I believe that every family should have traditions. I had several growing up. I try to also create traditions for my children that will produce lasting memories.
I remember the traditional family back yard barbecues we’d have when I was a child. My dad had built a little pond and we’d hang out in the back yard and sip iced tea and eat hamburgers around it.
On Saturday nights, we’d pull out the sofa sleeper and our warm quilts and watch the Love Boat and Fantasy Island together with my mom, while my dad, who worked a second job delivering pizzas on weekends, would deliver a hot pizza for us and hang around to have a few slices. It always had sausage, green pepper and mushrooms on it and Dad had a special knock to signal that he had arrived.
Just keep swimming. It was the mantra in the movie Finding Nemo. I find it is often a suitable mantra for mothers. It can be interpreted in many ways. It can mean “Hey you’re swimming and you’re doing a fine job at it. Keep it up.” It can mean, “Swimming isn’t easy, but keep at it and you’ll get it right.” Or it could mean, “Swimming is easy for fish. It means you’re breezing along. Life is good. Things are great. Nothing’s going to knock you down.” Or it can mean “If you’re trying to keep swimming, you’re basically drowning and that sucks. No one wants to struggle to breathe.”
Lately it seems I find a lot of situations to tell myself to just keep swimming. Sometimes it’s encouraging, sometimes it is a last resort, hang-in-there kinda thing. Maybe I’m hitting one of these mid-life crises I’m always hearing about. I did turn 41 this year. I lost someone close to me with cancer. I’ve seen others I know lose children or parents. I’ve had family move away. My kids are moving on to different points in their lives. It’s been a lot of changes. As I’m typing I am looking down at my hands and for the first time realizing that they are starting to look old. The years spent at a keyboard and cracking knuckles are showing.
I’ve also had kind of a revelation this year that I’ve discovered that it is okay to speak up and say what’s on your mind. It’s not wrong to express when you think something is wrong. Maybe that new Katy Perry song is getting to me because I can tell I’ve been “roaring” when I feel something needs to be said. No one is spared – relatives, friends in social clubs, other volunteers, parenting peers, my son’s girlfriend. I always used to keep quiet and not speak up and if I did, I always replayed the conversation in my head 100 times, regretting what was said. Now I’m kind of just saying it and not regretting it. Just putting it out there and dealing with it, which is so not my style – or hasn’t been.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were when my older brothers and sister had moved out of the house, but would return on Friday or Saturday nights and the gang would play games. This wasn’t your smoking, whiskey drinking, rock n’ roll, gambling, card-playing crowd. We’d eat pizza or popcorn and drink iced tea with classical music like Mozart, Strauss or Bach playing in the background as we played rounds of Scrabble, Boggle, Racko or Password. Sometimes it was following an episode of the Carol Burnett show or something similar. There was always lots of laughter and nothing made me happier than when I got old enough to take part in the games. When it came to Boggle, words had to be at least four letters. But when I got to be 6 years old or so, they let me join in and they bent the rules for me. I got to find three letter words and it was a big ego boost when I could blow past my older siblings in points on my three-letter words.
I’ve always wished that we did more game nights with my kids. Once in a while we play board games, but it’s not nearly as often as I’d like. Recently, one of the boys played Monopoly at a friend’s house and came home begging me to go buy it (we’d had it in the past, but the kids would dig into the box to play with the money and eventually there were too many pieces missing to play a game.)
Before I had the chance to buy it, he came home from his friend’s house with the game. His friend had a duplicate and since my son enjoyed it so much, he gave him his extra game – such a sweet gesture! My boys have taken a liking to it, but it’s a game that can go on forever and they rarely get too far into it before getting bored or distracted or having to go to bed.
Tonight I attended an open house at the junior high school one of my boys attend. I've been to a lot of school open houses being a mom of 5. It's always fun to see the kids' classrooms, meet the teachers and other parents, explore the desks and their learning environment and see the work they've been doing that hangs on bulletin boards. There was much of that going on. But, there was one part of the evening I didn't expect.
The open house opened in the gym with the principal at a podium and all the teachers, staff and district administration. After brief introductions, the principal went on to talk about what a great job the kids are doing starting off the year by following the rules, behaving in a respectful manner and getting into the routines. Parents appeared to be beaming with that praise. He mentioned one behavioral incident since the school started and expressed displeasure that the school often gets a bad rap. He let us know that we, as parents, could change that by spreading the good news about what happens there. Suddenly, we were the ones getting the assignment. And it didn't stop there.
He said that we might not like hearing the next part. Then he sailed in on us. He told us that the adult behavior in the parking lot was "a joke." He told us that our kids were modeling that behavior that they see. That behavior - these are my words, not his - involves a lack of patience and consideration and even sometimes is elevated to profanity and yelling and on the verge of physical altercations.
Dear moms at the pool today for swimming lessons: although I was sitting far back in the shade, if you happened to witness my smiles or snickers, please know that I wasn’t laughing at your kids or laughing at you. I was laughing with you. You just don’t know it yet. It’s just that you don’t realize that it’s funny. One day you will.
I’ve been a mother for 19 years now. I’m finally at the point where I can take my kids to the pool and I don’t have to stand in the shallowest part hovering over a wobbly toddler. For years, I was there and I was in your shoes.
Holding my breath each time my kids would hold their breath and go under the water. Nervously standing behind a little one about to fall back on his bottom with a splash (and praying that he had an empty swim diaper and that nothing would surprisingly ooze out as his bottom hit the bottom of the pool.) Worrying about my child bolting on the hot cement and ending up with road rash. Wondering if my kid would be the one wandering off during a swim lesson, refusing to participate.
I recently saw an article come up on my Facebook feed titled “Why Your Teenager Must Have a Job This Summer” (revivingworkethic.com/every-teen-needs-a-job/) and agreed with much of what is stated in the article. A good work ethic comes from actually working and when teens feel entitled to certain jobs and feel they should be exempt from less desirable ones, it only gets worse from there. The article touches upon the decrease in teens working summer jobs and the benefits of working a “menial” job as a teenager.
As a kid, I was eager to do anything to earn a buck. I was out in my front yard all summer long pushing pitchers of lemonade. I’d help a neighbor with yardwork if it would earn me a quarter. Once in a while I’d accompany my dad on his weekend job delivering pizzas. I’d help him carry stuff up to the door and I was thrilled when a customer would throw a few dimes my way or when Dad would pass off some of his tips at the end of the night.
I was 11 when I started babysitting for a neighbor and soon most of my weekends were filled with babysitting jobs. Then I started babysitting after school for a neighbor and until I could work a regular job at age 16, I spent summers babysitting for kids while their parents worked. I loved kids, so it often didn’t seem like work. But once in a while it was a drag to be stuck inside with toddlers while my friends were at the pool or beach. I knew that there would be a paycheck at the end of the week, though, that would provide some money for some fun or a new pair of jeans when I wasn’t on the clock.
One of the biggest duties of a parent, as I see it, is teaching your children solid values -passing on life lessons and sharing things you’ve learned about the world. There are so many things that can fall into that category. I know that as a parent of this generation, I’m teaching different lessons than some parents taught when I was a kid. I think that this generation is finally “getting” so many things that should have been known long ago.
Recently I took my son to see “42,” the movie that portrays Jackie Robinson’s introduction into major league baseball. He was the first African-American to play the sport in the major leagues.
I love baseball and have enjoyed books I’ve read related to Jackie Robinson, so I was eager to see the movie. My son, however, isn’t much of a baseball fan, but based on what he’d learned about Robinson in school (he did a report on him during Black History Month) he said he wanted to see the movie.
Years into the mothering thing, something happens. You kind of lose yourself. You lose who you once were. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. Sometimes you need to grow up and being responsible for little ones gives you direction. And sometimes you dive in so intensely that the world is wrapped up in feeding and clothing and taking care of little people that you forget to come up for air.
I'm mothering five sons. Sometimes, honestly I forget that I'm a girl. I really do. Cars, wrestling, bugs, dirt, soccer, muddy shoes, zombie invasions, skateboards, action movies, camouflage, tools, off-road excursions, aliens, dirty socks in balls under furniture, gigantic carnivorous appetites, baseball caps, Guitar Hero, pocket knives, toads found in the backyard. Not that girls can't be into any of the above, but they are the kinds of things that have become the norm.
And when you're a mom, it's pretty much a given that nothing is your own anymore, until the one day I discovered that some things can be. After three -- count them, THREE -- umbrellas had disappeared from my vehicle or the coat hook (all navy or dark colored), I scanned the rack at Walgreen's for a replacement. All they had were flowery and feminine ones. "Well, I can't get one of those," I thought to myself. "No one will be able to use it except for me."
‘Tis the season again. It’s time for spring sports. I’ve got only two playing sports this spring. That’s a relief. One year I remember having four sons playing and every one was in a different league. The oldest was playing in a league where they traveled out of town, so games were in nearby communities. The next youngest played games at a couple different locations and he decided not far into the season that he didn’t really want to play and from then on it wasn’t fun for any of us. The next one was pretty into it. He was a catcher and it was at the age where things start getting competitive. And the next youngest was in T-ball, which is just so fun to watch. It was just a lot to keep up with and an exhausting three months.
Last year my oldest had aged out of the league and none of the younger ones were interested in playing. I decided not to push it. It was a much more relaxed spring, but I really did miss sitting in the bleachers watching the games.
This year, I’ve got just my youngest playing baseball. His older brother has since taken up soccer, so with that added into the mix, it is a rare day when there is not either a practice or a game for one of them. Some days things are so hectic I want to pull my hair out, but most days, I’m just really savoring and cherishing it. I know it won’t last long. Nothing does. And kids grow so fast. I know I’ll miss it when no one is playing little league anymore.
One year in T-ball I remember one of my sons being positioned near the pitcher when a ball was hit his way, hitting him right in the center of the chest. The force of the hit knocked him back a bit and I heard other parents gasp. As I’ve learned to do after many years of parenting, I didn’t panic. I didn’t run on the field. I waited to see his reaction.
There had been a recent story in the news about a child being hit in the chest with a baseball so hard that it stopped his heart and he died, so everyone was cautious. The coaches ran over. He talked to them and told him he was okay. He sat out the rest of the game and the coach gave him the game ball which he wrote his name on with a Sharpie along with the date. He seemed pretty proud of it. I’ve learned that about boys. Injuries seem to be a source of pride. They revel in bruises, cuts, scars, stitches and casts.
When my youngest played T-Ball I remember him one time getting bumped in the face with a ball and getting a bloody nose. Honestly, I considered myself fortunate that in all the years of five boys playing various sports, that none of them had ever been hurt to the point that it required a doctor’s visit. We’d made our share of trips to the doctor office, urgent care clinic and emergency room for other reasons, but not from playing sports.