Search

mind-over-motherhood

Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

Tag

kids should be kids

The World Has Gone Mad – And Taken Me With It {or.. Falling Out of the Coconut Tree}

 {I’ve been writing this post for weeks. I promised in another recent post that it was coming. But it’s not an easy one. It’s sort of a controversial topic in the world of parenting. But this is about being honest about my motherhood struggles, and this is a major one for me. So, all I could do here is be completely honest about myself. My thoughts, my feelings, my family’s struggles. That’s just want I’ve done.  Disclaimer: it’s long and has some content that everyone will not agree with. Love me anyway, please.}

To quote myself sometime around 2009: “I know it’s normal in this day and age for families’ lives and schedules to revolve around their children’s sports and activities, but that doesn’t  mean it’s right. In fact, it’s ridiculous. RI-DIC-U-LOUS! I’m not, I repeat – not – doing it.”

**It’s now 2012**

For the last two years I have not made plans with my extended family to attend our annual Thanksgiving tradition, the Egg Bowl (Football tradition: My Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. the University of MS) because I had to wait and see if my daughter’s competition cheer squad was going to be in the regional cheer competition that weekend in Orlando.

Worse yet? On Thanksgiving Day, 2010 we left our house in Florida – full of extended family in from Mississippi and Georgia – and schlepped our family of 5 on a two-hour drive to Orlando. Not for fun. But instead, so we could check in at the hotel in time for my (at the time) 8-year-old to run through a practice on the day before competition. (Practice. On Thanksgiving Day.)

Seriously. Family tradition at Thanksgiving vs. 8/9-year-old Cheer? And cheer wins?!

— And let’s not even start on the loss of the sanctity of Sunday as a family day. I completely caved on this.. and Sundays – for us – are about church and family. Or they were.  Kids’ sports won again. Not OK.

Who is ridiculous now?

That would be me.

Now obviously since my prime example here includes the fact that my extended family’s get-togethers revolve around a sporting event, you know I am a sports fan. I was raised in it. Some of my fondest memories as a kid and as an adult are tied to sporting events. Especially football. And I was a cheerleader myself (and a gymnast and a swimmer.. and early on, I was a dancer), so yes, I enjoy all of it.

However, I don’t want to be consumed with my kids’ sports. I don’t want to spend years never seeing my husband or sitting down for a family meal because we’re moving in three different directions at ALL times trying to get everyone to all of their different activities. I don’t want to lose perspective. I don’t want to spend a fortune on traveling to a 9-year-old’s sports competitions. I don’t want to be too busy to be a good friend or to spend important holidays with our family. I don’t want to tell my FAMILY that their schedules to see us have to revolve around an ever-changing youth sports program’s calendar. I don’t want to let fun family traditions fall by the wayside, because we’re too busy to make them a priority. I don’t want to give in to this crazy notion that kids have to play serious sports now or they will not have a shot at doing so later.. and I really resent that this point is mostly true. I don’t want to abandon everyone who has mattered in my life, because I have to go “all-in” to my kids’ sports in order for them to have a shot at “playing”.. much less being GOOD at it.

OK, let’s just go ahead and tell the truth. There’s that something inside of every parent that has the potential to get competitive. There’s that part in there that really wants their kid to be the outstanding performer on the squad/team. I’ll admit there’s even that thing inside of me that made me run up and down the sidelines at my son’s football games, yelling like a crazy coach.. so much so that one of my fellow cheer moms who caught a glimpse of my football-mom style told me I reminded her of “that chick in The Blind Side.” Ugh.

But I wonder many times, what am I teaching them if I say yes to everything – every sport they want to play? Am I doing them a dis-service if they go through childhood thinking the answer to everything is yes and that their parents will pay any price (monetarily or sacrificially) to get them what they want.

How are they going to handle it later in life when their mom and dad aren’t there to blow the household budget on them, just to make sure that all the extra lessons, private classes, and best preparation and equipment are at hand to help them be the best?

How are they going to handle it when they don’t “get it all” later in life?

How will they know how to deal with being second? Or being last?

This whole thing we’ve gotten ourselves into with the over-scheduling of our kids – the part where we just keep piling it on.. “Advancing” their skills early. Thinking ahead about what they need to do now to get that sports scholarship later.. or to make the team, or to be the cheer captain. Planning their futures and making real life decisions when they are 5  that are based on them having potential sports careers later?! Focusing on how to keep them ahead and going to any lengths to keep them from falling behind their peers.

————————————————-

It reminds me of one of my kids’ favorite books from when they were little, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”. Do you know it? The one where the little letter ‘a’ kind of taunts everyone and they all race to see who can get to the top of the coconut tree first or fastest – something like that.  Anyway, we all used to love to read it – the rhyme and rhythm of the verse was soothing and fun. It kind of sucked you in.* But I never thought about what was really going on in the little story until now. Our copy of it is well worn. My kids know the book by heart.

————————————————

In December we were faced with a choice –a horrible, no good choice – when my daughter, The Pelican’s competitive year round cheer squad disbanded and most of its coaches and players moved to an All-Star cheer gym. My husband said the decision was simple. If she was going to have wear glitter and fake lashes on her eyes, bare her stomach and spend every Friday and Sunday at the cheer gym, we. were. out.

But in truth, the decision wasn’t that cut and dry. Nowhere near it. The truth is that my once extraordinarily shy, full of stage fright, and lacking in self-confidence child had found herself in this sport. I mean really found herself. The dancing and performing that she used to (shyly) do in her room ONLY when she thought no one was looking, finally had a place out in the open. The goal-driven kid had a place where she could set, achieve, and exceed her own goals. There’s something pretty wonderful about seeing my kid step up to every challenge given to her.. that pride she feels in her achievement couldn’t have surpassed mine.

The confidence she’s gained in herself. That part. Oh, now that part is priceless. For her. She needed it. It makes me happier and more proud than any success on the field or court or floor ever could. Those are the real triumphs.. the ones where they build some piece of their character that they’ll carry forward throughout their lives.

And she never – not once – even through 5-days-a-week practices and extraordinary pressure –- never even looked like she might complain. She loved every second of it.

Except maybe when her pre-performance nerves were so bad they caused her to feel (and at times get) sick to her stomach.

And the part when she started stressing out in school, because her mind was solely focused on cheer… and her grades were slipping. My self-driven, over-achieving student almost cried when she saw a C on her report card. (This, does NOT come from me. I happen to be quite comfortable in the world of C’s. {Smile})

But those pieces were too hard for me as a mom to ignore. No matter how great the feelings were when she was elated by her triumph.. I wasn’t Ok with the level of pressure she was feeling, even if it was self-imposed.

I researched, and I talked with her and my husband. And the other cheer moms. And my family. And with God.

I went to websites like these:

http://livefitblog.com/2010/03/15/how-parents-are-hurting-their-child-athletes/

http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growing/child_too_busy.html#

I read the pros and cons. I searched for a clear answer to my dilemma. To cheer or not to cheer.

She, of course – as the cooperative child that she is – said, “whatever you think is best, Mom. I do love it. It’s my Thing. But if it is just temporary, I really don’t mind a little break.”

I guess hoping that she would help me make a clear decision isn’t the best parenting. Surely at age 9 she doesn’t know what is best for her, but really.. her perfectly Switzerland-ish response, didn’t help me one bit, except to affirm that she has a good head on her shoulders; which I already knew.

WHAT TO DO?!

And then it happened. Like that part in “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, where the tree gets completely overloaded past the point of being able to hold its ground, breaks, and the whole alphabet comes crashing down…

I was dropping her off to play at her cheer-buddy’s house after the last competition.. and when asked by cheer-buddy’s mom (and my friend) what we were going to do, I inexplicably broke into tears.

Not pretty, misty eyed tears… but the ugly, snotty, almost hyperventilating kind. Full. On. Crying.

I had no idea that the tears were coming.

Where did they come from?

And why wouldn’t they STOP?!

What the hell is wrong with me? I’m crying over whether or not to let my 9-year-old child take part in cheerleading?

This was ridiculous. I sat in the car in their driveway crying like I had just lost a loved one – and all over a cheer decision?! I could hear my own “RI-DIC-U-LOUS” quote playing like 8-count cheer in my head.

Clearly, my decision was made.  We needed a break. We ALL needed a break. We needed to step away, regroup, breathe, and I  needed to get some perspective. She didn’t need a mom who was walking the line of sanity because I was overloaded. Having a mom who is stable enough not to be uncontrollably snotty-crying in her friend’s driveway was more important at that moment than cheer. It just was.

The break has been good. It really has. Again –  like deep yoga breathing for me. And her grades are up.. she’s never sick anymore. Hasn’t complained of a stomach ache in 2 months, and we have family time! We hang out with our neighbors and their kids spontaneously. We sit down at dinner around the same table at the same time and we talk. We tell about our favorite things each day. We have been a real, normal, Norman Rockwell (yeah, I know I’m pushing it) painting kind of family.

It sounds like we have this thing figured out based on that last paragraph, doesn’t it?

Do you remember the last page of the “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” book where:

“ A is out of bed,

and this is what he said,

“Dare double dare,

you can’t catch me.

I’ll beat you to the top

Of the coconut tree…”

…And there comes that sneaky little ‘a’ again. Making you realize that no sooner than all the Mommas and Poppas and Uncles and Aunts finish picking up the kids dusting off their pants, the whole crazy cycle up the tree starts again.  You start to get the feeling in the book that it will go on infinitely.

Well. Here we are. March is upon us. Next month is April. Know what happens in April? Cheer tryouts and registration.

You know what else has happened in the last few weeks?

Boredom. From my Pelican (NOT FROM ME). She’s walking around the house going through the motions of her cheer routine from their National Championship competition. And questions. Lots of them. From the Pelican cheerleader. Asking when she is going to go back to cheer.

Week before last I found her on the laptop looking through the end of the year CD with all of their photos and competition videos on it. She even wore her “Unfinished business” cheer t-shirt today.

Once again I find myself attempting to find the right balance in my  motherhood– this time though, it’s about attempting to find the right balance in the amount (and intensity) of structured activity that’s appropriate for my kids. I haven’t found the answer yet, because as I type I also have search windows open researching availability of tumbling classes and workshops. I’m right back where I started. Decision time again.

Sigh.

I’m beginning to think that the name of this blog should have been “The Balancing Act”.

* Not to mention that it helped them learn the alphabet.

The New and Unimproved Saturday Morning

Remember when Saturday morning meant kids in PJs watching cartoons from blanket forts in your living room?

Those days are long gone.

This morning’s cozi family calendar included a 15k*, 2 of the little birds at the Dojo, and the third at the cheer gym for a tumbling workshop. – Which meant packing lunch at 9 a.m. on Saturday, multiple water bottles, coordinating dropping off/picking up of carpool, uniforms and gear, tight schedules, no time for traffic jams (which of course, there were) – all while trying to fit in weekend school assignments… Sound familiar?

Sigh.

I miss the blanket forts and lazy Saturday mornings in PJs where I could drink at least half of my cup of coffee before it got cold. I want cinnamon rolls fresh and warm out of the oven. I want my kids going from blanket forts in the living room to forts in the woods. This is what Saturday should be in my mind.

For years I have struggled with what has become the “normal” activity level for young families in today’s society. It sort of frustrates me. I think, often times, that we’re over doing it and really losing sight of “the family”.  Once not too many years ago, I put my foot down and said NO! “We’re taking the Spring season OFF! We’re going to do our homework and go outside and play like normal kids! We’re going to have our weekends as a family. We’re going to reintroduce our boat to the water!” – So. We didn’t sign up for ANY activities. (Aside from Wednesday night church.) And guess what? My kids were bored out of their minds. Want to know why? Because there was no one around with whom they could run and play. The neighborhood was like a ghost town. All their friends were too busy with their multiple activities and weren’t home to play.

Fail.

Needless to say, we promptly signed up for summer and fall sports and went back to the stress-filled run, run, run calendar schedule…. Much to my dismay.

I’m working on a more detailed post about my personal struggle with this topic, but for now I’ll just leave this “The New Saturday” image with you as a teaser…

Me.. as I walk back in the house from our "New" Saturday morning routine. Holding a half eaten sandwich, my daughter's glasses (not in their case), my son's glasses (in the case), my son's book that he needed to be reading for a book report, 2 pairs of hand pads, my suitcase-sized purse, a water for hydration and (thank goodness) a cup of joe to keep me going.

* My wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband, not me. I’m sidelined with an injury.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: