectations of my children are sometimes completely off base.

Take, for example, the assumptions people automatically make about my teenage son and the sports he plays.

The thing is, my son has never had much interest in playing sports, and when he hit adolescence, he lost any interest he once had.

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that their questions have absolutely nothing to do with my son and have everything to do with other people’s perceptions of how the world works. They are trying to make conversation and often feel bad when their efforts fall flat.

So I generally try to move the conversation forward by talking about his musical interests.

But a few weeks ago, I started redirecting questions about my daughter.

She has been rehearsing for a local stage production of the musical Annie, and naturally everyone is asking what character she is playing.

Initially, I said “she is only in the chorus.”

But Kendall doesn’t think she is “only” in the chorus. She believes she is a part of something great, and she doesn’t care that she doesn’t have a speaking role.

She simply loves the theater.

She’s always loved singing and dressing up, and musical theater provides the opportunity to do both. While I am surrounded by parents bragging about their children’s roles, I’m not bragging at all. Instead, I am watching my daughter glow because she is doing what she loves.

Her happiness on the stage has served as yet another learning stage for me as a parent.

There is nothing wrong with having pride when our children excel, but there is even greater satisfaction witnessing them get passionate about something bigger than themselves.

Nice Girls

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
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The girl’s costumes matched the costumes of the other dancers, but her moves were nothing like theirs.

Instead of tapping, she stood awkwardly in the middle of the stage and occasionally shuffled her feet. Instead of jumping and leaping, she swayed from side to side. And her arms hung limply at her side instead of moving in sync with the other girls.

But as both of her dance numbers ended, she waved wildly at the audience then clapped three times.

Not only did the audience cheer enthusiastically, but so did the dancers backstage.

Even though she’s been in my daughter’s dance recitals for the past few years, I only recently learned that the girl’s name is Grace. I still don’t know the exact nature of her cognitive disability. What I do know is that I’ve never once heard anyone make fun of her or complain that she is ruining a dance number.

In fact, the only time I’ve heard anyone talking about her was this past weekend when I spent numerous hours as a backstage mom “supervising” a group of middle school dancers.

In reality, I did very little supervising and a whole lot of listening.

As the girls watched the performances on a grainy television feed in their dressing room, they didn’t point out anyone’s mistakes or missteps. Instead they cheered on and complimented everyone, including the dancer who didn’t really dance.

“She is always so happy,” said one girl. “That’s just adorable.”

“She has a signature move,” said one of the star dancers. “She claps three times and then everyone else claps.”

“Have you noticed how all the other girls in her class take care of her?” asked another. “That’s so awesome.”

I agreed that was awesome. But I don’t think the girls recognized just how awesome they are too.

In a society in which adolescent girls are often depicted as being self-absorbed and mean-spirited, the dancers were building each other up instead of tearing each other down. In a world in which out performing others is often described as success, they were more focused on being kind. And on a stage where a disabled girl simply wanted to dance, they simply wanted to cheer her on.

If that isn’t reason to have hope for our future, I don’t know what is.

Whatever Happened to Sundays?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
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I generally don’t wallow in memories or think my best days are behind me. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reminiscing. I do.

But I also know that everything looks better in the rear-view mirror when there’s no place to turn around, and life wasn’t really any better in the past. Well, it wasn’t any better with the exception of Sundays.

Sundays used to be the one day of the week that families were guaranteed time with each other.

Not anymore.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when youth sports and other activities began creeping into Sundays from every other day on the calendar. But they are no longer creeping. They have arrived and are taking over.

Just last week I was talking to an Episcopal priest who was lamenting that even though confirmation has been on her church calendar for almost a year, her students now have conflicts because of sports.

That saddens me.

I believe our children should be involved in activities, but they shouldn’t be over involved. Building resumes for our children shouldn’t be more important than building in family time.

Family time isn’t a few minutes of conversation in the car while rushing a child from activity to activity.

Family time isn’t sitting on the bleachers with other families while you talk about, rather than with, your children.

And family time isn’t about ensuring the homework is done or that the latest musical number is rehearsed.

Real family time is about shutting out the rest of the world and simply spending time with each other doing nothing that will ever be in a college application and everything that will create life-long memories.

Sundays used to be the day that everyone got that, and my parents were masters at making the most of them.

My mom always had Sunday dinner on the table by 1:00 PM, and we were all expected to be there no matter what. Sunday afternoons were magical because we were never expected to accomplish anything. And every Sunday evening, we made popcorn and watched television together. At some point in the evening, we had to begin preparations for the next school or work day, but for a few hours on Sunday we were simply a family unit.

I wish I could say I’m following the tradition my parents set, but I’m not. I too have gotten sucked into a culture of  “go.”  If and when my children don’t have something on their schedule on Sunday, I’m trying to tackle all the chores left undone during the work week.

But they say that recognizing a problem is the first step, and I’m definitely taking it.

I don’t want to look in the rear-view mirror and regret everything I didn’t see and enjoy because I was going to fast. I may not be able to turn around and go back, but I can slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – simple pleasures like spending time with family on Sunday afternoon.

Dog days of summer

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
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One of us is having fun this summer.

  I have a confession to make: I hate summer.

  I didn’t always feel like this, certainly not as a kid, certainly not when I lived in Florida where it is summer year-round.

  But now I have a preschool-aged daughter. And I work from home. So summer has become a challenge.

  In a perfect world, our summer would be filled with things like sunscreen, freeze pops, lightning bugs in glass jars, hot dogs on the grill, splashing in the pool and sleeping late.

  In reality, it’s me struggling to come up with a cheap activity for each day that will entertain and/or wear out a 4-year-old. It’s me struggling to get a few moments to edit a few stories so I can get paid. It’s me struggling to stay awake late into the night to work after getting up at the crack of dawn (that sleeping in thing hasn’t caught on with my small person yet).

  Summer is also a struggle for me, because, well, I’m a homebody. I like my house. I like being in it. I feel safe and comfortable there. But when the sun is shining I feel like I should be out doing something. I love those winter days when we don’t even get out of our pajamas. In the summer though, I feel compelled to get my daughter outside. Of course within five minutes we’re both covered in mosquito bites…

  I also like structure and routine. So does my daughter. These endless, unscheduled days are a bit scary. During the school year, we’ve got it down pat. Wake up early, preschool dropoff, rush home to work, preschool pickup, have lunch, hang out, sometimes a nap, playground or playdate or playtime, prepare dinner, play, read, bath, bed. Rinse. Repeat.

  Don’t get me wrong. We are spending lots of quality time together and doing fun summer stuff. We’ve been to the pool and library, we go to the concerts on the levee every Friday, we’ve done FestivALL, we’ve hit every playground, we’re learning to ride a bike, we’ve been to the Clay Center, we’ve been to movies, we’ve taken a trip into the mountains. Sometimes we just run up and down the steps in front of the Capitol. (Hey, whatever works.)

  It’s the working from home thing that’s throwing me. It’s virtually impossible to accomplish that with a loud (but adorable) 4-year-old in the house.

  I’m guessing I’m not alone in my summer conundrum. What do other moms do during these long summer days trying to juggle work and childcare? I’m trying to plan ahead to avoid this next summer. I’ve sent my daughter to a few camps at her preschool. But I’m wondering what the other options are in Charleston. Do you send your kids to daycare? Hire a babysitter? Any other fun camps around? Or do you just suck it up and count down to fall?

  And what about moms who stay at home with their young kids, because I fit that bill too? How do you fill your days to keep yourself and your kids from going totally mad?

Ain’t life a kick in the pants?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
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Hello, it’s me, a daddy (a.k.a. “under-evolved mommy”) filling in for Carrie this week. Usually you can find me at http://blogs.charlestondailymail.com/nerdliving/ If you read far enough into this post, I think you’ll figure out why.

All right, so if anybody’s gonna ruin my kid’s day through the arbitrary, harsh interpretation of a rule, it’s gonna be me. So imagine my surprise to show up at a peewee soccer game to find my little goofball disqualified for her footwear.

The athlete on the left was suspended one game for improper footwear. Also, see those taped-up earrings? Illegal, too. The athlete on the right gets away with the sunglasses only by being super-cute.

This has not been the greatest year anyway to be a pint-sized outdoor soccer player, unless Noah is your coach and the animals happen to be on your team. (“OK, I need two midfielders, two fullbacks and so on and so forth. Perfect!”) So even though there are only three weeks left in the season, this past weekend featured the first, actual, not-rained-out games.

The trouble at our house was conflicts. My wife had another commitment, and my two goobers had two games on separate fields at the same time. And I don’t have Star Trek-style beaming technology. Well, I couldn’t leave my littlest knucklehead alone because, for a solid hour, I would have horrifying images of her somehow winding up in a full body cast. That meant I arranged a ride for Big Sister and went to Little Sister’s game. After watching little dudes cluster around a single ball for 60 minutes, we rushed to the car, drove a couple of miles and got to Big Sister’s game around halftime. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, the kids on the field were shouting with joy and … my kid was upset out of her mind.

As it turns out, what I had missed was a referee lining up all the 8-year-olds as if they were newly-enlisted servicemen and checking out their footwear. I’ve only seen referees for that age group a couple of times, and I’ve never seen an inspection. I have no idea why it happened. Maybe the Federal Aviation Administration took over the rulebook and insisted it be as difficult to play soccer as it is to board an airplane. Well, my kid, along with her closest pal, flunked the footwear test. This is because… prepare to gasp… their shoes had toe cleats, which is athletic cleats with a rubber bump on the front.

Technically, that means she was wearing softball shoes. Which, if you want to get even more technical, makes the guy who bought the shoes (me) a doofus but does not make the wearer of the offending shoes a cheater or a danger to anyone. OK, well, maybe I’m kind of wrong because here is the rule spelled out on Page Freakin’ 4 of the rules, which I’m sure you’ve read and memorized: “Footwear must be worn. The officials during the pre-game inspection must deem the footwear non-dangerous. Examples of dangerous shoes include baseball spikes or baseball cleats with toe cleat or any sharp metal cleats.”

I get it. The idea is you might kick someone just a little too dead-on with that toe cleat and injure their Achilles tendon or some part even more sensitive. But have you seen my kid play soccer? I have. Aggressive is not her middle name. Her middle name is Marie, if you want to get REALLY technical, which, apparently, you do. What she does when she’s playing soccer is if the ball happens to come within a couple of yards of her, she’ll drift up near it and take a casual look around to see if anybody else seems to want to kick the ball AND SHE WILL LET THEM. If not, she will give the ball a gentle tap, whereupon the opposing team will recover the ball and score. She wouldn’t be a danger to anyone, even if she had Chinese throwing stars in her socks and a flamethrower strapped to her back.

Evidence

Had I been there, I would have thrown a giant fit like Billy Martin back with the New York Yankees, kicking wet sod all over the place with my no-toe-cleat shoes. (In reality, I would have rushed us all off to the same dumb retail store where I bought the shoes in the first place and bought some new ones. Or, I would have run off to a nearby tool store to get a hacksaw to whack away at the offending referee toe cleat, thus making my goober eligible.)

But since I showed up at halftime and there was really nothing that could be done by then and because I was totally flummoxed since I’d had the entire situation explained to me by an exasperated 8-year-old, I sat down yoga-style, ready for some stupid affirmation and ignoramus reflection.

On the one hand, this was a great lesson. Life’s not fair. But I’M THE ONE WHO’S SUPPOSED TO TEACH DUMB STUFF LIKE THAT AND IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT GETTING ALONG WITH YOUR SISTER OR CLEANING THE DISHES.

So on the other hand, this sucked. True, we had unwittingly broken a rule. And you have to pay the penalty when you break a rule even if it is an arbitrary one that doesn’t take into account your good character or solid citizenship. Adults learn this all the time, like when they get stopped on the highway for exceeding the speed limit with the police officer paying no attention to the mitigating circumstance that a really good song had just come on the radio.

What I mean is, at 8 years old, she’s already learning that a faceless bureaucracy can unfeelingly grind you against its wheel of inflexible rules the first time you’ve gotten to play soccer, after a season of rain, on a beautiful day, when you are wearing the wrong stupid shoes that your doofus dad bought you, and when that same doofus dad was at your embarrassing little sister’s game and not there to defend you and, in fact, you had no intention of kicking anyone — not even the actual ball.

Life’s not fair.

But I’m the one who’s supposed to teach that. Not some dumb soccer referee.

Kids book club at South Charleston Library

Friday, February 11, 2011
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The South Charleston Library is offering a book club each Thursday evening in March.
“Read and discuss great stories with Miss Brenna and enjoy story-related activities and refreshments.”
Children in grades 1 to 3 will be reading “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo and will meet from 5:30 to 6:20 p.m.
Children in grades 4 and 5 will be reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl and will meet from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
To register, call 304-7446561 or stop by the library. Registration starts Monday (Feb. 14) at 9 a.m.