The Noise

I am sad. I am angry. I am tired. But I have no right to be. I am just a little white girl from suburban no where, with no danger of being deported, or beaten for being gay, or registered in a database because I’m Muslim. I woke up Wednesday in shock, but my world kept spinning the same as it had on Tuesday. But the more I hear and study and learn, it mentally exhausts me. Should I be worried? Fearful? Hopeful? I have to say, my gut is telling me to go off the social media and regular news grid. The rhetoric is deafening. Nearly as bad as it was in the months leading up to the election. I can’t change who our next President is going to be.  I’m not going to protest or riot, you won’t find me lobbying in the state capital.  Just one of the huddled masses trying to be positive (and failing often), praying for our President-Elect to be a stand up guy and not fuck everything up.

I know we have our problems here in the good ol’ U S of A.  I don’t know whose fault it is. My best estimation is that it’s a collection of everyone in Washington over the past 100 years or so. I’m watching House of Cards currently, and if even a smidgen of what they portray is true? Holy. Shit. Politicians are crooked. Every single one of them. Backroom deals on top of back room deals, don’t know how they keep track of all their lies. Business men are crooked. Not every single one of them, but just tally up the white collar crime that has taken place over the last decade with banks. My guess is higher than 10, and somewhere just south of a million. What we know about is probably just the tip of the iceberg. And who do we place our trust in to regulate them?  The crooked politicians.  It’s a circle of hell, much like school drop off lines.

So a while back I stopped listening to the news. I read my news.  Who has time to sit in front of the TV anyway?  But every time I read something, whether it’s from a supposedly reputable and unbiased news source or trumpsucks.com or hillaryisaliar.com, the next article I read says it’s all bullshit lies.  Everyone, and I mean EVERY FUCKING ONE has a source to debunk everyone else’s sources.  So what are we left with?  A big ol’ pile of nonsense with nothing and no one to believe.  And this is why I’m tired. I’m tired of BEING angry and confused. I’m tired of BEING right and wrong in the same sentence. I’m tired of caring and not having a damn thing I can do about it. I voted, I lost. Sore loser syndrome?  A little bit. But also disappointed in the American people, shamed that he was the best we had to offer.  Also disappointed that she didn’t do better to beat him.

I want to quiet the bullshit in my head.  I want to shut off FB, I want to stop reading, stop listening and just go about my day praying to God he doesn’t do anything that turns my world upside down. But I have this luxury, don’t I?  Most of the people in my little world do. I have a job, I have insurance, I’m not a minority.  I don’t have to worry that our VP elect is going to try and “cure me” of my homosexuality. My outrage is small, comparatively speaking. My worries are trivial. Am I wrong? Does this make me a hypocrite, to be mad but silent? To bury my head in the sand and go on like this nightmare never happened?  I’m still weighing the options afforded to me. I guess I don’t want my silence to be tacit approval of what’s going on in this country, but the noise.  The noise is killing my spirit.

I do know one thing. I will stand up and fight for discrimination that happens in my little world. My son told me a kid in his class at the high school wrote a quote on the board “Homosexuality is a sin,” referencing a book from the Bible.  My son told him “Hey, you can’t do that, this is 2016,” while another kid came up and just erased it, saying to this boy “what are you doing?”  This made me proud. In my house, I want my kids to stand up to bullies. Maybe this can be my contribution. My teeny, tiny contribution, to raise 3 boys that aren’t assholes. I can hope our President elect chooses to become someone they can admire and look up to.  In the meantime, I will urge them to reserve judgement and continue to tear down those that would tear down the progress, slim as it may be, that has been made in this country.

My better half said that “you know who” is an extreme person with some extreme views, ones we aren’t used to hearing. What that leaves us with are extreme reactions.  Guilty. Right, wrong or otherwise, I need to stop. For my own sake. Emotions are high, I hope they settle down for the sake of everyone else.

I want to end this on a high note, on a positive note, wrap it up with a nice little bow. But I can’t. We are just at the very beginning of 4 years of “not sure what tomorrow is going to bring.” My husband keeps saying that maybe different is going to be better, God I hope he’s right.

End of an Era

Later this month I will watch my oldest son’s last soccer game of his career.  From a “career” standpoint, it wasn’t all that long, wasn’t all that glorious, wasn’t noteworthy to anyone but some family and friends, and that day will likely come and go with little fanfare. But this Mom will be one sad lady. If I were to brood about it too much right now, the tears would come.

We didn’t set out to have soccer be Riley’s “thing.” It was just a sport to do, a reason to get out of the house and get him involved with something.  The first time we took him to the city league at age 4, he cried on the field.  We went home.  The following spring we finally wised up and found out the details of the soccer that was going on across the street from our house. Cabrini Recreational Soccer. Cue the Star Wars theme music. When we first started, it was free–and we got a t-shirt, bonus! It wasn’t long before Riley was 7 and we knew we had a Cristiano Ronaldo on our hands.  It just wasn’t fair that he was playing on the 7/8 year old team, making the other kids look silly. He ended up playing on the 9/10 team and eventually he started travel soccer at age 9. He was athletic, had speed, and handled the soccer ball much better than almost every other kid on the the field.  At the time, we were sharpening our pencils, we knew the contracts for FIFA would be rolling in from every European powerhouse team 🙂  Ah, the dream of every young, mildly skilled, adolescent kid’s parents.

Fast forward 10 years to my 17 year old, high school senior, Varsity team soccer player.  We’ve spent hundreds of hours on the soccer field watching him play, even more in the car driving to training, games, and tournaments. The monetary total?  Off the top of my head estimate would be $25k.  Nearly 10 years of travel soccer costs, futsal, camps, technical training, uniforms, hotel stays, gas, beer (at the tournaments…let’s be real people), eating out, and Slurpees (at least $1k right there, you’re welcome 7-11).  And don’t get me started on the cleats.  2 pair of cleats a year, plus indoor shoes, plus turf shoes.  We can put shoes on three whole 11v11 teams with the number of pairs of soccer footwear we have bought for Riley. Didn’t seem so bad in monthly installments, but when you total it up…whew, that’s a lot of money.  We are blessed to have been able to do all this for him.

Riley is a good, solid, soccer player. Fantastic? No. Better than some? Yes. Fun to watch?  For sure. Mom-colored opinion of his play? Amazing, astonishing and simply unparalleled in skill 😉 He struggled with always being smaller than his similar aged teammates.  Not hitting puberty and the ensuing growth spurt until 16 made it difficult for him to compete physically. But he did his best (usually). And even on his worst days, I still love watching him play. If you’ve ever participated in a kid vs. parent athletic contest, you’ve experienced what I will term “Complete and Utter Incapability of Keeping up with your Child in a Sporting Endeavor that Requires Running.” Soccer is hard (regardless of what you football naysayers will spout).  Although if you’ve ever attended a soccer game, you will very clearly hear numerous parents yelling from the stands various ways their child/the team could be doing better. Because everything looks easier from the bleachers. Well, Mom and Dad, put some cleats on and you come out here and show me just how easy it is. I include myself in this category. In a roundabout way of getting to my point, Riley may not be Ronaldo, but he’s talented in a way I’ve grown to truly appreciate. And my goodness, I will truly miss it when he’s done.

He’s made friends, I’ve made friends, I’ve made friends with his friends. I’ve laughed and cried and smiled on the sidelines, I’ve frozen my butt off and been sunburned more than once.  Brendan managed his travel teams over the years, and I took the helm on managing his high school team, while Brendan announces home games in the booth.  It sometimes feels we’ve put in more time than he has. But that’s what parents do. And not because we love soccer. But because we love Riley. That’s what parents do. I wouldn’t trade a second.  But I am SOOOO happy he quit t-ball after 1 season.

Job #1

So Riley got a job.  His first W-2, paycheck givin’, tax-taking, unglamorous, lower than minimum wage job. We told him he had until June 12, the day school got out, to land a job.  Or it was buh-bye to phone, car, computer, PS3, life as he knows it. He’s actually been working for the last 3 years as a soccer referee, pretty cush job.  But it’s seasonal, lasts about 3 months in the spring and fall, and it’s also not “guaranteed.”  Games are assigned or not assigned, so there is no regular paycheck, so to speak.  It does however, pay well, and no taxes because he doesn’t make enough :-). So now that he is moving to a REAL job, it’s gonna get ugly. And that IS guaranteed. My poor guinea pig 1st son.

Do you remember your first jobs? Come with me on a stroll down minimum wage lane. I started doing menial filing in my Mom’s office when I was 14.  I listened to Billy Joel in that basement over and over and over. It was a cassette tape.  And I sang at the top of my lungs because no one could hear me.  And I was good. At filing…not singing.

My high school job summer job was at Wendy’s ..my first and only fast food job.  I quickly graduated from bun toaster to drive thru window because I could make change in my head (Thanks, Dad!).  At the time, Wendy’s served Chicago style hot dogs.  I could assemble one of those bad boys in my sleep, there were like 8 toppings.

College saw me employed at Little Caesars on campus for a year (turned down the $.05 raise to come back for a 2nd year, take that bitches), the dorm cafeteria for a couple of years, then I was a Meijer cashier.  I got put on their “do not rehire” list because I was a no-call, no-show for my last day of work. I’m such a rebel. To this day I want to apply at Meijer, just to see how long they hold on to that list. Then the shit got real.  I got a job working with developmentally disabled adults who live in group homes.  Their disabilities ranged from wheelchair bound and non-communicative to downs syndrome folks who held down jobs. I didn’t last very long, that was a taxing job. It takes a special kind of person, and I ain’t that special.

During the first couple summers of college and during breaks I was back home and did transcription work for an office of psychologists and psychiatrists. It was that job that helped me see that I did not want to go into clinical psychology. It was very interesting, but not my cup of wine (and yes, before you ask, I got discounts on much needed therapy….).

Just before graduating college I got a job as a bank teller at a local Kalamazoo bank.  I actually kind of liked that job, but let’s just say banks don’t appreciate my sense of humor.  Not a good fit.  I know, hard to believe.

Then I got married and moved to Maryland where I worked for a temp agency.  I did some really weird administrative assistant jobs, very short term, some good, some aw. ful.  But my last placement saw me working in the travel department for World Bank employees for almost a year.  I was a travel agent of sorts. It was pretty cool, actually, I was booking hotels and flights around the world and in Washington D.C.  My office overlooked Georgetown University and the Potomac.  I was kind of a big deal. By then we had moved to Arlington, VA into our plush and stately 1 bedroom apartment, Brendan still had his “real” job working in Alexandria, VA and we were a 1 car family. It was a Ford Probe.  The spoils of consistent employment 🙂

Then I was starting grad school in Baltimore, so we moved north.  I took my travel agent skills and got a job at a travel agency working in their group department doing high school trips to Europe and investment trips to South America.  I worked for a bunch of Austrians.  I learned that “shiza” means “shit.”  Other outstanding memory from there? Watching the OJ Simpson verdict on on a tiny little TV. If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit. I had a paltry salary, but it was an intriguing experience.

THEN…finally…I landed in what I would call my first REAL job. During grad school, I was referred to the Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration.  I worked in Testing and Recruitment full time, 40 whole hours a week (while still in school), earned vacation, a nice salary, a cubicle of my very own, commuting, doing work that required a college degree. I’d made it to the big leagues. Stuff I did, actually, for realsies, impacted other people’s lives. Who the hell thought that was a good idea.  But it was in my field of study and I really liked it.

So in 10 short years I went from filing to test development for engineering professionals. The plan worked. Then I got pregnant, quit my job, moved back to Michigan and got the BEST job ever: Stay at Home Mommy for 8 years 🙂 My salary was hugs and kisses. I was not very far removed from my college days where I proudly declared, “Of course I’ll work when I have babies!”  But I didn’t. For me personally, it wasn’t about some grand principle that I needed to make a stand on. Brendan and I talked, decided no day care for our family, and made it work.  It was glorious.

“The best laid plans of Mice and Men oft go astray.”  Robert Burns

Eventually, after #3 was here, I hustled Market Day part-time for a couple of years, then landed a coveted school secretary gig, where I sit today, 8 years later. I now talk about pensions, retirement and 401k plans. Not what I planned on, not what I studied for, but I’m happy. So what will Riley’s job as a dishwasher at Manuel’s Taco Hut turn into one day? Computer programmer? Circus performer? HEAD dishwasher at Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse?  A Mom can dream. He doesn’t have any concrete plans for his future career right now, so who knows.

I don’t think anyone would argue that it doesn’t really matter what your first job is, just that you HAVE a job as a teen. You are responsible to someone else besides your parent for something with a good amount of importance attached to it, but not TOO important. I honestly think his job is gonna suck. Huge. But he’s strangely excited about it. Lord knows the kid knows how to spend money like it’s going out of style, so he’s gonna need to work, no matter what it is.  We spend at least 1/3 of our time at work, it’s impossible for it to not have a huge impact on nearly every element of our lives as we go about our business of living.  So Riley’s timeline begins with dishwasher…oh the possibilities.

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” -Oscar Wilde

Waiting Room of Hell

Had a doctor appointment yesterday for Riley.  3:15, we arrived at 3:10.  I’ve been to this doctor’s office before, normally she is quite prompt and waiting time is minimal.  This day, not so much.  Got into the room at 3:30, by 3:45, still no doctor.  On a regular day, I don’t have back to back activities, but yesterday we had to be back at the high school by 4:00, no wriggle room.  So at 3:45, we walked back to the front desk and I told the receptionist I would have to reschedule because we couldn’t wait any longer.  I was pretty upset about the ridiculous waste of time.  I left work early so we could make it to this appointment on time, but apparently only THEIR time is important, not mine and my son’s time.

This is not the first time this has happened to me.  16 years and 3 kids, I’ve waited in doctor’s offices for the better part of 7 total months as best as I can calculate. Doctors do it on purpose, over schedule appointments to maximize income.  It’s probably an exaggeration, but not much. (One could continue to argue it’s the insurance companies’ fault and then healthcare as a whole because my doctor doesn’t get reimbursed for the cost of the care they provide, and on and on and on…but that’s a rant I’m not willing to tackle).  Back to MY complaining…they do this on MY DIME and MY TIME.  And we are prisoners of their system. Trapped because we don’t have any other choice except an urgent care with NO appointment, and that’s the 7th level of hell, 3 steps beyond a regular doctor’s waiting room 4th level of hell. I’ve berated Brendan before for walking out of waiting rooms before because it just means you have to reschedule and then wait AGAIN.  But now, having felt the freedom and downright joy at telling them Buh-Bye, I get why he’s done it.

Before I was working full time and the boys were little, I didn’t mind waiting AS much. We’ve been going to the same pediatrician since Riley was 1. We’ve named all the fishes in the aquarium, mourned the ones that have passed on, seen office renovations, nurses and doctors come and go, and there are 32 steps to get from the 1st floor to the 2nd. That office is a well known place to our family.  I LOVE our doctor, her and I were pregnant at the same time and had our babies just days apart.  I was actually kind of irritated that she wouldn’t be in the office for Alex’s first newborn appointments.  The nerve of some people.  Aside from that, she’s kind, attentive and knowledgeable, everything you could want in a pediatrician. She knows more about my kids than most people. And most of it is pretty gross. But when I am in the waiting room with a sick kid watching the minutes click by… 15…30…45 minutes past my appointment time, I pretty much want to throat punch her by the time we see her.  And I REALLY like her.

Of course, she apologizes for making us wait and then usually tells us a story about how she had to send a 2 year old to the hospital earlier that day because the poor thing was so dehydrated from their awful case of leprosy and a collapsed lung, making my guilt go into overdrive because my son just has a fever, and here I am whining about waiting when my kids are sick or injured only once or twice a year that actually require a doctor’s visit.  I’ve often wondered if she’s being honest or if she just knows how to find my sympathy buttons.  Deathly ill babies?  Pretty easy button to find.

Recently though, the last several visits, our wait was very minimal, completely reasonable.  We get through the appointment and then something strange happens..she keeps talking.  Telling stories, engaging us in small talk, reminiscing about past appointments and maladies.  She peruses the boys’ medical records like it’s a scrapbook, “Oh Rose, remember the time he had those warts on his feet!  He was so ticklish!” Not that I don’t appreciate the extra attention, but then I start to think about those parents in the waiting room. They are full of angst and clock watching just like I’ve been so many times before.  I find myself trying to wrap up the appointment, edge closer to the door, ever so gracefully and non-verbally let the doctor know that while I appreciate her friendship, I’m ready to move on to the pharmacist with my prescription.  All in the name of stopping the waiting madness.  I want to yell “Stay on time! Stop making us wait! For the love of God, we make appointments for a reason!”

But alas, I don’t.  I pay my co-pay and quietly go home.  Then I sit by my computer and wait for the email survey I inevitably get about my appointment.  I will honestly answer their questions in the hopes that it actually means something.  That when I complain, changes will be made in their process.  That when I applaud their timeliness, it encourages their behavior.  A girl can dream.

I sincerely try and am typically successful at being on time for almost everything in life, big events and little ones.  I loathe tardiness. Kids late for school on a regular basis? I seriously want to throttle those parents and/or kids. (I MAY have an anger problem, jury is still out on that one).  But in what world is your inability to manage time now MY problem? Being on time is a extremely large respect issue.  I guess that’s what it comes down to:  it doesn’t feel like Doctor’s offices have any respect for my time. (Although props to my dentist’s office, they run a tight ship, they are often waiting for us if I happen to come in a minute or 2 late).  I understand medical care is not an exact science (ironically), but I am no fool, I’m betting there are some areas where improvements can be made.  I know I’m screaming into the wind here, but honestly, I’m just trying to delay calling to reschedule the appointment I ran out on yesterday.  Think they are mad at me?

Have I mentioned it’s time to get my driver’s license renewed?  Wish me luck!

doctor

WTH?

This is the text my son sent me this weekend.  “WTH?” It wasn’t WTF, so I was mildly happy about that.  But it still made my heart stop for just 1 second.  I mean, hell isn’t a bad word.  He didn’t even spell it out.  But he thought it. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. A swearing fire.

I remember the one and only time I hit Riley.  He was about 4. I was just around the corner from him, he didn’t know I was there.  I heard him say “God damn-it.” I spun around like I was a roller derby queen and slapped his face. I screamed at him, don’t you ever say that! He cried, I cried, it was a disaster. It was an out of body experience. I was so angry because when he said, it sounded like he knew exactly what he was saying.  Like he said it with purpose.  I don’t know if he did or not. Probably not. But it stung my ears like I had just touched a hot stove.  (Disclaimer #1: I’m not proud of hitting him, it still makes me cringe to think I did that.) He probably heard it from me or his Dad when we thought he wasn’t listening. (Disclaimer #2: I banned that word combination from my vocabulary ever since that day, and I hate even hearing it).  In that moment though, my parenting life flashed before my eyes. What have I done?  Where did I go wrong? I’m a child abuser! My son is going to prison, he’s obviously a serial killer in his early years.

He never said a bad word in front of me again. And Alex and Matthew haven’t ever said anything in front of me either.  The key words here being “in front of me.”  I heard him swear at the PS3 when he didn’t know I was on the other side of the basement.  I yelled back at him “watch your mouth when Mom is around!” He’s 16. I was swearing at 16 (sorry, Mom).  He’s a boy. He’s in high school. He’s heard it from TV shows, movies, soccer coaches, video games, friends and Dad, and myriad other places probably. But he won’t hear it from me. He’s still my almost-17-year-old-baby. And the truth is, I don’t want him cursing around me. At least not yet. I think I was well into my 30’s before I started using “shit” in front of my parents.  My Mom still doesn’t like it.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I was a truck driver in a previous life. Swearing is part of my ADULT vernacular. I am standing on a very unstable, rickety soap box here, I know that. I’m not looking for affirmation or sympathy. Just pondering that ever moving line in the sand of my children becoming adults. Riley texting me “WTH” is just a blip on the growing up radar. I guess I just tend to (purposefully try and) forget that not everything about becoming an adult is rainbows and unicorns. And that text was a quick reminder. Driver’s licence? Cool. Drinking alcohol at 21?  Scary. Graduating high school? Sweet. Paying thousands of dollars for college with no guarantee of a payoff or success?  Terrifying. First date? Charming. Long term teen relationship?  Oh dear God in Heaven, please give me strength.

Cursing is not a big deal in the scheme of things. But it’s symbolic. And I don’t like it. Even though that makes me a total and complete hypocrite here, I know that. Not the first time, won’t be the last. Regardless, I think I tend to take this growing up thing in stride. I am scared, but I truly TRY and stay in the moment and not freak out about what lies ahead. Worry never solved anything, right? When Matthew was still sucking his thumb later than he should, I didn’t worry, I knew he wouldn’t do it in his middle school math class. When Alex didn’t seem concerned that his pants didn’t match his shirts at age 9, I knew one day he’d give a crap about what he looked like in public. And Riley who once thought deodorant was optional, now uses more face creams and hair products than I do. These are good things, or at least “not a big deal” things.

It’s the “not so good things,’ the “really not ok things,” and the “big consequence things” that I have yet to come to terms with in a lot of areas. Only because they haven’t reared their ugly heads thus far. And they are hard to talk about with your kids. They don’t have to be. But they are. Let’s just say teenagers are not always receptive to a Mom talk. Who wants to talk about the tough stuff when other little stuff is going so well?  With teens, it seems like you are always walking a tightrope, walking on proverbial eggshells, not sure where the next breakdown will come from. You want to hold that balance, not upset the apple cart.  When it seems like the next argument or lecture is always just under the surface, you don’t want to broach the hard subjects. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, drinking, college, failure, jobs, future, responsibility, career, moving out, girlfriends, disappointment.  The non-black and white, super gray, list is endless. I wish I had a happy ending for this, but I don’t. I’m still stuck in the thick of it. Some days it feels like quicksand, other days like quicksand in a tornado watching a tidal wave approach on the horizon. And some days it feels like the blessing that it is.

So for today, I’ll take my WTH text, a deep breath, and go on my merry way.

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” -Stacia Taucher

I Give Up. (Who am I kidding, no I don’t.)

You ever see that saying, motivational moniker, inspirational BS thing about teenagers that says “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.  I will stalk you, haunt your dreams, yell, scream, and otherwise make your life a living hell so you get out of my house sometime before I retire.”  It might not go exactly like that, but you get the idea.  I LONG for the days of losing a binky, potty training, teaching how to tie shoes, how to hold the pencil correctly, 1s, 2s and 3s on a report card (even though we all know they actually are As, Cs, and Es, you aren’t fooling anyone, Mr. Superintendent), and recess. Please, give me back diapers, breast feeding, car seats, and Johnson’s baby shampoo.  Because teenagers suck.  Hard.

Although I suppose there is another perspective I may want to consider.  Parenting a teenager sucks. Hard.  My God, I question almost everything I say and do.  My husband and I don’t see completely eye to eye on the best route to take toward raising non-Maury Povich Episode 256 adults who we hope can get a paycheck and pay rent one day.  But thankfully, we are always willing to talk it out and try our best to blend our two opinions.  We grew up somewhat differently and let’s face it, a Mom is going to have a different perspective than a Dad.  It’s just science. He’s more of a hard-ass, and I’m more of a soft-ass (literally and figuratively).

But sometimes it just doesn’t matter what we decide is the best route to take, the best way to punish, encourage, and otherwise move our boys forward in life.  The result is usually one of two things:  seemingly passive acceptance with a perfected eye roll or arguing.  Is it even possible to win in a negative situation with your teen?  I think not.  (and yes, it’s about winning…).

Although I’d love to believe that MY kids are different when it comes to consequences.  I envision conversations between my oldest and his friends going something like this:

Riley:  “Yeah, my Mom and Dad took away my phone and computer games during the school week because I didn’t try my hardest in school and didn’t meet the totally reasonable GPA they expected of me. I admit, I could have worked harder, but I made that poor decision and now I’m getting my just punishment.  I’m not particularly happy about it, but I get it.  My parents just want me to learn the value of hard work and I appreciate that. I will be a better person because of it.”

Friend: “For sure, your parents sound WAY more loving and accepting than mine. I sure wish I could live in your house.”

Reality?  “My freaking parents took away my only reason for living, my phone and computer games. It’s SO stupid.  I mean the bad grades weren’t MY fault, my teachers never even passed back the papers til it was too late. I’m going to just be a total a**h*** to them until I get my grades up to where THEY think they should be.  Total jerks.”

Friend: “You have an iPhone 6 AND a car AND your OWN computer and really nice clothes. You are so lucky!”

Ok, so the friend response was more fantasy, but it’s what we often fall back on when our kids start complaining about their really tough lives.

So how bad would the GPA have been had we not put the conditions on it?  Is that all that separates us from the parents whose kids who get all E’s?  Us being jerks to them and requiring an adequate amount of effort from them?  I do truly believe that kids crave boundaries, from a toddler until teenage-dom.  Then they start craving independence, after all, they know everything about everything for all time. The trouble is they don’t ever ADMIT they want boundaries. It’s just a thing we read in parenting magazines that becomes a parenting mantra I tell myself to feel better.  I don’t want to wait for my kids to say “You were right Mom, I see that now.”  I believe that will happen one day, I just don’t know when. And meanwhile I just feel like a big ogre.

(Let me take a moment here to say to MY Mom, “You were right.  Among other things, I still only buy clothes on sale. I have you to thank for that life skill.”)

I see what happens when parents ARE friends with their kids instead of a strong guiding force in their life. It’s fun for a while, but a larger problem looms in the future. I know what happens if I let my kids slide in life and get away with murder, I watch Dr. Phil. We are edging closer to a 35 year old jobless, basement dweller “holding out for management” every passing day.  But it doesn’t make it any easier in the moment to follow through on consequences.  Dr. Phil would say I was going easy on my kids because it makes MY life better, not theirs.  He’s right.  It is easier to gloss over the bad stuff and make excuses for them.  Decide that it’s their life, if they want to screw it up, so be it. Cover up their mistakes, allow them a free pass instead of grabbing hold of a teachable moment.  I get to enjoy a lot more restful nights and my calendar would clear up a ton, that’s for sure.

Buuuuuuuut we all know that’s not going to happen. 16 years and 3 kids and I still haven’t accepted my role as the bad guy.  I’d so much rather be the “fun” guy.  Honestly, I think I’m both, but it’s the bad guy persona that keeps me up at night. It’s the bad guy that I am afraid my kids will ONLY remember and cry about to their therapist. They won’t remember all the vacations, the movies, the books read at night, the hugs, the kisses, the help, the food in their bellies, the cool phones in their pockets. Think about all the things us parents HAVE to provide (due to state and federal government mandated laws, grrrr….) and WANT to provide out of pure unadulterated love for our kids.  Will they remember that good stuff, too?

So no, I’m not giving up.  But I will continue to second guess myself, question my every decision, and celebrate each passing week that I don’t strangle one of my kids, with a large glass (or 4) of wine.

“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.” -Matt Walsh

Soccer Mom and (mostly) Proud of It

I’m a soccer Mom. I’ve got the whole package going on. And I’ve got it x3. Coffee thermos?  Check.  Spiritwear?  Check. Folding chair? Check. Blanket?  Check. Sunscreen?  Usually, check. Until a year ago I even had the dreaded mini-van (in truth though, I loved it, buttons to open doors? Yes please!).  I’ve logged hundreds of hours and miles in the car and on the sidelines of soccer fields from Kentucky to Illinois. Practices went from Wixom and Livonia to Trenton, a 30 mile radius around our home.  I don’t even want to begin to total the amount of money we’ve spent over the last 12 years.  Pretty sure we could have opened up our own 7-11 franchise with it.  Which incidentally could have saved us money with as many times as we’ve stopped for slurpees after practices and games. You may call us crazy.  Go ahead, it probably was (and is) to a certain extent.  3 boys, who at one point were in 3 different travel soccer clubs.  Thank God for carpools, we never would have made it this far.

We didn’t set out to be a soccer obsessed family.  We just wanted to expose the boys to new things, get outside, be one with nature and all that shit.  At age 4, we took Riley first to the city soccer league. I remember it well. He went out on the field. He cried. We went home. Maybe next year. Then we saw kids playing in the school field across the street season after season.  When the boys were old enough, we signed them up for that free soccer program.  Alex and Matthew both started when they were 3, Riley when he was 5 (he didn’t cry this time).  It was easy, we walked across the street, they ran around on a small field with kids who had no idea what they are doing either, for an hour or so.  Then they played games on Saturdays where there were 2 teams of kids who had no idea what they were doing. It was World Cup level skill, and we cheered accordingly. Kids would sit down on the field, walk off, cry, only play if they were holding the coaches hand, pee, stand still for the whole game.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel to see that MY sons had REAL talent in this bunch of yahoos.

But, in the interest of getting our kids to try out different sports, we took them to the driving range, went bowling, took them ice skating, etc.  None really stuck, although Matthew was a natural skater, he even played hockey for a year, it was great! We loved the change of pace, change of scenery, new kids, new parents and Matthew was fun to watch. The cost, again, not so fun.  But when it came down to it, he couldn’t play both at the same time, our schedules just wouldn’t allow it. He picked soccer. Oh well.

Riley played one season of t-ball when he was about 7. Aside from the birth of my healthy children, the day Riley said he didn’t want to play baseball was the happiest day of my life. Voluntary root canals, mammograms, and dog bites rank higher in enjoyment than watching highly unskilled kids play baseball. I admit, we very purposefully never asked the other 2 if they wanted to play. Evil, I know, but I can still sleep at night.  I like watching the Tigers play, there ends my baseball attention span.

I played a LOT of different sports growing up. I started out in gymnastics with my sister. She stayed there thru high school, I moved onto ice skating, bowling leagues, tennis, golf, and volleyball.  I very proudly wear the award of Varsity Athlete of my senior class with 7 varsity letters. I still play golf and tennis to this day, skills you never really lose, I am only limited by my agility and high cholesterol.  Brendan also played a variety of sports as a kid, including soccer. My parents were not crazy (with regard to sports anyway), at least not that I remember. So I guess that means it’s a personality flaw. Or personality flair. That sounds better. I hope my kids branch out when they are older, I let that fall under that category of “they are my kids, but they are not me.”  But like I said, we didn’t set out with our sights on ONLY soccer for our kids, it just kinda…happened.

So how do crazy soccer Moms rank with other sports’ crazy Moms?  A dubious distinction exists, no doubt.

As the secretary to the Athletic Director in a middle school, I deal with all sorts of sports and sports parents, mostly tangentially, but boy I’ve heard stories, from ALL sports.  Hockey, softball, volleyball, cheer, basketball, swimming, you name it, there will be crazy parents lurking close by.  (Not so much track or cross country though, wonder what their problem is?  They must not love their child as much as other parents. Crazy=Love).  I think I know where the crazy stems from…At one point or another, we’ve all thought “MY kid is the one. MY kid is special. MY kid is going pro.” And for some infinitesimally small percentage of the parents out there, those are true statements.  We’ve all seen the statistics about how many athletes go on to compete at a professional level.  The odds are not forever in your favor.  But that does not stop parents from going ape-shit when their kid is not getting the attention they so clearly deserve or has been wronged by a vision impaired referee. All in all, the level of crazy across sporting parents is fairly level I think, which is strikingly similar to Defcon 3.

I am guilty.  I’ve been talked to by a coach and was reprimanded by a referee, but in my defense, it was a “Mom group” disciplinary talking to. I claim mob mentality breakdown. I’ve gotten better over the years, not quite as loud, not quite as belligerent.  2 things have helped:  aligning myself with parents who are louder and crazier than me and medication. Brendan tries his best to keep me in check, but when I see my son go flying through the air from an illegal hit, I admit, my Mom instinct flows thru me like Indian food after taking Correctol.  I want blood and I want the 16 year old Assistant Referee to get it for me.  I never get it.  Surprisingly, yelling things at the other team or the referees does not change their behavior. I will continue to try and better myself. Promise.

At the center of it, we just love our kids, want to see them play a fair and fun game and don’t want them to get hurt in the process.  Oh, and win.  We want them to win.  Anyone that tells you different is lying.  I always want my kids to give their best effort, no matter the outcome, but winning is just more enjoyable.  I have a shit-ton of participation ribbons and trophies and medals for my kids, but the ones that say “Champion” just sparkle a little bit more, I’m not ashamed to say that. I’d always rather be celebrating than giving my son a consolation Mom hug.  Emotionally speaking, after travel soccer comes playing for the High School team, which is a whole new level of wistfulness for me.  I can’t talk about that just yet.

I don’t regret being a soccer Mom. It’s a role I just kinda stumbled into and did my best.  We made some missteps along the way, but over all, I think my kids are better off having experienced life in the world of club soccer. The friendships my boys have formed are monumental.  And so are the ones I’ve been lucky enough to find in the chaos that is travel soccer (insert any other club sport as necessary). Traveling to tournaments, sitting outside in snow and ice and rain or the blistering heat, driving 2 hours one way for a 1 hour game, only to discover your adorable little boy forgot his soccer cleats, crying on the sidelines because the other team is crushing your son’s team and making fun of the beat down so loudly that everyone on the field can hear, crying because your son didn’t make the A team–again, beaming because your son made the winning goal, it’s all part and parcel of a soccer Mom’s ride.  I wouldn’t trade a crazy second of it.