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.

He doesn’t do anything

I pulled up  my Timehop the other day, and there were photos and video of Little Man on Opening Day of his rookie year of baseball. That was prior to him being diagnosed on the spectrum. He played soccer and baseball back then. All three kids were in multiple activities. He was challenging to say the least, but he did whatever we put him in, although often begrudgingly.

He gave up baseball first, saying it was boring and he was actually afraid of getting hit by the ball. He would have reached the level of kids pitching that next year, and the thought of it freaked him out. We pulled him out of soccer when it became evident he could actually get hurt as the skill of the kids he was playing continued to improve while his stagnated. He wasn’t exactly one of the bigger boys out there either, nor quite the fastest, which would have helped. We talked about other activities for a couple of years, but nothing seemed to interest him at all, and, quite honestly, I was hauling the other two all over town and beyond for their stuff. Having one kid not involved in anything was something of a relief.

So, he doesn’t do anything….no football, no baseball, no soccer, no music…nothing. He comes home from school, and goes to his computer. He isn’t alone – he has friends over all the time. And he does get outside frequently. But he has no extra-curricular activities. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, but most of the time, I’m totally okay with it.

It isn’t worth putting him in something he doesn’t want to do. That wouldn’t be fair to his teammates or coaches, because he would push back. So yes, we did kind of take the easy way out on this part of his childhood. Will he regret it, or hold it against us someday? I highly doubt it – he’s perfectly content with his lack of extra-curriculars.

We have sent him to camp during the summer. This past summer, he went to coding camp and he loved it. We’ll be sending him back to that program again this summer. He’s lately indicated an interest in learning to play the guitar. We’re working on that.  Big Man will have his driver’s license soon, and that will free up time for me to manage lessons and such for Little Man.

Spouse has started to take him running on Saturday or  Sunday mornings. He doesn’t seem to mind the running and it’s his preferred choice, given the option, during PE at school. We will put him on the cross country team when he starts high school in a year and a half.

For now, he’s not involved in any extra activities, and that’s okay. Do I miss seeing him in his uniform, out on the field? Sometimes, yes. But I certainly don’t miss the drama of making him get out there.

Friday Favorites #11

You know the hardest part of Friday Favorites? It’s remembering what number I’m on. Seriously…..I usually have to go back and look. I didn’t check today, so this might be number 12. Or maybe it’s #10. Who knows.

Little Man has fully recovered from whatever viral beast was messing with my boy.  Big Man tried to catch it, but I talked him down. No more missed school until Christmas for any of the Herd. That’s the goal.

I told myself today’s list would be short. It has to be short. The Princess and I leave in two hours for a dance competition. I have yet to pack. Thankfully, we’re only spending one night, but that’s just because she has to be back at the studio tomorrow for Nutcracker rehearsals, but then we’re back up to the competition Sunday morning. Ever do your daughter’s ballet bun and full stage make-up at 5am? Any takers? Please?

I also have to leave the house in 35 minutes to start the pickup loop for school. Yikes! Without further ado…..

  • Emma of Blu Chicken Ninja shares another portion of her bookshelf. Have I mentioned I love she organizes her books by cover color, in rainbow order? Awesome sauce. (Did I just type “awesome sauce?”)
  • I had to include Stiletto Momma’s post on her daughter, who does not dance, but found her niche on the soccer fields because Princess used to be both….a ballerina AND a competitive soccer player. When she reached the point of choosing between the two, she very well could have gone with soccer and been awesome. We ended up with the sparkly pink tutus.
  • Anxious Mom wrote about making her blog hot. She also made me spit my water on my computer screen. Thanks, Anxious Mom, I needed that.
  • Edward Roads wrote two sentences that formed a picture, including sounds, in my brain. I think I loved it most because he included the word “susurrant”.  Uber cool.
  • Do you think you ever show your third face? The one only you really know? Do you think it’s okay to have a side of you that’s never shown? Square Peg in a Round Hole brought it up, and I’ve been pondering the question for the last hour.
  • Blunderdad at Single Family Asylum brings up an even more inspired question. I dare you not to laugh.
  • I fell in love with kelzbelzphotography‘s photo today. Old buildings are so cool. The photo made me want to wander in, see what was inside, wonder at the story behind the abandonment.
  • Be Like Water’s post was the first one I saw this morning. Started my day off right. Have anyone in your life you could see doing this particular thing?
  • Cooper’s mom at findingcoopersvoice is always no-holds-barred.  She tells it like it is.  As another autism mom, I appreciate that. Too often, the dark side, the terrifying side, the it-totally-shouldn’t-be-that-way side of autism is hidden away. Go give her some hugs. She could use them at the moment.
  • The new James Bond movie comes out today. Daniel Craig is so on my island. I think he’s one of the best Bonds ever…..What’s your take? Who’s  your favorite Bond? Anyways, I have, as always, had to include Cute Overload. James Bond, and a kitten. You’re welcome.

Happy Friday all! Make it a good weekend!!

A season of “no”

Fall is our busiest time of year it seems. Big Man is playing soccer (two practices and one game per week) and taking golf lessons (one 90-minute lesson every Monday). The Princess is dancing five days a week, which includes competition ensemble rehearsals, private lessons for her solo, and Nutcracker rehearsals, as well as her regular classes. Little Man currently doesn’t do anything extracurricular because, well, we just can’t seem to find a good fit given his autism. Plus,where do I fit in another activity for another kid? All of this, plus homework, birthdays for the older two, family obligations, chairing the book fair at school, volunteering activities with the March of Dimes, and so on. This isn’t anymore than any other family, I’m fully aware. I know I’m not alone in this suburbanite overload.

It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve finally figured out, it’s okay to say, “No” sometimes. We can’t do it all. We can’t feel guilty for not trying to do it all. I’ve turned down girls’ night outs. I’ve said we will help with this thing, but not that. I’ve asked for help in getting the older two where they need to be, and then back again, when necessary. I’ve turned down two fun weekend getaways because I’ve already been gone on one long weekend, and have two more already on the books – one for a significant family birthday, and one for my mom who is having a heart procedure. It takes a lot of work to leave for the weekend, setting up carpool for school drop-off and pickup, getting rides to and from dance and soccer, making sure everyone has what they need and get where they need to get. Trying to jam two more weekends away in there will push me over the edge. Also, Little Man does not do well when I’m away too much. Four weekends away would definitely be too much.

I think I’m finding a good balance, but sometimes it takes a season of saying no to achieve that balance. Sometimes, we must step back. At the same time, I don’t want to stop living completely, so there will be some yes days in there too…times when I put my need to refill and refuel on the priority list, times when I need to reconnect with friends, times when I just need to take care of me.

Do you have a season of saying no? How do you find a good balance?

Hope

Last week was somewhat brutal to say the least. I was down and out, and then got kicked a few times for good measure. I was at the point of tears more often than not…unhappy, broken, angry, hurting, feeling pretty horrible about myself.

I did not want to take my princess to her ballet class Friday night. I was so tired. I just wanted to crash into my green chair and veg there all night. But she is committed, so we went. And as I watched her graceful hands and arms as she did her barre work, as I heard the shush of ballet slippers sliding across the floor, and as I saw her face as she danced, heard her laughter, I nearly cried. A calm came over me. A bit of peace slipped into my soul. Saturday morning, we were back at the studio for a make-up class, then we went to the soccer fields where Ry had his first official game for the year. He scored his team’s first goal of the season, and they went on to win 3-0.  Saturday night, we were back at the studio again for Nutcracker auditions. My baby girl was auditioning with the big girls this time…the advanced dancers on pointe. Sometimes she still seems such a little girl to me, but time is flying. We don’t know what part she got yet. She will be cast, we just don’t know where. The next few months will be full of rehearsals, and show week is always insane, but it is fun and exciting for her. She loves to dance.  That at not-quite-twelve, she knows what her passion is inspires and awes me.

Sunday morning…church time. A renewal. Our sanctuary was just remodeled and this was our first Sunday back in there. And it’s beautiful. The service brought more peace and healing to my heart and soul.  I felt hope, and realized that’s what I’d been given all weekend – hope. It’s amazing what hope will do for a person’s outlook. We had a good family day yesterday watching football, talking, hanging out with some friends to plan a neighborhood party. I got a good night of sleep last night.

This morning, I still have hope. E-man has some new plans and a couple of new incentives at school. Fingers crossed it helps. As patient as the school nurse is, I’m sure she could live without my son going into her office four or five times a day. And I know his teacher could live without the disruption to her class. His new anxiety med seems to be settling him, at least at home. Now if we can just spread that to the school day, all will benefit.

Hope is pretty amazing. When you  have hope, it’s hard to be down, much less get kicked while you’re down there. I feel less burden today. And for that small grace, I am thankful.

And then there was one, X’s 2

For years I’ve heard the phrase, “You must be busy,” whenever I mention I have three children (sometimes followed by their ages, sometimes not).  I honestly admitted the other day, when presented with that same phrase once again, we are actually not nearly as busy as we used to be. Things have settled somewhat. The kids are getting older. Instead of doing everything, they have narrowed down to what they really want to spend their time on. Thus, I spend a lot less time shuttling to multiple practices, lessons, classes and sessions each week/weekend. 

Just two years ago, the oldest was playing competitive soccer in the Fall (which actually extends to most of the year by the time you factor in tryouts, early practice sessions and spring/summer tournaments) and baseball in the Spring. The middle was also playing competitive soccer, for which team I was the manager (think super-sized team mom), as well as dancing at least one day a week. She was also dancing in the Nutcracker with weekly Saturday rehearsals. The youngest was playing soccer in the Fall and baseball in the Spring. Having just been diagnosed on the spectrum, he was also in therapy  once a week in addition to psychiatric follow-up. I had a spreadsheet on the fridge just to keep track of what day it was, and who had to be where, when. Add to all that the regular stuff of just keeping a household of five (along with two dogs and two cats) running, volunteering locally and nationally with the March of Dimes, volunteering in three classrooms each week, and, well, let’s just say, I ended up in the doctor’s office having multiple tests trying to figure out why I felt sick to my stomach all the time and why my sleep was so disturbed. Duh.

We have entered a new phase. This Fall, we only have one (ONE!!!) child playing soccer, and that is recreational. We only have two practices a week to manage, instead of six, and one game each Saturday, instead of three on Saturday and two on Sunday. In addition, his practices are at a school less than a mile away from the house. I. AM. IN. HEAVEN. We haven’t had just one child in soccer since Ry started playing seven years ago. I nearly don’t know what to do with myself. The princess is dancing 4-5 days a week, but we have carpools to help with that, thankfully.

While I miss our competitive soccer family, I am relieved. We used to take the wagon, cooler, umbrella, chairs, and blankets and pretty much camp out at the soccer fields every Saturday. I am really looking forward to just showing up for one game, with maybe my coffee and one blanket. No need to pack tons of snacks and video games to keep them entertained while they aren’t playing, nor for my phone charger to get my phone through the long day. I likely won’t  know what to do with myself.

We are rather well-known (infamous? notorious?) amongst the staff at our elementary school. I’m in and out of the office constantly, going on field trips, helping out in classrooms, checking in with the social worker, grabbing one kid or another from the nurse’s office. This will be our 8th year in the school. But this year is a little different. I have just one child left in elementary. Shortly, we will head to the school when the class lists go up. It will be completely odd to only seek one child’s name, only find one classroom. I’m trying to wrap my brain around walking just one of my babies to that school on Monday. I am so used to herding three, and our neighbors joining us with their kids too. It will be a small group of maybe three kids total taking that walk Monday morning. Again, I won’t know what to do with myself not having to divide and conquer in order to see each child into his/her classroom. Just one…just one baby, one classroom, one teacher. We will not have all three kids in the same school again until the oldest is a Senior in high school. Wow.

Our family dynamic is changing quickly. So, yes, I still have three children, and yes, it can be busy. But I’m  not nearly as busy as I used to be with my three. And I’m hoping that means I don’t have to see the inside of my doctor’s office with stress-induced symptoms anytime soon.

On the verge

I drove my oldest, and his buddy to golf camp this morning. They are both entering seventh grade in 11 days. Mine will be 13 in just over a month. While we slugged our way through the morning traffic, I just listened to them, and was struck by the huge corner we are about to turn.

They still have their high-pitched boy voices. How long will that last? I wonder what he will sound like in a few years’ time. I treasure the sound of his voice now. I miss his toddler and little boy voice.  They were giggling as they talked about classmates, things that happened during the last school year, what’s coming for them this year, video games, sisters. How will those conversations change in the coming months?

Ry has his first real zit. Gross, yes, but definitely a step in becoming a teenager. He is disgusted by it, and very self-conscious. He keeps asking how long he will have it. Poor kid. I had to break the news that this is the first of many.

He smells like stinky man-boy when he gets home from golf and soccer practice. Ugh. I have to drive with all the windows down to get the stench out. I’m not fond of big-boy-becoming-teenager smell. We’ve enforced daily showers. What do boys have against being clean? He thought just getting his hair and body wet would do the trick. I sent him back to the shower, twice, to get it right….washed, with shampoo and soap. I have a feeling this may be an ongoing battle – until girls enter the picture.

He was riding in the front passenger seat the other day. I noticed real hair on his lower legs. What the what? When did that happen? He looked at me like I had been in outer space when I asked him about it. But there was hair on my baby’s legs!!!! Real man leg hair!!

He has been a sleep-in maniac all summer long. More than once, I’ve gone in his room at 10:30am and woke him up. Seriously? I don’t remember ever sleeping like that, although I’m sure I did.  He’s really hoping it’s a sign of an oncoming growth spurt. He’s very anxious to be taller than I.  I’m half happy he’s no longer up at 6am all Summer long, playing video games as long as he can before I wander downstairs and shut it all down, setting the timer for him to get his reading done, making him eat breakfast and get out of his pajamas. But I also have stuff to get done most days, and waking a sleeping bear is not my idea of fun, particularly if I haven’t had enough coffee.

We’re on the verge. I feel it. I see signs of the changes coming. I wonder what the next six years are going to bring, what kind of man my biggest baby is going to become? How tall will he be? What will he sound like? Will he be a tough teenager? Will he still hug his mom? How will I discipline a child I have to physically look up to? For now, I’m going to enjoy that boyish voice  that still giggles with his friends. While I’m doing that, I’m also going to mentally and emotionally prepare for what’s just around the corner.