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.

giphy-6

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.

Advertisements

Off They Go

School has begun around these parts.

IMG_0982

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.

IMG_1021

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.

IMG_0984

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.

IMG_1016

DI-Why

When Charlie was just a few months old, he came down with a nasty virus. He was in daycare at the time and our child care center seemed to always be ground zero for the really awful illnesses that my kids caught with such ease. I took time off from work to care for our sweet little Charlie at home and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I knew we had to take him to the emergency room. I had been hanging clean laundry up in my closet and when I finished and reached down to pick Charlie up from the bed, he was stiff. His whole body. He was so little at the time and so new-baby malleable that to pick him up and feel his muscles so rigid was alarming. I knew he was really ill.

Bob and I ended up spending the majority of that afternoon and evening in our local hospital’s ER. Charlie was officially diagnosed with a “virus of unknown origin” meaning, the hospital didn’t know what he had, admitted there was really no good way to figure it out, but acknowledged that it was absolutely making him miserable. It was just something that we had to wait out. They wanted us to remain in the ER so they could hydrate Charlie and monitor him closely for a few hours before discharging him. With a compassionate shrug, the doctors and nurses left us on our own to sit and wait and watch. Our fears placated, Bob and I settled in to spend a few hours staring intently at Charlie.

Now, it should be noted that our local hospital at the time was more urban, less spacious and a bit more bare bones than the hospital we utilize now. The ER in the town closest to where we currently live has private rooms, individual television sets, a staff eager to accommodate and valet parking. The ER we took Charlie to that night had a long wait time, a maxed-out staff, absolutely no snacks, and the only thing separating us from the next patient on a stretcher was a thin curtain and about four feet. I’m certainly not complaining because I didn’t even know ERs came in fancier versions until we moved from the city but still, if we were able to even snag an extra blanket from a nurse that night, it certainly didn’t come all toasty warm from one of those giant blanket ovens our current hospital uses.

Sitting with a sleeping four-month-old and a lack of sufficient snacks left us with nothing to do but eavesdrop on the medical emergencies of those around us. It was fascinating. Directly next to us, on the other side of the curtain, was an intoxicated man who was handcuffed to his gurney and guarded by a sheriff’s deputy. He talked loudly for probably a solid hour about assorted topics before falling asleep and, thus, falling quiet. We heard other random snippets hear and there of bumps and bruises and broken bones but eventually, as evening settled in and the bustling quieted down, both Bob and I started listening intently to a husband and wife that were seeking treatment across the aisle from us.

It turned out, the wife was in the emergency room because she had been experiencing chest pains. It actually seemed quite serious from the tone of the doctor’s voice. The doctor was still unsure of what type of cardiac event she had experienced but he began reviewing with the couple the results of some preliminary testing and explaining to them some additional tests he would like to run before admitting the wife overnight for observation. It was at this point that the couple began to protest. They were concerned about how long all of this was going to take and seemed distressed about the necessity of spending an entire night in the hospital. Bob and I, unabashedly, leaned in for a closer listen.

“You see,” the husband began to explain to the doctor, “we have dinner reservations.”

It was at this point that Bob and I looked at each other with saucer-like eyes and tried not to laugh. Dismissing a possible heart attack in favor of keeping hard-to-get dinner reservations was just the MOST Northern Virginia thing one could do. I mean, I can appreciate a great meal, too, but I wouldn’t risk betting the sommelier knows how to use a defibulator. The ER doctor said about the same.

The conversation quickly escalated between the ER doctor and the husband and wife. Eventually, as the doctor was explaining the “against medical advice” discharge paperwork that would need to be completed before they could leave, the husband looked at the doctor and asked, “So, tell me, what’s worst case scenario here?”

Without missing a beat, the doctor looked at the husband wearily and said, “SIR, your wife could DIE.”

A few minutes later, the husband and his possibly-having-a-heart-attack wife were on their way to dinner to, presumably, eat mussels or foie gras or something like that. Shortly afterwards, Bob and Charlie and I headed home to rest up, recuperate and probably eat some Goldfish crackers.

IMG_1971

Ever since that fateful emergency room visit, Bob and I have used the Worst Case Scenario query to address some of our toughest life decisions.

Should we move the entire family to Richmond? What’s the worst case scenario?

Are you up for having a third baby? What’s worst case scenario?

Is it possible to still buy a waterbed? What would be the worst case scenario?

Maybe we should get that odd rash on the middle kid looked at? What’s the worst case scenario?

Does this egg salad smell weird to you? Worst case scenario?

It’s actually a highly effective tool in distilling a problem or issue down to it’s possible outcomes. If the answer is anything other than one of us dying, we typically proceed.

All this to explain that Bob and I are thinking of renovating our kitchen ourselves. I mean, what’s the worst case scenario here?