Summer Camp Inspiration

What is keeping your child busy this summer?

Summer camps can be a godsend for parents when school is out — with the exception of the carpooling, odd hours, and cost, right?

My oldest decided he wanted to go to a specialty sports camp. It was a single day and very intensive. He was excited to go as the camp was touted as preparing the participants to become college athletes some day. I expected to hear all about how awesome the camp was when my son got home, but he was more in a daze (he got sunburned and had been outside for ten hours, but still).

“How’d it go?,” I asked. “Okay,” my son said. He was quiet. I had expected him to add more without prompting, but to no avail, so I continued, “was it all you were hoping for?” “Not exactly,” he said. He drew out the word not. “How so?” I asked. “We’ll, they had us run drills and this one coach kept yelling at me. I thought they were going to teach me, but I don’t feel like I learned anything new.” I asked him a few more questions then gave it a rest. He was clearly disappointed with the experience and exhausted.

About a week after this my son asked me to go for a walk. That rarely happens, so I jumped at the chance to get outside and have one-on-one time with him. As we walked he talked about his plans for the summer and things he wanted to do. As we walked the conversation went back to the camp he had attended. “I just can’t get it out of my mind what that coach said,” he started, “what he was asking me to do made sense but it was my first time doing it, so unsure why he kept singling me out and yelling at me.” We talked for a while about how the coach gave his critiques. Based on how my son described it the coach ‘motivated’ by shaming. I had to stop my son and make sure he understood something very clearly. “There are different ‘leaders’ that will come in and out of your life and will come in the form of teacher, your boss, and even coach. Leadership styles vary, but the best leaders know how to get the best out of you without having to break you down. When a leader feels this is the only way they can motivate you, it says more about them, than it says about you.” I corrected myself, “It says everything about them and nothing about you.” I explained further, “When you use shame or intimidation to motivate, it will work but there can be collateral damage, I.e., devastating consequences. You don’t want someone to be the best athlete or musician or dancer or worker or (fill in the blank), but be stressed all the time, hate themselves, and/or suffer mentally. You want to be led by someone who inspires you, understands how to get you to push beyond your comfort zone, and get the best out of you. When that happens you thrive vs. survive.” I took a breathe with the hopes that what I was saying was sinking in. “If the coach taught you a new approach and you think it’s a good one, then work on getting comfortable with it, and better at it, but do not waste one second allowing how he delivered his assessment to you sink it. Just let it fall on the ground where it belongs. He doesn’t know you or your capabilities. My guess is he would single out anyone he thought might make him look bad. Pitiful.” I rested my case.

My son was still taking in what I said. He shared other comments the coach had made that were directed at the larger group that confirmed my suspicion that this coach wasn’t someone I wanted my son around, and was grateful it had only been for the one day.

We’ve all had experiences in our lives where a leader didn’t necessarily show good character. It’s disappointing when you experience it, and angering when you see (of hear after the fact) your child did. I’m just glad my son shared. I hope he’ll take this lessen on leadership and look for leadership that will help him grow in a positive and healthy way — leaders who inspire him, push him to be his best, while appreciating him for who he is as he is.

What is your child doing this summer? Who are the leaders inspiring your child?

I will be off next week enjoying the long weekend with family and friends, and will return in July.

Leaving the Pitch — Slowly but Surely

My son has decided he no longer wants to play soccer.

It saddens me for a few reasons:

  • He’s played since he was three, and it’s been a joy to watch him grow while playing the sport. When he was young, scoring goals was all that mattered to him. As he grew, he no longer cared if he scored goals. He was more interested in defending the ball on the pitch, or blocking shots as the goalie.
  • He’s had great coaches along the way. He’s been particularly lucky to play with the same coach for the last five years. The coach loves the game and genuinely cares about the kids. This coach reminded me of how it takes a village to raise our children, and this coach will forever be ‘one of our village.’ It saddens me to think my son won’t continue to learn from him going forward.
  • I’m reminded that change is inevitable. Many kids start to figure out what activities they’re interested in at my son’s age. My son has shown us signs that his interest in soccer has been waning. I’m aware that another milestone is passing, my son is growing, becoming more independent, more self-aware, more confident in who he is and what he wants to experience in life.
  • I’ll miss the other parents, and the comradery. I’ll miss the cheers, the wins and loses, and watching the kids grow together. There will be other sports and other opportunities for us to connect, but this special moment-in-time is coming to an end.

My son is leaving the pitch. While I’m flooded with memories and emotions of sadness and nostalgia, my son is filled with excitement — he is at peace with his decision. He’s ready to move on. And so am I…slowly but surely.

How do you experience change when it happens in your child’s life?

 

 

Dads Matter

Today we celebrate our father’s, and the father of a child(ren), and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to highlight mine. Some of the greatest moments I’ve had with my dad was when he was present, paying attention, acknowledging me, sharing advice or insight, coaching me, encouraging me, cheering me on, picking me up and telling me, “yes you can.”

Some of my favorite moments as a spouse has been watching my husband be a dad. When he is present with our boys, paying attention to them (and I mean really paying attention), trying new things with them that they like (even if he doesn’t), finding common ground even when it isn’t easy, being self-aware enough to admit mistakes and work to correct them.

I enjoy how much my sons love their dad. My oldest was excited about the prospect of Father’s Day coming up several weeks back. “Mom, I want to get Dad a gift this year!” he shared. He had seen a t-shirt online that said “The Best Dads are Made in ____” (and you could pick your state of choice).  He was so excited about giving it to his dad. It made me really happy to see him so excited about giving a gift to someone he loves so much. Of course, my husband loved the shirt. I think he’s still in a bit of shock our son came up with this gift idea all on his own.

Being a parent is hard. Moments when our parents were there for us mattered. It meant something. Being there for our kids now matters. Whether they show it to us in the form of t-shirt that says “The Best Dads are Made in ____” or hug, or a head nod, it matters.

Thank you to all the dads out there, with a special thanks to my husband and my dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

The Turkey

What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Health, safety, love and friendship or something else?

It seems that each year, throughout the year, I’m reminded by my children what they are thankful for (which in turns reminds me what I am thankful for) in unexpected ways.

My youngest son came home last year with an art project in hand. It was a Thanksgiving turkey made out of a paper bowl used for the body, a toilet paper roll decorated as the neck and head, construction paper (cut in the shape of his traced hand) for the turkey’s feet, and pieces of colored paper for the tail. It was easy, at a glance, to think the tail was filled simply with colorful feathers. Upon closer inspection, you could see that my son had written all the things he was thankful for on each tail feather. His tail feathers read:

  • Cats
  • Food
  • School
  • Hats
  • Water
  • TV
  • Games
  • People
  • Giving
  • Math

The simplicity and honesty of this list is what caught my attention. It really simplified what my son was thankful for, and reminded me once again what I am thankful for. My son inspired me to create my own list this year. There are big and important things I am thankful for daily: the health of my children and family, the roof over my head, my friends and family, my job, my readers, the city I live in and much more. My son inspired me to create a more simplistic and honest list above and beyond this.

In addition to the above, I am thankful for:

  • Ellen DeGeneres – Ellen, I know everyone loves you and I’m right there with them. I really, really needed your show the Wednesday following the election and you came through even though I could tell you were experiencing the same feelings so many of us were. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  • Mountains – Seeing a mountain when the sun rising or setting with its white-capped majesty is something special. Living where I do, I get to see this virtually every day. I do not take it for granted.
  • Date Nights and Babysitters – Oh, I love the nights where my husband and I get to reconnect as a couple. Thank you to the wonderful babysitters we’ve found that let us know our kids are in good hands while we’re away.
  • Other Parents and Support Communities – I’ll never be able to properly express my thanks for supportive parents, and supportive communities such as PEPS (Program for Early Parenthood Support).
  • People who fight/advocate for what’s right – there are so many good causes. I am inspired and motivated to engage by those willing to fight for others. Thank you!
  • Teachers, coaches and caregivers – You give so much to my children and family. You sacrifice your time to share your passion and genuinely care about my children’s success. I’ll never be able to properly express how grateful I am for each of you.
  • A Good Tea Room – The Royal Tea Room in Tampa, FL will always be my favorite, but give me a good tea room in any city and I’m one happy and thankful person. The food is divine, and the company I’m sharing the tea with even better.
  • And many more (these may seem frivolous, but I’m thankful for them none-the-less): College Game Day (thanks for sharing your love of college football with the fans), Melissa McCarthy (I can watch Spy an unlimited amount of times and laugh — you are a gift to all of us), Bravo TV (thank you for being there when I just need to check-out and not think about anything), Oprah and O Magazine (you are still connecting with fans even though we don’t ‘see’ you on TV everyday), Sun (sunny, warm days our something I crave. Nothing beats then!) and Cats (just like my son, I love these furry creatures. They have provided me much love and comfort as pets over the years — thank you!).

I will be taking next week off to celebrate the holiday with my family. How will you be celebrating with yours?

What are you thankful for this year (frivolous or not)? Who or what reminds you of the simple things you are thankful for?

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Coach!

Have you ever struggled to get better at something you thought you should already be good at?

I have, and it’s no fun, whether it’s struggling to do a new task at work, or unsure of how to handle a new childrearing situation. I catch myself thinking why don’t I know how to do this? and because it’s easy to convince yourself that no one else is sharing your struggle to think is something wrong with me?

I saw my son experience this very struggle with his new soccer team. While he understands the fundamentals of the team, learning strategy for how to move around other players and the rules on the field are still something new to him. He became frustrated in a practice and the coach came over to talk to him. My son expressed his disappointment in his lack of knowledge and ability to execute what he was being asked to do. This came in the form of an emotional outburst that was a culmination of his frustration. The coach wasn’t having any of it. He told my son to listen to what he was saying or get off the field. My son promptly walked off the field.

As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child struggle with something. While part of me wanted to go and talk to him about what I just witnessed, it felt like this was something I needed to let the coach handle for the time being. I didn’t want to undermine the point he was trying to make, and I didn’t want my son to think I thought he was failing or not doing things right. I could already see he was really disappointed and down on himself. I could almost hear what he was thinking, why can’t I do this? Why isn’t this coming more naturally? What’s wrong with me?

The coach waited a few minutes and then came over to my son who was close enough for me to overhear the conversation (but not right next to me). The coach asked him why he was sitting on the sidelines. My son replied, “Because I’m terrible and can’t do the drill right!” The coach bent down so he could get eye-to-eye with him and explained, “You’re a kid. You’re job is to learn. To get better at something you have to practice. Do you think Rinaldi never practiced? He practiced all the time. You’ve got to practice to get good at anything,” he continued, “My job is to show you what you need to do, and when I see you not doing something right, it’s my job to show you a better or different way.” He finished, “You’re not terrible, but you won’t know that unless you get back in there and try.” My son seemed to take his words to heart, but wasn’t convinced. The coach then added, “if you don’t practice, you don’t play in the game,” which was enough to get my son back on the field.

The coach and I made eye-contact and he mouthed, “I got this.” And sure enough he did. My son listened more carefully throughout the remainder of practice and even scored a goal towards the end of the practice game. You could see his confidence grow. His expression reminded me of my own experience when I’ve learned something I’ve struggled with, finally getting over the hump and realizing I can do this. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me after all. It feels great.

I’m thankful that the coach helped my son through his challenge. Not all coaches would have done that, but in my opinion, the good ones do. Struggles are going to happen, and as much as we’d like to help our child, it will sometimes fall to a coach, teacher, leader or a friend’s parent that they respect. As much as I am present with my child, others being present–really seeing my child and helping them see their own potential–will be a big part of his experience growing up. I’m thankful for those who have already played this role, and those that will in the future. Thank you!

Who helps your child work through things they struggle with? Who is a mentor or role model for your child?