Opting Out

It appears to be soccer season again. Or, so a lot of the pictures in my Facebook feed would have me believe. I’m wondering though. Does soccer season ever really end? It feels like it’s always soccer season. Just one never-ending loop of panic-registering after the deadline has already passed, figuring out where to go for practice, complaining about how far away the games are, finding missing shorts, trying on shin guards to see if they kind of, sort of still fit. Soccer appears to be a sport of perpetuity.

We only participated in approximately 1.5 seasons of soccer. Mostly because certain members of this family (Charlie. It was Charlie.) were lacking in effort.

Let us never forget the great soccer experiment of 2015

That year was the last time our clan tried on team sports. Sure, there was a little dabble with basketball here and the occasional talk about baseball there, but none of my children have been clamoring to engage in a team sport. None of them are out kicking around the soccer ball until I have to drag them in for dinner. I never find a kid absorbed in Youtube videos about pitching technique and stance. No one is tearing themselves away from Netflix to practice anything, really.

The closest I get to a kid being super into a sport is Millie’s current infatuation with gymnastics. I think she’s just in it for the sparkly leotards. Regardless, for the better part of this summer, Millie decided, instead of simply walking out of any room she happened to be in, she would somersault out of any room she happened to be in. Done with a bath? Somersault to her bedroom. Done with dinner? Somersault to the living room. Nighttime story read? Somersault to bed.

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So, outside of one (1) somersaulting five-year-old, there is zero (0) interest in team sports around here. Sometimes, I wonder if our kids are broken. Should they be more eager to do all of the things everyone else’s kids seem eager to do? Maybe we broke them. Should we be fostering more of a competitive team sports attitude? Because team sports are a big, big deal around these parts.

When I was in elementary school, I joined the “basketball team.” It was more of a “basketball club.” We met at the end of the school day, in the gym, and practiced for a bit and then scrimmaged for a bit. (Is “scrimmaged” the right word? I’m not sure. I’m not very sporty.) The whole thing was pretty low pressure. One time, during a scrimmage(?), I sort of ran – completely forgetting to dribble – with the basketball to the wrong end of the court to try to make a basket. Everyone was yelling at me to turn around but I did not hear or understand them. When I did finally grasp the error of my eagerness and excitedness, I was so embarrassed that I wanted to quit the team immediately. My parents were all, “Nope. You need to finish what you started. You need to honor your commitment.” It was shortly thereafter that I took up horseback riding.

In my day, elementary school was kind of the breeding ground to try on different sports to see what stuck. Then, those interests were fostered in middle school and then really ramped up in high school. That’s when I can remember my siblings playing on our high school’s tennis teams and my friends playing on the basketball, football and track teams. When I wasn’t horseback riding, I was on the National Honor Society Team (TOTALLY a thing. Probably. Somewhere).

But things are so different now. Kids start team sports at such a young age. There are tiny, tiny people playing all kinds of sports. I don’t even think Charlie would have been potty-trained if we had started him in soccer at the age some of his teammates began. And then, the longer we waited to jump on the team sports train, the wider the skill gap grew between my kids and the other kids. It’s hard to imagine my middle schooler starting a sport that his teammates have been playing for seven or eight years already. Now, I’m too scared for my kids to try a team sport. They will TOTALLY run the basketball to the wrong goal.

There’s also all of the logistics to manage of kids involved in heavy extracurriculars. It took us a full season just to recover from that last soccer season. There was so much running around and eating in the car and stressing over homework completion. All that effort and frenetic energy just didn’t feel worth it when my kids were all, “Soccer is okay, I guess,” at the end of the day. It’s like they’re just simply tolerating the activities. Amusing us. I have friends and family whose children are unbelievably passionate about their sport. One friend’s daughter is a very talented gymnast. My nieces and nephews are all phenomenal at volleyball and softball and baseball and tennis. My brother’s daughter – who is THIRTEEN – spent her summer in New York City practicing ballet. That is some next-level commitment. She’s amazing! If even ONE of my children were to get super psyched about a sport, I would most likely indulge their interest but my kids seem perfectly content playing Minecraft or building with Lego or reading their favorite books or just hanging out at home. Everyone loves to just… be. I mean, Charlie comes home from school and immediately changes into his pajamas. At three o’clock in the afternoon. It will not surprise you that this is a point of pride for me.

Maybe this really is all my fault.

I think we’ve landed on being a non-team team sports family. Which, for us, means fostering skills and interests that are less organized but could turn into something later, maybe? Possibly when the kids are old enough to drive themselves to their own activities and we’ve aged out of team snacks? I want my kids to be sporty but without all of the commitment.

So, we basically have our own on-site rifle and archery range here at the house. Nary a weekend goes by that there aren’t arrows being lobbed (mostly) in the direction of a target around here. Charlie has become quite a sharp shooter with his BB gun. Bob started skiing with the boys this past year which Henry really took a liking to. This year Millie gets added to the mix and if you don’t think she will absolutely shred those slopes on a snowboard well, you’ve underestimated the most able of our pack. The Appalachian Trail runs along the mountain ridge behind our house so we also spend a fair amount of time hiking with the kids. Bob drags them on bike rides. The pond across the street is stocked for fishing. They spent all summer in the pool and have become adept swimmers. And, in a sunrise/sunset moment Charlie took his first horseback-riding lessons this summer at a neighbor’s farm.

We do stuff but it’s not necessarily what everyone else is doing and sometimes that knowledge makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong.

I think my greatest hope is that my kids find a passion for something. I want them to be able to pursue an activity or sport that really holds their interest. I would be happy to facilitate that but I don’t think we’re there yet. Perhaps I should go and find a gymnastics class for my somersaulting panda.

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Off They Go

School has begun around these parts.

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As part of our back-to-school prep work, Bob and I took the boys to a sporting goods store to buy them much-needed new sneakers. We found a pair pretty quickly for Charlie but finding anything for Henry was proving problematic. Nothing seemed to fit. After searching through several areas of the children’s section, Bob finally looked up at me and said, “There’s nothing here past a youth 7. What comes after a youth 7?” I thought for a minute, audibly gasped, and replied, “Hot ham. I think it’s men’s sizes.”

MEN’S SIZES. Henry wears the sizes of men. When the kind sporting goods store employee walked over and asked if he could help us find anything, I yelled, “MY LITTLE BABY BOY. HAVE YOU SEEN HIM? ABOUT YAY HIGH. HE LIKES DUMPTRUCKS. HE IS NOT HERE. I CANNOT FIND HIM. WHAT HAS HAPPENED?” No, I didn’t actually say that even though I was screaming it internally. Instead I said, “Hey, we were totally unprepared to spend $150.00 on men’s sneakers for our 11-year-old. What do you have in a men’s size 8 that does not cost so many dollars.” We eventually found a pair that worked for everyone in the ADULT SECTION of the shoe department and now I trip on a giant pair of shoes whenever I walk in the front door and it’s like a fully-formed grown-up lives with us now instead of a newly minted sixth grader.

Middle school is a whole new world but Henry is game.

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Charlie. Oh, Charlie. Always disappointed that school is a thing that continues to exist. Our good buddy spent a portion of his summer with a tutor helping him improve his reading and math skills. Although his tutor was complimentary of his behavior, I pretty much surmised that Charlie was merely tolerating this exercise in summer schooling.

Charlie also spent a portion of the summer at his elementary school being tested by an amazing team of specialists that are determined to figure out how Charlie learns best. I am easily overcome with emotion (not really a challenge for me, ever) when thinking about the road we’ve taken to get to this point with Charlie. His endless frustration with certain concepts, the tears shed over – and sometimes directly on – his homework, the crestfallen look on his face when he would wake up in the morning and I had to tell him, “Yep, it’s a school day, bud.” I am hoping all of these things – understanding, abilities, attitude – improve dramatically in third grade. With the school switch we made this past spring, he is finally in a place with the resources to help him. I’m so hopeful they can find the key that makes everything click for Charlie.

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Like a prisoner in solitary, Millie has been notching marks in her bedroom walls, counting down the days until we let her out of this hellhole and send her for some formal education.

Millie’s enthusiasm for kindergarten knows no bounds. She arrives home with stories of the friends she is making, the kids that misbehaved on the bus, stacks of be-stickered worksheets to proudly hang on the refrigerator, and an eagerness to do homework that she does not actually have. Unfortunately for Millie, they do not assign homework in kindergarten and this has not sat well with the child that has patiently waited two years for homework. So, we just kind of make things up or Millie finds an old workbook to write in and we all pretend that, yes, my goodness, she has so much homework to do!

She is having a delightful time and that makes me so very happy.

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A Brief Visual History of Bob’s Trip to the Grocery Store

This one time, in early 2004, as an unusually strong winter storm threatened high snow accumulation throughout the D.C. metro area, I sent Bob to the grocery store. We needed to procure supplies in case we were stranded by weather. Bob was gone for a good bit, stuck in long lines, but eventually returned with frozen turkey meatballs and one (1) container of Gatorade. That was it. Nothing else. Just the turkey meatballs and the Gatorade.

I haven’t sent Bob to the grocery store since.

Now, for a ridiculous number of reasons, the past few weeks around our house have been absolutely frenetic. There have just simply not been enough hours in the day and more than a few times I have bemoaned the lack of even a hot second to sit down. So, when Bob asked me, while I was headed out the door to work – AGAIN – this past weekend, if I wanted him to do the grocery shopping, I immediately thought to myself, “No. No, I do not want him to do the grocery shopping. Ever.” But, I’m really exhausted, see? So, what I actually said was, “That would be great. That would be so great.”

Friends, it was totally not great.IMG_0862Despite decades of successful half and half use, for inexplicable reasons, Bob brought home dairy free coconut milk creamer. To no one’s surprise (but Bob’s – Bob was surprised), this dairy free coconut milk creamer was absolutely awful and Bob had to start completely over with another cup of coffee. When I asked him why in the world he purchased it to begin with he said he had, “read an article that said that cow’s milk will kill ‘ya.”

IMG_0861I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the fact that Bob shopped with the kids played a role in this ill-advised purchase. Also, and as an aside, chocolate does not improve this product in any way, General Mills. Even the kids reluctantly agreed.

IMG_0864Despite being fully aware of my lifetime of hate directed towards food makers that automatically combine cinnamon with raisins (WHY ARE THEY CONSIDERED SO INSEPARABLE), Bob purchased cinnamon raisin bread. What Bob did not buy: regular bread. Of any kind. None bread. But! He bought deli turkey so insert that one “confused face” emoji here.

IMG_0868There are 18 fish sticks in this package. Eighteen tiny fish sticks for a family of five. Go ahead and do the math on that.

IMG_0866I know what you’re thinking! This might make up for the fish sticks only… Bob didn’t buy any hot dog buns. Again, just the hot dogs. No buns.

IMG_0863I would never in a million years buy this mostly because I will just eat the cookie dough right from the package and do not even pretend that you are better than me because you would do the exact same thing. “DO NOT CONSUME RAW COOKIE DOUGH” Don’t tell me how to live my life, Nestle.

IMG_0867I mean, WHAT EVEN. Who buys Neapolitan ice cream? There are three flavors in this package and only one is going to get consumed. The only thing remaining between vanilla and strawberry will be the echo of regret. Incredulous, I picked this up from the freezer, looked at Bob and asked, “What is this, 1972?” He basically agreed that the last time he had had Neapolitan ice cream was when his mom had bought it for him.

IMG_0869An inexplicably large number of fresh lemons. Like, this is only a representative sample of the amount of lemons he purchased. So, sure. Why not.

What Bob did not buy at the grocery store that we actually needed: milk, REAL half and half, aforementioned bread products, cereal fit for consumption by anyone three years of age or older, orange juice, peanut butter, chips or crackers, pasta, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, cheese, glorious cheese. But, there’s no need to worry. I went grocery shopping at 8:00 last night after doing all of the other things so that was super convenient.

Want to come over for strawberry ice cream? Maybe some lemonade? Can I interest you in a single fish stick?