How Not To

I’ve been processing this post for weeks, and debated whether to write it or just let it lay in my head and on my heart. But the words keep fighting to get out, so here it goes. I’m going to preface this with a word to my Princess……Please know I am not judging or disagreeing with your decision to try new and different things. Now is the time to explore and experience. Just know these words come from my viewpoint, my experience as a mom, as your mom….

When I found out I was having a baby girl, I was fairly sure I was going to put her in dance and/or gymnastics at some point. Whether it ever stuck or not would be up to her, and I would never force the issue if she straight-up hated it. But I knew we would try it out.  Before she was even born, I imagined her vaulting, swinging on the bars, and in a pink tutu and tights. When she was three, she started a Saturday morning combo class which covered ballet, tap, and a little bit of tumbling. It was adorable. She was adorable. Seriously though, I needed something girlie going on in our lives, outnumbered by men in our house. She made it through one year, and had her first recital when she was four. It was precious, and everything I’d hoped for.

We took the summer away from the studio, and when fall rolled around, I asked her if she wanted to dance again. She gave me a firm yes, so back we went to that Saturday morning class. That year, we met and made friends with another family whose oldest daughter was in class with the Princess. They’re still dancing together. That year, they did a tap routine for recital. I got used to doing the recital hair and makeup, to dress rehearsals, and buying flowers for my budding dancer.

Year-after-year, I would ask the Princess if she wanted to keep dancing. The answer was always yes. Eventually, we added a jazz class. Now, she was also playing competitive soccer. By age ten, she reached a level of dance we were at the studio three or four times a week, and she also had at least two soccer practices a week, plus Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games. She was a busy little girl. That fall, midway through soccer and Nutcracker season, she told me she was tired. We told her it was probably time to choose between dance and soccer. She couldn’t do both at a competitive level and NOT be exhausted. I fully expected her to choose soccer, as that had been our life for more than three years.  She sat on it for a couple of weeks, and then told me she’d made her choice – she wanted to dance. I made her evaluate that choice for a couple of weeks before we started making any announcements, and she had to finish the season with her soccer team of course. But in February that winter, she became a dancer full time.

I’ve spent twelve years watching her dance, watching her become such a beautifully talented young woman. Every time I see her perform, I’m touched by her strength, her grace, her courage, her ability. I cry more often than not. I can cry just watching her hands moving in class as she works at the barre. This has been our life. I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve spent at the studio, driving to and from the studio, sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes, altering costumes, watching competitions, dress rehearsals and shows. I’ve loved it all. When  your kid does something so intently for so long, it’s not just about her anymore. You develop your own friendships with the other parents at the studio. We definitely have a much-loved dance family. And don’t get me started on her teachers and directors. They’re so much more to my girl than *just* dance teachers.

This past February, the Princess told me she wanted to stop dancing – well, at least stop ballet. I had no words, couldn’t even begin to think when she told me. I told her we were in it until recital as we’d already committed, paid, signed on the dotted line for this year. She’s a sophomore now, almost sixteen years old. She wants to try new things, be more engaged with her school. I understand. But this is hard. She may not believe this, but she is such a beautiful, talented dancer. Her face lights up on that stage. I see her – what’s inside of her – when she dances. And I just can’t imagine not being able to see that ever again.

Here’s the deal – I don’t know how not to be a dance mom. I don’t know how to not be able to watch her do something she’s so good at. I don’t know how not to be part of this dance family.

I watched her dance recital this past weekend. I cried every time she stepped onto that stage, knowing it might be the last time. We’ve spent twelve years doing this. I spent twelve years watching her grow, watching her turn into a real ballerina, a real dancer. At the hour of dress rehearsal I sat through last week, every dance she’s ever performed rolled through my head, from when she was a tiny ballerina in a pink leo and tutu, through her Hairspray jazz number, to being a turtle and lion, and on through her turn as Clara in the Nutcracker, to her solos, duo, and other competition pieces, to her finale as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. I could see them all in my mind. So  many hours, so many years.

Who knows what will happen in the next months and years. I know we have to let her choose, have to let her make these decisions. I will have to come to terms with change. She says she’s going to continue with some dance, but we won’t be here again, in this exact place. No more competitions, no more Nutcracker, definitely not nearly as much time at the studio. I will just have to learn how not to be the dance mom I’ve been for twelve years.

Commit

Since our kids were little, we’ve spoken consistently on commitment – if you say you’re going to do something, you do it; you finish what you start, and you don’t half-ass it. If you can’t or won’t abide those rules, you don’t even start. You can’t tell your kids one thing and do something else, so we do our very best to live this out. This means that even when we’re tired, or overwhelmed, we have to suck it up.

I’m training for two races right now, with the goal of finishing the half marathon in June at or just under two hours. That means work, because I have to take over 8 minutes off my best time. I have a training plan I’m doing my best to stick with. Travel and illness have derailed it a bit, but I’m back in the saddle this week, getting miles in. I’m even doing speed work, which I completely detest. More shocking, I’ve run in the rain. I’ve always been a fair-weather runner. I hate being out in the rain. But I have to put the miles in, so I shove a hat on my head, put on sunglasses to keep the rain out of my eyes, and get out there. I’ve also never run back-to-back days, much less three days in a row, but I’m doing it. I actually feel stronger, and have fewer issues with my hip and IT band than when  I was just running three days a week. It helps to have a friend holding me accountable, but I’ve committed to a goal, and it’s on me to finish it. That means there are nights I don’t go out because I have a long run early the next morning. That means getting up on a Saturday morning when I’d much rather sleep in. That means squeezing in runs even when I have a billion other things to get done. That means taking care of my body so it can carry me through 13.1 miles/

Big Man had some struggles with fully committing earlier this school year. He was out there at practice, but man, talk about phoning it in. Granted, he was struggling with growing pains, but he just would not push through. It came back to haunt him, and he learned a valuable lesson, one that didn’t come from us.

The Princess has been about commitment for years. When she chose dance over competitive soccer, she was mid-way through a soccer season. She knew she had to carry it out, finish the season with her team. Her soccer family was relying on her. They needed her to remain fully engaged until the end. It was rough….she was exhausted, but she fought until the very end of the very last game of her very last tournament. She decided to cheer in high school, so for nearly a year, she’s been at school almost every weekday morning at 6am to practice. That doesn’t begin to cover all the extra hours at camp, cheering at games, making posters and putting together gifts for athletes, working hard on pep rally routines. In the midst of all this, she’s done her best to maintain  her dance schedule.

Here’s the deal – your kids are going to learn to be committed to things if you aren’t showing them how. You can’t tell them to commit if you aren’t committed to whatever you’re doing. Some days it’s much harder than others, but you do it, even when it’s difficult, and you’re tired, and you’d much rather sit on the couch watching baseball movies all day.

The Girls of Fall

Much is said, written, sung about the Boys of Fall……those boys who begin two-a-days a few weeks before school starts, who learn plays, wear their jerseys to school on Fridays, who build a camaraderie with their teammates, who play under the lights on  Friday nights, helping so many high schoolers make life-long memories.  I grew up in a one-high-school town. Friday nights were all about the football game, the football players, the dances after the games. Most home games, it felt like the entire town came out to watch the Varsity  Bulldogs play. Then I became a cheerleader my senior year, and I realized those Fridays were just as much about the cheerleaders as the football players. We were part of the drama, feeling as if our cheering somehow affected the course of the game.

When the Princess made the cheerleading team at the high school this spring, I thought, “Oh lordy – here we go.” And goodness knows, I have whined about getting her to 6am practices. But as the first day of school approached, uniforms were handed out, and the team began prepping for football season, I got so excited for her. She is now, like I was way back when, one of the girls of fall.

She wore her uniform to school today, bow and all, carrying her sparkly cheer duffle, her name embroidered on the front. I had to take her cheer box to her as the team boarded the bus. I just smiled….so happy for her and this adventure she’s on. I’m so excited she gets to experience high school this way.

Fridays in high school are about football players in their jerseys, and cheerleaders in their uniforms, the excitement building for the game ahead, even when your team isn’t amazing. It’s about bus rides to away games. It’s about losing your voice by third quarter. It’s about cheers, first downs, touchdowns, fans, fourth quarters.

Tonight, I’ll mentally pass the torch to my baby girl, and watch her take her place on her cheer box, under the lights. I’ll watch her cheer on her team, represent her high school. I’ll watch her become part of the spirit of her school, and create her own memories. I’ll watch her become one of the Girls of Fall.

Inspired

I originally wrote this six years ago, but it’s still relevant, so I’m re-posting. Since those sixteen days in September 2000, I’ve never looked at the Olympics the same way. Maybe all the hours I spent watching them that summer ingrained the Olympics into Big Man’s subconscious. He’s just as obsessed with them as I these days.

Every two years, the Olympics comes along and we as a country seem inspired to watch sports we normally have no interest in, and we are inspired with pride in our country and its athletes. I well-remember historical Olympic moments from my lifetime…Nadia, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team (“Do you believe in miracles?”), Mary Lou, Dan Jansen, Michael Phelps…..the memories float through my mind as I sit and watch this year’s Olympics with my children. What will they remember? How will they be inspired? And with each race, each competition, I am amazed at the athletes who have spent much of their lives training for just this one moment.

I developed a special relationship with the Olympics in 2000.  The Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia started two days after I was admitted to the hospital in very pre-term labor and bleeding with Big Man.  Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done had those Olympics not been on. I was on magnesium sulfate to slow down and hopefully stop the contractions.  The magnesium did its job, for which I’m extremely thankful, however, it’s hideous stuff.  I felt like my veins were on fire when that I.V. was started.  It slowed everything down, especially my concentration and brain function. Big Man was not the least bit affected.  Anyways, reading was out of the question…my brain couldn’t focus long enough to get through part of one sentence much less an entire book.  Projects of any kind were not on the list either.  Conversations were hard to carry on.  About the only thing I could do was watch TV.  I’ve never been a huge fan of daytime television. It just doesn’t do it for me. But I was stuck in the hospital, attached to two I.V. poles, ordered to stay in bed.   So I watched the Olympics. I watched nearly every televised moment of those Olympics, and then saw all the replays on the morning, evening, and late night news. Between that, the Today Show, Rosie, and Oprah, I got through each day slowly but surely.  I gave birth to Big Man the day before the Closing Ceremonies.

Now Big Man has heard his story a million times.  He’s heard me speak of those Olympics helping me through each day, but he didn’t really understand what the Olympics was, much less the role it played in our lives those sixteen days in September, 2000.   The last Summer Olympics, we watched a lot of the events.  He sat with me during much of it, and finally put it all together.  I think the Olympics will always be a special tie between Big Man and me. He’s watched a lot of this Olympics as well. I wonder if he is inspired.  I know I am.

I’m inspired by these athletes, but also by their parents who give up so much of their time and resources in support of their childrens’ dreams. I’m inspired by the hours and hours of training.  And my thoughts turn to inspiration in general.  I’m a sappy mom, I will freely admit. And I probably over think my kids’ every day lives.  I put myself in their shoes often, and I’m inspired by what they get through each day.  I spent much of my childhood paralyzed by fear and shyness, so as I watch my children walking into a sports practice in a sport they’ve never tried with kids they’ve never met, I panic for them. I feel my heart race.  When they’re playing those sports, I take on their nerves (they seem absolutely unperturbed).  When they have to read in class, or head out onto the big playground with all the other kids, I wonder what they’re thinking and feeling and if they’re scared, shy, or nervous. And don’t even get me started on Big Man.  That kid does make me truly “believe in miracles” and inspires me with the fact he’s alive today, much less the normal, healthy, active, smart, funny, loving boy he is.

Inspiration comes in all forms.  Those 2000 Summer Olympics were an inspiration, but that inspiration was nothing compared to what I would see and feel after Big Man was born and struggled and fought with every single ounce he had. Olympic athletes are pretty amazing, and I’m as proud as anyone of our US athletes. But my biggest inspiration sits with me each night these days watching those athletes. By that, I am truly amazed.

It Just Isn’t Really My Gig

The Herd is planning a family ski/snowboarding adventure this weekend. We haven’t been up to the resort in probably four years, necessitating the replacement of appropriate ski/snow clothing for all three kids. The fact all three are still growing makes me supremely hesitant to drop a bunch of money for stuff they likely won’t wear again.  And of course we’re going on a holiday weekend (it’s President’s weekend for us this weekend), there are NO deals on lift tickets and equipment rentals. Much suckage.

I went to one sporting goods store this morning. I was in there for maybe three minutes and walked out without buying a darn thing. The least expensive snow pants I found – the kind without any lining at all, mind you – were $139!!! They went upwards from there. If you want lining, it’s apparently $40 extra. No thanks. Spouse’s suggestion was to let them wear water-proof pants over jeans. I’ve experienced that joy before. Not comfortable in the least. And, as I informed him, I’d still have to find and buy water-proof pants for each of them.

Off to sporting goods store #2. All the way there, I’m somewhat fuming. You see, I didn’t grow up skiing. I think I put skis on once, for about ten minutes. Slid backwards down the hill, because my mother who had never ski’d a day in her life decided to be our instructor and had us put our skis on while facing uphill, and decided to call it good. I just never had the inherent desire to put two sticks on my feet and slide down a mountain. Six years or so ago, I actually took lessons, and am bunny-hill competent. It still just isn’t really my gig. I don’t like going fast. I don’t like to feel the least bit out of control. I’m terrified of falling, not to mention running into another skier/snowboarder. I’ll do it, because it’s a family thing, and I like my kids to see me doing something that kinda scares me, something outside of my norm. But, seriously….not my thing. So I have a really hard time motivating myself to find snow clothes, buy the (totally overpriced) lift tickets, and pay the exhorbitant equipment rental fees (don’t even talk to me about buying skis/snowboards/boots/helmets for the kids!!). I was thinking, the five of us could have a really amazing day at Disneyland for what this is going to cost.

Okay, so back to the story…..Sporting goods store #2. We’ve come back to the land of reality. I equipped all three kids with pants and gloves for just over what the first place wanted for one pair of snow pants. WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER! I felt rather proud of myself. Then I came home and got on the resort website to get the lift tickets and rent equipment. I had that moment again of why-the-heck-are-we-doing-this? Then a technological glitch stepped in and I was totally ready to call it. Said some bad words. Texted Spouse my frustration. He wisely did not respond. Worked the stupid glitch out (note to self – sometimes the auto-fill will defeat you), and purchased the whole package for the five of us, which, yes, did involve putting in birth dates, height, weight, ability level, and shoe size for each person. DONE!

What a total pain. All this on the person who doesn’t really care, whose thing skiing just isn’t. Honestly, I’d rather sit in the lodge than slide down the side of a mountain, not to mention deal with chair lifts. Lord save me from chair lifts. Ever ski with an ASD kid? Yeah – it’s awesome, and at the same time, the worst sort of wear-you-out you could imagine. But come Saturday, we’ll be there, skiing and snowboarding. master snowboarders

Why we need to hold our kids accountable

I have two words for you…Johnny Manziel. Yeah, he might technically be an adult, but he’s a kid. Worse, he’s a kid who doesn’t seem to have been held accountable a single day of his life, until now. I applaud the Cleveland Browns for trying to  help him. I applaud them even more for recognizing a lost cause and letting him go. Kudos to his agent as well who will reportedly be dropping him. He shouldn’t continue to be rewarded for being a selfish ass.

I’m thankful my kids aren’t super stars at anything to have this really tested, but even so, they need to be told no. No, you don’t always get what you want. No, you don’t always win. No, even when you do win, you don’t get things handed to you on a silver platter. Yes, you will work hard. Yes, you will still have to go to class and do the work. No, no one is going to let you sit on your laurels while someone else does the work for you. No, you can’t party, break the rules, let your temper flare whenever you want and still get away with it because you’re good at something. TELL YOUR KIDS NO!

I’m not a perfect mom by any means. I don’t know how I would react if my kids were rock stars and people wanted to elevate them, give them things, do things for them. I’d love to think I’d say no thanks. Kids need to be grounded, centered, made responsible. My kids are held accountable. Oh, you forgot your homework at home for the third time this year, and the teacher won’t let you hand it in late? Sorry….you need to suffer the natural consequences of your forgetfulness. I’m not going to rescue you. You broke something that belonged to someone else? Guess what, you get to apologize, and work to earn the money to buy them a new one. There’s a video game coming out you really want? You’d better be doing your chores and then some to earn it, or use the birthday money you still have stashed away to get it. You don’t know where your PE clothes are? Guess  you’d better find them before you leave for school, and no, I’m not responsible for knowing where all your stuff is. Clean your room – it works wonders as far as helping you track things down, go figure.

I hope Manziel learns a lesson, but he’s been given plenty of opportunities to learn the past few years, and nothing seems to have really brought the point home to him. Yes sir, the rules still apply to you. This is real life, buddy. You don’t keep getting free passes, no matter how much money or fame, no matter how many trophies or wins. Truthfully, his parents, and all the people in his life who never held him accountable led him to where he is today. It’s on them, but now it’s on him to check himself.

Tell your kids no. Hold them accountable. Don’t let them become that jerk who busts in at the head of the line because he thinks he is entitled for some reason and that rules don’t apply to him.

And now I apologize and get off my soap box. This is one particular subject for which I get a bit feisty. It’s a personal pet peeve. We do our kids a huge disservice in this country when they happen to excel at a sport. Not all parents let this Manziel thing happen to their kids, but there have been more and more stories in recent years of bad behavior, law-breaking, and entitlement behavior,  and yet those kids go on big contracts and more fortune and fame, rather than being held accountable for their actions.

I don’t dance

When people find out the Princess is a dancer, they generally ask if I danced growing up. I didn’t dance. I did swimming, gymnastics, cheerleading, and music. I think I remember taking a tiny tots ballet class for a hot minute when I was about three. But I wasn’t a dancer.  I put the Princess in dance because I desperately needed to balance all the boy going on in the house. She started with that Saturday morning ballet/tap/tumbling class. She was three. I didn’t know how long it would last. But after every recital and subsequent summer break, she answered in the affirmative to going back to class.

In those early years, the parents sat outside, literally. We could see the kids, but we were on the other side of the door. It was better that way, easier for the teacher and TA to corral the little heathens ballerinas. And it was mostly for fun, so there wasn’t pressure to have pointed toes, straight legs, perfect hands/arms.

When she decided to quit soccer and focus on dance, we both got a bit more serious. She would look to me for correction sometimes, or to be sure I thought she was doing something right. But after about a year of that, I decided I needed to go back outside the glass again. I’m her mom, not her instructor or director.  And I didn’t dance, especially at the level she’s achieved. These days, even if I stay during class time, I don’t watch. I definitely don’t correct her at all. That’s not my job. That’s what I pay her teachers to do. They know what they’re doing. I’m just the mom, part of the audience. I am the enabler…I drive her to and from. I pay for her classes, private lessons, recitals, shows, and costumes. I bake for the bake sales. I make and sell dance grams at recitals. But for the rest, this is her gig. During class, she is theirs to correct, instruct, encourage, help develop.

Nowadays, if and when I watch, it is as a proud momma. I love to see her dance. But I try not to even look to see if her feet are pointed, her arms are right, her legs are straight, if she’s falling out of her turns, and I definitely don’t talk about any of those things with her, especially during class. That’s not my place. That’s not my job. My job is to love her, to encourage her, to support her, to help her achieve her goals and dreams. I can’t tell you how many times, when I do look up and watch, I am nearly moved to tears. I could only wish to be able to do what she does, and do it so beautifully. She doesn’t need me to pretend I know what I’m talking about, tell her how to fix things. She needs me to love her. And that’s totally easy.
Edited to add: Trust me when I say, I am not perfect with this. There are days I’m watching through the glass and find myself mouthing at her, “Point your feet!”  It’s a work in progress. But I just remind myself, she has teachers. I just need to be her mom.