Instant karma’s gonna get you

    As a parent , there are a lot of things that I can teach my kids by example, and a lot of things that they have to learn on their own. No matter how much we talk about being a gracious winner, there are times when we all get a little too big for our britches, and can’t help but rub in a hard fought win. Likewise, even though we’ve discussed accepting a loss, and not acting like a sore loser, there are times when a sulk magically makes everything better. I’m still the mom, though, and so I’m trying really hard to keep my gloating at a minimum. Remember that tournament that Toby didn’t get invited to? Turns out, the team lost all of the games they played. I do feel a tiny bit bad for the boys who did play, even though a couple of them really are arrogant little jerks. I feel really bad for the kids who played their hearts out and probably still got crap from the coach for messing something up. Mostly, though, I’m secretly thrilled that what goes around really does come around.

 

    

I don’t care if I never go back

    “Hey,” I say to the coach’s wife, “can I ask you a question?” We’re sitting along the ball field fence, waiting for the game to start. I’ve been there for about 30 minutes, as requested by the coach, so the boys can warm up and have batting practice before the game. I’ve been hearing other parents and grandparents talking about having an 8 a.m. game on Saturday, but I don’t know anything about it, and I’m confused. “Is there a tournament game tomorrow morning?”

    She looks up from her score book. “Oh, no, tomorrow’s game is cancelled,” she says. “It was against that team that we beat 15 to 1, and we won’t get any better playing them, so we just decided to cancel it.”

    “Oh, okay,” I say, “just, everyone is talking about some tournament game tomorrow. My husband gets the texts, and he isn’t always the best about passing on the information.” This isn’t actually true, but I think that maybe I can draw her into my confidence, and she’ll explain why I don’t know anything about tomorrow’s game.

    “Well, I do get the emails,” she says, ” and there is no game tomorrow. Our tournaments aren’t until next weekend, we just haven’t gotten the bracket yet.”

    “Okay, thanks.” I check my watch to see how much longer it will be until the game starts, make sure Mason is still sitting in the bleachers with the other kids, and go back to a game on my phone to pass the time. The two head coaches are standing with the umpire at home plate, discussing whatever it is that they discuss before every game. It’s hot, but I’ve managed to snag a place in the shade, and there’s a breeze blowing against the back of my neck.

    “Yeah, we have to be in Scottsboro for a game at 8 tomorrow morning,” someone says behind me. I turn to see two sets of grandparents, trying to maneuver their chairs next to each other, but still make sure everyone is in the shade.

    “Excuse me,” I say, “did you say that we have a game tomorrow?”

    “Yeah, but I don’t think I’ll make the 8 o’clock game. If we win, though, we play again at a different field in the afternoon.”

    “The whole team is playing?” I want to make sure, because the coach’s wife has just assured me that no, there is no game tomorrow, tournament or otherwise.

    “Well, yeah, I guess so.” The man has a strange look on his face, as if he can’t figure out why I would ask such a strange question. Truth is, I feel dumb asking. I mean, shouldn’t I already know? The game is just about to start, so I turn back around and really begin to wonder what the heck is going on. Surely there has been some sort of mistake?

    Another team mom sets up her chair next to the coach’s wife, her original spot having been appropriated by the grandparents. She’s on the phone, and I can hear her side of the conversation. “Yeah, we have to be there for a game at 8, and then again at 9:45…”

    “Shhh!” The coach’s wife leans over and motions that she should be quiet. She says something else to the woman on the phone, but I can’t hear what it is. It seems like she points at me, though, and I start to think that maybe I’m not paranoid after all. Maybe she really did just lie to me about the game.

    Denver walks up behind me, a little late to the game, and I stand up so we can walk a little and I can tell him what I think is going on. Between tears of anger and hurt, I tell him what I think is happening. “Let’s go,” he says, “we’re quitting.”

    He pulls Toby out of the dugout, and I pack up my things and get Mason’s attention. Toby has no idea what’s going on, and he’s crying, too, because he thinks Denver is mad at him. I try to explain what has happened, but I am so angry that I can barely form the words. The words I do manage to spit out are not polite. As I drive home, my hands are clenched so tightly on the steering wheel, my knuckles are white and I end up with half-moons pressed into my palms from my fingernails.

I don’t understand why the coach and his wife decided that it was acceptable to lie to Toby and me. Do they think so little of us that we don’t deserve to be told the truth? If someone had explained that the tournament was only for the best 9 kids on the team, Toby and I would both have understood. Toby recognizes that he isn’t the best player on the team. He probably would have been happy that he didn’t have to get up early on a Saturday. To be lied to is exponentially worse than to be told a difficult truth. Toby has already mentioned that this would be his last year playing baseball, and like a typical guy, he’s already over it. I’m trying to get over it, but my inner 12-year-old keeps crossing her arms and yelling, “that’s not fair!”. This feeling of unfairness, of helplessness to explain why the jocks get to win this one, is regressing me into the girl who always got picked last for the team, who hated gym class, who wanted, just once, to be good at a sport.

I’m sure there’s a lesson here, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a lesson that the coach and his wife will never learn.

Three strikes, mom’s out

    Several weeks ago, just as basketball was ending, we were already talking about starting baseball. I assumed Toby would play, because I assumed he enjoyed it. The grandpa of one of his teammates said, repeatedly, that he really wanted Toby to play baseball for him, that he would be coaching this year, and he thought Toby could be not just good, but great. I secretly hoped that Toby could be a great baseball player, but I didn’t want to be unrealistic or set him with unreachable expectations, and so I signed him up to play. I don’t even remember if I asked him if he actually wanted to. At any rate, the first practice came along, and he refused to go. He was really upset, and he wouldn’t tell me why he didn’t want to play. Since I had already paid the fee, I kept pressing him to tell me why he didn’t want to play anymore. He finally said, “I suck at sports, every team I’m ever on always loses, and it’s all because of me.”

 

My heart broke for him, and I wanted to wrap him up in a big blanket and fix everything. I know that failure is inevitable, but I hated that he blamed himself for games that were neither won nor lost by just one person. I tried to explain to him that an entire team is responsible for both wins and losses. I told him that he was a good first base-man, and that I wasn’t just saying that because I am his mother. I tried just about everything I could think of to coax him out of his funk, but he was so worked up, he was in no mood to be coaxed. Then *I* started to cry, because all I could think was that I has screwed up my job as a mom, if this was how he felt about himself. It was a big ol’ weepfest.

 

Finally, we both calmed down, and I asked Toby if he would at least go to one practice, and if he still didn’t like it, I promised I wouldn’t make him go ever again. He said he would try. The happy ending is that he had fun at practice, and he remembered that he actually did like baseball. The unhappy ending is that even though I am convinced that I did the right thing by making him try one more time, my heart still hurts for him. I don’t subscribe to the belief that we need to coddle our children, always telling them “yes” and “no, of course it isn’t your fault”, because if they don’t learn how to deal with failure or learn to take responsibility for their actions now, then they will get an extremely rude awakening when they leave home and enter the “real” world. I can’t help but think, though, that I must have messed up somewhere along the line, because a 10 year old kid should not be blaming himself for every loss, ever. It seems like parenting is mostly trial and error, and hopefully, I’m getting the important things right.

That was kinda fun

It’s been a very long time since we visited friends in Georgia and Mason first fell in love with horses. Unlike most things, he has not forgotten about Babe and how much he liked riding. Victory Alliance Ranch, which is a therapy horse farm, is just down the road from us, and I finally got in touch with the owner, Karen. She said she’d love to meet us and yes, she’d be happy for us to volunteer.

    As we were driving up, I told Mason that we weren’t here for riding – that we’d have to help around the farm. He was upset by this, and didn’t even want to get out of the car. I probably could have done a better job of explaining everything to him, but I thought that seeing the horses would be enough. When we met Karen, I explained that Mason was upset about not getting to ride. Karen was great, and told Mason that as long as he helped, he would get to ride. Karen had some things to take care of, so one of the other volunteers showed us around the farm and introduced us to the horses. She mentioned that Karen likes for the younger horses to have a buddy, and that maybe Mason could be Cash’s buddy. If I remember correctly, Cash is about 6 months old. When Mason learned that he would have his own horse to look after, he was over the moon. Karen brought Cash in from the pasture, and Mason brushed him. Then, true to her promise, Karen saddled up Beau, and Mason got to ride.


The look on his face says it all. (His face is painted from an earlier trip to the school carnival. He has not grown whiskers recently, as far as I know.)

    We went back last weekend, after making a quick run to the store for barn boots, and mucked stalls. I was a little worried that Mason would not be very happy about scooping poop, but he actually jumped right in and started scooping. When we were done, he said, “That was kinda fun”, sealing his fate as a horse person. He didn’t get to ride, but he did get to visit with Cash again. We will go back this weekend, and there should be at least one new foal for us to see. I’m so glad that Mason has found something just for himself that doesn’t involve his brother. I worry sometimes that he gets stuck tagging along with all of Toby’s sports, and feels left out. I don’t think there’s much chance of Toby thinking stall mucking is fun, so Mason gets this experience all to himself.

    Thanks, Karen, for including us in the herd!


Cash, eyeballing us from his stall.

Ten Things Toby Tuesday

Last week, this little monkey turned 10.


So I thought now would be a perfect time to do a ten things post, all about Toby. He’ll be thrilled, I’m sure.

1. Toby did not want to be born. He was determined to bake a little longer, I guess. I was in labor for two days before the doctor finally decided that maybe I should give up. Believe me, it didn’t take much convincing. Toby is just as stubborn now as he was then.


2. When Toby was about 2 ½, Mason showed up. I’m not sure what he thought about that, but he’s been a great big brother. Of course they fight, but they always make up. Toby is great with helping Mason, and I think having a little brother to take care of has made him more compassionate and understanding.


3. Toby is hilarious. As he gets older, he’s establishing his own sense of humor, sarcastic and dry. Of course, he still goofs around. Fart jokes are quite popular.


4. Toby is so smart. I still know enough to help him with his math homework, but I don’t think that will last much longer. He says that he wants to be an Engineer when he grows up so he can design LEGO sets. I tell him that he can be whatever he wants to be.


5. Toby is much harder on himself that anyone else could ever be. He demands the best of himself, and will not accept limitations. I’m trying to help him learn to redirect his frustration, but I’ve been where he is, and I know that some things he will just have to learn for himself.


6. When Toby started second grade, his dentist recommended that we see an orthodontist because he had a rather significant under bite. To correct this, Toby had to wear a big metal appliance against the roof of his mouth that was meant to stretch his upper jaw. At night, he had to wear head gear which was attached to his braces with rubber bands. He slept with rubber bands hanging out of his mouth for 8 months, and never complained. Not even once.


7. Toby also started wearing glasses in second grade. He’s never complained about that, either, except when they are too dirty to see through. I have no idea how they get so dirty, it’s one of those mysteries associated with 10 year old boys, I think. He reads books all the time, and actually got in trouble for being in the library too long when he was supposed to have returned to class. I’m thankful that his teacher allows him to go to the library during class time to trade his books so that he always has something to read in class.


8. Although he’s certainly no angel, Toby is always respectful of adults. I am ridiculously proud of this.


9. Even though there is no question that he is my kid, his pointy eyebrows totally seal the deal.


10. Happy Birthday to my big 10 year old! I love you! (Even if you don’t ever comb your hair.)

What’s my age again?

    This past Saturday was opening day for the basketball season, and Toby’s team played their first game. I wish I had a picture, because the height difference between Toby and every single other boy on his team is at least 12 inches. The other team was similarly height challenged – so much so that, at the overtime tip-off, the other team’s players stood on the side facing Toby, figuring that he would get the ball first. Rightly so, as it turned out. I don’t know if anyone kept stats for the game, but Toby made a lot of rebounds, as well as a couple of baskets. I’m so proud of him, I could burst. Toby was a little anxious that he hadn’t played well, but Denver pointed out that, a player is considered important to the team based on whether or not he is missed when he isn’t playing. Considering the rebounds they missed when Toby wasn’t playing, clearly he is important. I don’t know if Denver realized it, but that was the absolute best thing he could have said to Toby, and he smiled all afternoon.

    I told you all of that so that I could tell you this: Toby’s coach called Sunday afternoon asking that I bring a copy of Toby’s birth certificate to the next practice. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. The sign-up sheets usually ask for a copy of the player’s birth certificate, but I’ve never had to actually produce one. The teams are organized based on age, and Toby is right at the edge. Hopefully, it’s just a formality and this will be the last any of us have to hear about it, but I can’t help wondering…. Did the other team complain? Did someone question whether or not he was too old to be playing on the 9U team? Do people actually think that the team is so set on winning everything that they would bring in a ringer? And how many times am I going to have to show his birth certificate? Maybe the kids in Alabama just need to eat more vegetables.

In which time stops for no one, regardless of how much needs to be done before Christmas

    Every year, the same thing happens. I wait until the last minute to finish Christmas shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating, and everything else that December-induced nostalgia makes me thing I should be doing. And every year I promise myself that I will do better next year, knowing full well that this has as much chance of happening as my winning the New York Marathon. I don’t know why I feel compelled to assure myself that next year will be different. I think it actually gives me more stress, worrying about why I didn’t plan ahead like I told myself I would. The only person who knows that I didn’t get that 14th batch of cookies baked, or that other pair of socks knitted, or the switch plates scrubbed, is me. I want the kids to have a perfect, candy-colored memory, traditions to carry down to their own families, something to hold close in their hearts that they can take out and examine when they are having a bad day. I worry that all I’m giving them is a memory of me stomping around the house, covered in flour, the oven timer beeping in the background, yelling at them to get their clothes to the laundry room if they expect to have clothes to wear tomorrow, for crying out loud!

    And then Christmas is over, and it was just like every other year. I have dozens of cookies that no one remembered that I baked, the living room is a mess and no one wants to help clean it up, and I am exhausted. But the kids are happy, and we snuggle up on the couch to watch Iron Man for the millionth time, and we all pretend that we don’t have to go back to school and work in just a few days. Turns out, just like every other year, Toby and Mason have great memories no matter how hard I worked to mess everything up.

    I don’t think my planning better will really make a difference. I think the stress, last minute shopping, and messy living room ARE our traditions. Norman Rockwell it is not, but it’s ours, and maybe that’s all that matters.