Can We Talk About It?

When your child asks you for something (they need, want, etc.) what do you do?

When my boys need something (school supplies, clothes) it’s pretty easy. For non-essentials, I typically weigh the pros and cons, we discuss as a family if pricey (can we afford, is this a good use of our money—often turns into financial discussions/teaching moments with kids, etc.), and then we decide.

My oldest found a sports camp he wants to go to. It’s a single-day camp and pricey (not crazy pricey, but enough to make you at least weigh the pros and the cons). I knew how much he wants to go to the camp. My husband and I discussed the cost and agreed we’d let him go. By the time my husband and I connected on this we were full into our workdays and my son school, so I decided to text him to share the good news , he could go to camp but with some conditions. “Your father and I discussed and you can go to the camp. In return I’ll take a daily hug, you need to make sure all the dishes are done before you go to bed, and lessen the sass towards mom.” I said all of this ending with a smiley face 😊 to let my son know I was serious, but also that it was coming from a place of love.

I expected his response to be “great” or “thanks,” instead he responded with the following in rapid fire: are you sure? I can pay for it? Can we talk about this before you sign me up? Was my son ‘adulting’ on me? I texted him back, “We can cover — is hugging me really that bad? 😊 We’ll discuss tonight before we register you.” He responded “Thanks.” It seemed like he was being very pragmatic and he got me thinking. Does he not want to go? Is there something about the camp that worries him? What’s prompting this desire to part with money? My son rarely spends money, he’s always saving it which made me think am I missing an opportunity for my son to feel good about spending his hard earn money in a way that feels good to him?

That night we talked about it. My husband and I explained that we would cover the cost for this camp, but other specialty camps he might want to do over the summer he could cover. My son was excited, and we felt like we’d found a happy medium. Reflecting on the situation I realize my son is getting closer to adulthood daily and I need to start leaning into that more (vs holding onto the vision of him being young and more dependent). It may be uncomfortable for me, but the more I practice it the easier it will become.

How are you helping your child make money choices? How are you helping them prepare to be independent?

Getting Caught Up in the Moment

Did you play sports growing up? Do you recall getting caught up in the action, whether you were playing or watching your team?

My son’s soccer team was recently invited to watch the local high school play in the state tournament. My son was excited to sit with his teammates and watch the teams play (a special bonus was that their coach was one of the coaches for the high school team playing). The kids quickly got caught up in the action. It was fun to see them interact, cheering on the team, doing the wave (without any care that no one else was doing it) and talking in their own team lingo as they observed the game. They also got caught up in the nastier side of sports, booing and finding ways to take digs at the opposition.

I got caught up in the action as well. It was a very aggressive and physical game. At one point, two players collided, resulting in one (from the team we were cheering for) bleeding from the head. When the referees proceeded not to issue a yellow card for the incident, I too got caught up in the moment. “When are you going to card #10, ref? This is ridiculous!” I yelled. My son was a little taken aback. One, because I had been relatively quiet up until this point, and two, I clearly reacted as though a true injustice had been done and either the ref was blind or incompetent. His reaction brought me out of the moment. I needed that. The ref’s job is hard enough, they didn’t need me yelling at them. I didn’t want my son thinking my behavior was right either. (On a side note, I don’t know how refs do it. I would sink into the ground if people were telling me how terrible I was while I was performing at my job. I don’t envy them, but do respect them, no matter how frustrating it can be when you see a missed call.).

The game was close right up to the end. The team my son was cheering for won in dramatic action. He was in heaven. He and his teammates celebrated and went off to find their coach to congratulate him. It was one of those moments where you recognize it’s special. It doesn’t happen often and you need to just enjoy it. I couldn’t help getting caught up in my son’s moment. It was pure joy.

How do you get caught up in special moments when they happen?




Soccer Mom

Did your parent(s) ever embarrass you as a child?

Of course they did, right?  It’s a rite of passage for most parents. While I’ve been open with my boys that mom and dad will likely embarrass them from time to time, it will never be intentionally done. They know they can call us on it, and we (my husband and I) have to own it, and try to make it right (e.g. don’t do it again).  What I didn’t anticipate was where I’d have the most trouble not being a repeat offender — at the soccer field.

I am not one of those parents who yells at the kids or the refs and tries to correct them. Instead I’m guilty of calling a play-by-play with what the kids are doing on the field, like it’s some how going to help the outcome of the game. “Nice pass to Jake.” “Way to block it, Luke.” “Take it away, Caleb. You’ve got this.” But one time I went a little too far. My son was struggling in a game, and instead of doing what the coach was telling him, he got angry and started to talk back, “I’m doing what you told me!” “What am I doing wrong?” I didn’t like the way he was talking to the coach, and instead of letting the coach handle it (like I should have) I said, “Why don’t you channel your anger back into the game, and get more focused?” My son was clearly beside himself with embarrassment grunted and gave me a “zip it” hand gesture (moving his fingers across his mouth). When it was half-time he came over to the sidelines with his teammates, and knowing I was standing nearby, loudly said, “I don’t ever want you to come to a game again!”

He had a point. I would have hated it if my parents had done the same thing to me. I wanted to be supportive and encouraging (that’s what we need at any age), not shame him in front of his peers. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. If I wanted to have this discussion with him, I should have done it in private. I told him as much after the game.  “I was wrong. Not what I said, but where I said it. I should have said it away from everyone being able to hear and I’m sorry.”  He still wasn’t happy, but he got it. I owned my part in what happened, and haven’t made a similar comment (at least in front of his peers) since.

I think I rationalize my broadcasting tendencies (which are now strictly the positive play-by-plays) as wanting to show I’m interested and vested (e.g. my son knows I care about what he’s doing), and that somehow my encouragement will help the team (know that they are supported and care). Not to worry, I’m aware that my ‘cheering’ likely isn’t doing much, if any, good, and am working to be a more subdued parent. Outside of walking away from the game and distracting myself, I haven’t come up with a lot of best practices for how to do this.  Anyone have any suggestions to share?

I know my son realizes I mean well, and that I’m his biggest (along with his dad) fan, but I need to model for him how you support someone without strings attached (e.g. I support you even when you’re struggling…especially when you’re struggling), encourage without having to voice my praise (clapping or a yahoo is fine during the game, any points I want to make can be saved for the car ride home). And maybe that’s it…a desire to share feedback real-time, versus seeing how things play out and providing more constructive input at a later time. It’s not easy. It takes practice. I’ve got some work to do.

Are there any other rowdy parents like me out there (willing to admit it)? Do you have a hard time being quiet and calm while watching your child participate in a competitive activity?

March Madness and its Shining Moments

March Madness is in full swing with the NCAA basketball tournament starting this week. I couldn’t help but be taken in by the story of R.J. Hunter making the 3-point shot to win the game for Georgia State. It was what those of us who enjoy watching sports love–the underdog coming up with a win. What made the win that much more special was that R.J. is the son of Georgia State’s head coach, Ron Hunter.

Ron Hunter summed up the experience best in an article by Dan Wolken in USA Today, It’s unbelievable. I wish every dad in America could have that opportunity, what I just experienced with my son.”

Have you had a Ron/R.J. moment? Maybe not on the same scale or stage, but just as memorable? I can remember winning a race in a swim meet by tenths of a second with my parents looking on. I felt great about my accomplishment, but really appreciated being able to share it with my family. It made it that much more real. It’s a good memory we all remember. There were other triumphant moments too that weren’t sports-related–speaking in public for the first time (getting through it, and not passing out was a plus), and winning an unexpected award in a large setting (was both exciting and humbling). My parents being there to witness these events made them that much more special.

I look forward to experiencing my children’s ‘moment in the sun’. It might not be during a marquee game or event, but it will be their moment, our moment, and it will be something we’ll share for the rest of our lives.

What memorable moment have you shared with your child? What shining moment(s) have you experienced?

Fantasy Football

I hold my parents responsible for my love of sports. We lived in Atlanta when the Falcons appeared to be Super Bowl bound in the late ‘70s.  During the season our house was filled with lots of cheering and shouting on Sunday afternoons. The Falcons made the playoffs in 1981 and in order to advance they needed to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I was convinced the Falcons would win. Not because I knew that much about football, or the team at the time, but because I still believed anything was possible, whether it was realistic or not. I was a child.

My parents went to the Falcons Cowboys playoff game while my sisters and I watched the game on TV with a sitter. The Falcons led most of the game. I knew they were going to win. I could visualize it—the team winning, my parent’s elation that wouldn’t end until after our Super Bowl victory. Except that’s not what happened.  The Cowboys came from behind to win.  I was devastated.  How could the Falcons lose?  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  When it became clear there was no chance the Falcons would make a comeback, I ran to my room, slammed the door, jumped on my bed and promptly began to cry. I cried for the Falcons, I cried for my parents, and others experiencing the same pain I was.  But mostly I cried for the fantasy that hadn’t become a reality.

I took a break from watching football after that. It was too painful. I didn’t need a reminder that sometimes dreams don’t come true. Several years later, my father convinced me to watch a college football game with him. I almost immediately regained the love I had for watching the sport. At first I resisted getting behind one team, but seeing my Dad get behind the University of Miami, where he’d gone to school, win-or-lose I quickly followed. I loved it when it was clear Miami was in control and a victory certain, and had to walk away when things started going in favor of the opposing team. Whether I thought I was a jinx on the team, or allowing myself to have hope that things would improve during my absence, I can’t quite say. Trying to stay and experience the pain of watching my team lose was too great.  I couldn’t do it. My father would often remind me, “it’s only a game,” when he would see how upset or frustrated I was getting. Logically I knew he was right, but it really bothered me that he seemed at peace with it, and I was having all these intense emotions.

While I didn’t set out to teach my children to love sports, I’m afraid I’ve taken them a good distance down the path. My oldest son watches college football games with my husband and I on occasion and helps us cheer on our alma maters. He isn’t picky about who he roots for mainly cheering for teams because he likes their school colors or their mascot. He can get pretty upset—frustrated, angry and sad—when his team isn’t winning or loses altogether. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was a child. I try to comfort him and talk to him like my dad did with me. “Are you playing in the game?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Did you practice with the team?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Is there anything you can do to change what happens in the game?” “No,” he replies. Sometimes this line of questioning calms him down, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to see your child’s heart break. To know their dream might not come true, even if it’s only a game.

Most things are out of our control. As an individual that’s hard. As a parent it can feel even harder. We can only control how we respond to what happens.  I try to empathize with my son and see the game through his eyes—fantasy sprinkled with a dose of real life.   While I’m better equipped emotionally to handle my team losing, I still can’t bring myself to watch and entire game if its clear my team will lose. I’ll turn the channel or walk away. I know it’s only a game, but the pain that teeters in the loss is still too great.

Every time I see the famous Doug Flutie pass and victory over UM I’m reminded of the disappointment I once felt, though thankfully not as intensively as I did back then (the recent UPS ad is a killer to watch every time!).  Maybe it’s the childlike fantasy I still want to believe in, the hope that the dream will come true, even though I have know I have no control over it. I think back to what my dad said and take a deep breath. It’s only a game.