Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the world of competitive parents...

Every 6 months or so I rebel. I think it is a natural inclination as a mother to throw my hands up in the air and declare, "Whatever. I am done." I had one of those days on Sunday. The attitude of the culmination of 2 weeks with my mother-in-law, a week of living in my car more than my bed and a weekend where I shuttled kids to 2 birthday parties, 2 soccer games, 1 swim practice, a church directory picture, and a sleepover. Not to mention what goes along with those activities, which I will list anyway - 2 birthday presents wrapped, one swim bag packed, 2 soccer uniforms clean and ready and preparation for the directory picture so that at minimum we look like we pondered the merits of personal hygiene on a weekly basis.

Per my usual fashion of inssurection, I start trying to dump any commitments that I have in order to simplify my life. It usually comes at my own expense because what is easiest to let go are the ones that no one else cares about...mine. My kids and my husband won't complain if I put a halt to bible study or some coffee breaks with my friends. However, knowing this ultimately results in hurting myself and building resentment, I refrained for once. Instead, I begin scurrying around looking for some non-existent solutions and blame everyone at tearing at the last remains of my sanity.  Ranting never works; I should know that by now.

Yet, this entire cycle of constant activity and its ramifications would not leave my brain. This continuous analysis was compounded by a chapter in my current bible study on resting and why God asks us to do it. The residuals of the Chinese Mothers saga and a few run-ins with uber competitive parents has forced me to ask this one question about my life: What is my motivation with all this running around?

I always said that I wanted my kids to have a sport they love, a musical instrument they could play and learn to contribute to the world in a socially conscious way, not to mention the academic goals which include all three of them being admitted to Carolina (just kidding, or am I?). That is a lot of expectation when you are mother of three - three who are still pretty dependent on motivation, transportation and logistics. Lest I forget the most important aspect of mothering for me...their spiritual journey. Nothing like the weight of that on your shoulders. I know God is ultimately the One who will see that one through, but it is my responsibility to rear them in His way.

With those "goals" in my head, I charted our paths towards success! Please note the use of heavy sarcasm in that sentence. We have dabbled in piano and guitar lessons, swim teams, soccer teams, gymnastics, art camps, cheerleading, sporatic dance classes, basketball for a season or two, scouts, and a type of girl scouts, and horseback riding. Through homeschool classes Sadie is learning dance, drama, music, art, and even sign language.

In comparison, by the end of my 5th grade year, I could chalk up two years of piano and a season or two of community girls softball. That was it. Something has changed within one generation and I want to know what. What is in the heart of the thousands of parents toting kids to soccer fields on a Saturday, to pay costly fees for special clinics and spend hours sitting around in camping chairs, on bleachers and even better, in our cars waiting for our special blessings to become the next Mozart, Beckham, van Gogh or Phelps.

Well, I have looked deep and I know my motivation is not founded where it should be. I am going to be very real here. I do all these things because I don't want my kids to be left behind. I don't want them to miss out on any fulfilling any gifts and talents they may have. I fear that they will not have every opportunity open to them when they are grown because I did not push them. I worry that my kids will be just average - really not "good" at anything. Did I just write that? Pitiful, just a pitiful comment on me.  What is the craziest part of this I know I don't have very little control on how my kids turn out, yet I continue to push forth.

With very few exceptions, most kids under the age of 10 are participating in sports because they love being around other kids. The actual activity in which they are participating in is somewhat a moot point. Although, I know Ethan is developing a greater love of the actual sport of swimming this year. Sadie, however, is no longer swimming. The competition, the pressure, her desire to do well churned her insides into an emotional mess. Taking time away has been a great thing and if she ever decides to go back to year round swimming, it will be on a non-competitive level.

Yesterday, I also spoke with several other moms regarding this issue. They, being further along the mothering role than I, did affirm that there was something crazy about these toting around years. However, they assured me that it settles down. It is just a season. Parents become a little less crazy, everyone's expectations lower and most allow the kids to drive the show. The world of opportunity begins shrinking as they discover, and thus hone in on, what they are passionate about. That was affirming to hear.

I am still working through this from a biblical standpoint. The priorities in life should be God, spouse, family and then work. Yet, I know valuable life lessons have been learned through my kids' involvement in sports and extra-curricular activities. Perseverance, showing grace, encouragement, forgiveness, and dealing jealousy are just a few of the key lessons I can quickly list. Where is the balance?

So, what is the take away from all this?

1. It is a season. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

2. Fun should always be the first and only priority. Kids put themselves under enough pressure as it is.

3. If you become mad, yell or cry regarding your child's performance, then it has stopped being about your child and more about you. Crying for happiness because of your child's happiness does not count although it is hard for me to relate because I am not a "cryer."

And finally,

4. God created your child, giving him special gifts and abilities. No one and nothing will stand in the way of God seeing these worked out in his life in the way God knows best, no matter how hard a parent tries.  He is a sovereign God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Note Written by Lily

rules up stars

1. No food alode (allowed) atershool
2. No stiling toys wihtout asking
3. No going in Sadie room without asking.
4. No fiting a lode.
5. No going in Ethan room without asking.
6. No going in Lily room without asking.
7.  Listen to mom.
8. Listen to dad.

March 16, 2011

Two months have slipped through my fingers and what have I accomplished? A whole lot of nothing, really. The usual running around, the random curve ball shaking up the daily grind, and the feeling like I am just marking the days off the calendar. Despite all of this, when I look closely at the details of the past couple of months, there are some noteworthy developments and here are the details.

Ethan competed in the school science fair in February. He was only a handful of 5th graders to volunteer for this project. He competed against the entire 6th grade and won. He went on to the district competition and again came home with a blue ribbon. It was a great amount of work, much more than what I remember doing as a 5th grader, but maybe that is because my mother was also an integral part of the process. The project was on how temperature affects magnets. It was a fun and very interesting project in that the results proved something opposite of scientific research. However, it helped Ethan understand that scientific research is full of variables that must be controlled. I think that is what impressed the judges the most in the interview - the understanding of the scientific process.
Ethan continues to mature at a rate much faster than I would like. He is a delight to spend time with and I find that our discussions are often very deep and meaningful. His humor is fantastically witty and he can send me into stitches for several days. He works hard at school and in swimming; the end results however, are not always how he would like them to be. It has been tough to realize that sometimes you don't always get what you want no matter how hard you try. His perseverance is growing and I see that life lessons and personal values are being developed. It warms my heart when he still requests time to talk with me on my bed. These days are numbered, so I never turn them down.

The social circumstances in which he found himself this school year has been a struggle. He had to muddle through the different boys in his class, discovering for himself just who he was and who were real and true friends. He has found a comfortable spot with all the boys in his class, able to move with ease throughout the various groups. He has also learned a lot about what it means to be true to yourself and comfortable in your own skin. This is a great platform to build upon as we head into the tumultuous middle school years.

Sadie is Sadie. Life is never bland or mundane in her world. We plod through homeschool every day - some with success and some that could stand to be a bit better. Some days I could throw the books out the door and her along with them. Thankfully, my feelings are fickle and an hour later, I feel satisfied with our progress. I have not had the frustration of her not "getting" the material, it has been more the frustration of her attitude. I guess I can not expect her to throw herself into her work with excitement and vigor, because some days as an adult I do not want to accomplish what I must. However, a little more consistency would be a blessing.

There are moments in this year that my heart swells with love for this little crazy being. She is a task master when she wants to be, serving others with such joy and love. On the weekends, it is not unusual for her to make my coffee and breakfast (eggs and toast). She carefully arranges it on a bamboo tray, complete with napkins, silverware and appropriate condiments and delivers it with a love note and smile to my bedside. Some days she would rather clean and organize my car inside and out, than sit for two hours doing schoolwork. She has a developing spirit of mothering and keeps reminding me that in three years she can become an official babysitter. I have no doubt that she will be a wonderful housekeeper as she grows older. For the time being, she maintains piles of trinkets, mementos and paper giblets in her room.

One major change for Sadie has been her commitment to swimming. After a fairly disappointing season and a very emotionally volatile swim meet in March, we decided to let Sadie have a break from swimming. She has been all over the place regarding her enjoyment of the sport, sometimes living only for it and sometimes pitching a fit about it. At her last meet she swam the 50 free in 50 seconds (10 seconds slower than her personal best) and then the next day swam it in 36 seconds (a personal best by 4 seconds). There is absolutely no logic in her inconsistency. We could only guess that she is over thinking and vacillating between drive and defeat. Unfortunately, the connection with her coach this year has not been what she needed and therefore she was not given the encouragement she needed. The final nail on the coffin was her verbalization of feeling like she was not a very good swimmer and felt as if she were one of the worst in her division. Once we pulled her, she was quite emotional - crying about wanting to continue. However, we are forcing her to take at least a month or two off in order to decide if she really wants to go back. My guess is that she will want to go back, but we will limit it to only one or two days and swim only seasonally, meaning no meets. She definitely wants to swim on our summer league team. My hope is that she will discover the fun of the sport again and move past the competition of it all.

I write about this next item very, very carefully and with much trepidation. Sadie announced to me in the car one day a couple of weeks ago that she has a dream. "Mom, I have this dream and I know it is going to happen. I am going to be a superstar." I turned it into a talk about working for hard for big dreams which she did not fully appreciate. Anyway, in order to say that I have at least made one attempt to help her with this "dream," I sent a few pictures in to a very reputable modeling agency. One attempt and then I can say I "supported" her vision. Well, we got a call yesterday. They want to see Sadie. Sigh. Not sure how I really feel about all of this, but we haven't committed to anything at this point and there is no job that has been booked. Taking it one step at a time, knowing they and I can pull the brakes at any moment. Enough about that.

Lily is her usual happy-go-lucky little self. She is oblivious of any of her shortcomings which I completely LOVE. She wants to try everything and thinks she is good enough to continue with everything. She is not the athlete, but that doesn't stop her from playing soccer again. This week, one of the coaches took some time out to work with her one-on-one on her kicking skills which are a bit sub-par compared to the other children. Add that to my to-do list in the coming weeks.

She walks through life excited about everything. It is such a blessing to have a child who skips through life and is not prone to crying and fits. Sure, she complains and whines at times, but we are working towards ending that habit, using time out on the stairs and practice using her words with a normal tone.  She is also everyone's friend.  She makes them easily and seems to enjoy just about every other child her age.

Her two front teeth are STILL missing after 9 months! I can see the very tips of the new teeth, but they have yet to break the gum. In the meantime, she has lost another tooth on the bottom. She spends her time swimming two days a week, playing soccer and taking piano lessons. She is also an avid reader. At night I often have to take her books away from her because she will read until way past her bedtime. She still shares a unique relationship with Ethan. He is her protector and consequently his friends are often her biggest fans.

I write this on the heels of a two week visit from Oma. I feel like the kids have had very little time with her this go around which makes me sad. School, activities, etc. along with their independence makes it difficult. It is nice to hear Oma speak of the changes she notices between her visits. I felt some surprise when she said it is much calmer with the children around. She said she notices it the most with Sadie. That was very pleasing to hear. She commented that the children are all much more independent, requiring a lot less of my energy, which has been replaced by my taxi services. And, on a funny note, she noticed that the music selections have been changed in the car from children's music to pop music. That actually made me sad and I scrounged around the car for some Veggie Tales, much to the protests of Sadie and Ethan.

After one more school quarter, I will have a middle schooler. I just can not believe it. It is time for us to make next year's school decisions. FOr sure, Ethan will return to HPCA for middle school. For sure, Sadie will remain at home for 4th grade, although it was a very, very tough decision because the possible teachers are phenomenal. What is up in the air is Lily. She has asked to be homeschooled for 2nd and 3rd grade. I can see it being a great fit for Sadie to have her home. I don't think I have any doubt that she will be focused and eager. But, can I handle two at the same time? Will Sadie's temporal rotten attitude for getting her work done be a diversion? Would it cause me to mentally go over the edge? Things to ponder and pray over. Decisions need to be made fairly soon.

I hope this long entry means that I will be back to writing. I was very encouraged by my mother-in-law who picked up my blog books while she was here. She kept commenting on her reading enjoyment. I must carve out the time to write. This entry was not easy and I know it is because I am a little rusty. The words do not flow and I omit the emotions of the events in our lives when it comes to these summary-type entries.