I wrote yesterday about my recent experience as a first time soccer mom. Today I’m excited to share with you my friend Sara’s thoughts about youth sports. Why listen to Sara? For starters, she’s my friend! I’ve known Sara since we were kids in school together. She was always tall and smart and kind. When other athletically gifted kids would make the less coordinated among us feel afraid to try (Who has two thumbs and always hated PE? This guy!—points thumbs at self), Sara was compassionate and had a teacher’s spirit. 20 years later, I still remember her kindness to me and it has made her my go-to person on all questions of sports as I raise kids who are much more athletically gifted than I ever was.
Along with those credentials, Sara Horn is the Head Volleyball Coach at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She just finished her third year at the helm. Prior to her experience at Morningside College, she was the head coach at Iowa Central Community College, the Varsity coach at Millard North high school, and the assistant coach at Wayne State College, where she earned her Master’s degree in Education, with an emphasis on Sport Management. Sara is also 2004 graduate of the University of Nebraska, where she was a three-year letterwinner for the Cornhuskers. Along with her professional and athletic achievements, Sara is also a wife and mom to three young kids.
Youth Sports: What it Should be and What it Should NOT Be.
To say that sports have played a large role in my life would be an understatement. Sport is not only my career, where I spend the majority of my time when I’m away from my family, but it’s also my hobby and my passion. As someone whose life is centered around athletics, I could write an entire novel about the pros of athletics in someone’s life. Athletics has taught me more than any other subject or person. I credit my parents for introducing me to sports, but I doubt they could possibly have known the profound effect athletics has had on me.
As my children are now starting to be involved in youth sports, I am so excited to show them the wonderful things that this industry can give you. But, like anything, there can be negative things associated with sports. There are good people and bad people anywhere you go. My goal is to do everything I can to show them all of the good, and protect them from the bad, not only in life, but in sports as well. I want to show them what sports should be. While also protecting them from what sports should not be.
My oldest child had his first experience with YMCA soccer this year. Having a naturally coordinated and speedy son, I knew this day would come, but not having much experience with sports myself, I wasn’t sure what it would be like from the parent perspective. So I wanted to share a couple things I learned not from a great deal of experience, but from the first time shock of being the parent in the stands. And I’d love for you to share your lessons with me, too!
I am not the coach. It is really hard not to yell stuff at your kid when you see them confused, or not paying attention, or (let’s be real here) laying down on the field for a minute. It was a conscious effort for Brian and me to sit back and let Josh’s coach handle any of those issues. Our job was to watch and cheer and be sure there were snacks, but nobody needed our screams of “Watch the BALL!” from the bleachers (and bless Josh’s heart, if his mom is yelling something he is going to look at her, which didn’t exactly help my cause of getting him to WATCH THE BALL). There was time for Dad to work on technique with Josh in the backyard, but during the game was the time for us to just be supportive.
But I AM still the mom. After just about any big play (positive of negative), Josh would look over at us. That was our moment to yell, “You’re doing great! Keep at it!” and give him a thumbs up. Children want their mother’s approval and that was an important moment to express my support of him even if he was struggling. And seeing his smile and his enthusiasm to keep going was entirely worth it.
If your family is anything like yours, car trips can be some of the most stressful moments of the day. And I don’t mean “car trips” like your six hour drive to your vacation location. I mean the simple trip to the grocery store, or school, or Grandma’s house. Somehow the fifteen minute trip to church can manage to make me want to pull my hair out. There are lots of ways to try and prevent the meltdowns that can happen in the car. Having a couple toys kids can bring in the car, trying different seating arrangements to find the most peaceful combination of kids sitting next to each other, or finding music or stories to play can all be ways to minimize the drive time chaos. But even with the best of planning, there will still be moments of craziness.
In our minivan, that chaos often erupts when two kids in the backseat start fighting. Here are actual examples:
“What Does the Fox Say”: a song aimed at preschoolers that somehow managed to go mainstream. Music in 2013, you are weird.
Things I learned when a bunch of my ladies descended on my house with a cleaning mission:
-In spite of my love of purging, we do have a stuffed animal problem. I swear they reproduce when I’m not looking.
-If you’re raising multiple little boys, put your most perfectionistic, OCD friend on bathroom cleaning duty.
-That awkward feeling of 9th grade PE locker room can be yours by letting a friend look at your hygiene products or your unmade bed.
-Great conversations happen while scrubbing peanut butter off of the underside of the kitchen table.
-A true friend says, “You know what would work in here? The dresser from my house. I’ll go get it and be right back.”
-5 children is the point when I decide not to say no to help. Ever.
My 7 year-old successfully rocked a fussy baby to sleep. I asked if he wanted me to take her, but he said, “Mom, I got this.” Those are the moments you realize there are more important indicators of how your child is doing in life than spelling test scores.
Once a month for nearly a year now I’ve been interviewed on My Bridge Radio by one of my favorite people in the world, Stan Parker. I love getting to share a mother’s perspective on various topics relating to prayer, but I was NOT looking forward to this particular interview. Stan wanted to talk about journaling—not one of my strengths. This was a fun way to turn the tables and ask him questions about why we should be journaling and what that looks like for the busy mom.
So, will I be journaling from here on out? Listen and you’ll hear.
A couple evenings ago I was starting to wonder why it seemed like every car that came down our street slowed down in front of our house. It seemed so odd. It all made a lot more sense when I realized my six year-old was in the front yard in a full Spiderman outfit practicing his superhero moves. Some days I just wish we could keep our family weirdness hidden a little better. Like when we go out to eat and The Baby finishes eating, yells for the dog and then throws the rest of his meal on the floor- exactly what he does at home.
“I could never be a foster parent. It’s great that you can do it, but I could never love a child and then give them up.”
This is truly the most common phrase any foster parent will hear (well, either that or “Hey, we need to change the visitation schedule for next week”). Through the years I have had varying responses to this phrase.
“Yeah, it’s tough. But it’s worth it.”
“Foster parenting isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure.”
“You know, it’s not like they just show up and you have to hand back the child. You do have some warning to prepare yourself.”
But now I just feel tired of this conversation. We are in the hard work of foster care. We are in the risk and the unknown and the sleepless nights. We have dug in strong with this precious bundle of child because we are in it for what’s best for her. When I hear “I could never love a child and give them up” what I really hear is “That baby isn’t worth loving.” That baby I’m snuggling and singing to and taking to doctor appointments and dressing for visits with her Mom just isn’t worth it to you. You might feel sad when she left or your kids might be confused or you’d be upset at a system that didn’t protect her. I get that. I really do. It is a hard job and the truth is, it doesn’t make sense for us to take it on. The risks of almost certain heartache and the costs to our family would never make sense if foster care were just a math equation or a list of pros and cons. While we have seen happy endings, we know that they are not the norm.
All parents have experienced this scenario (or one like it):
You come around the corner and see your child sitting in front of the pantry with chocolate on his face and candy wrappers around him. What’s the first thing you do?
“Honey, did you take some chocolate from the pantry?”
Why do we do this? We know exactly what happened, so why do we give them an opportunity to lie? I think we imagine we are giving them an opportunity to confess. That isn’t a bad thing, but it can come across as manipulative and make our kids feel like we’re trying to trick them. If we know, why did we ask them? Our kids have to wonder if we truly don’t understand or if we’re asking them to create a more acceptable story to keep them out of trouble.
I have to admit that most of my parenting wisdom has been gained by parenting kids from trauma. These kids may have more of a tendency to lie when caught or to persist in a lie even in the face of evidence. Maybe your kids always tell the truth when you catch them, but for those kids who struggle with honesty, I have found it to be helpful to take the option of lying off the table.
I get headaches. Bad ones. I know I have some triggers that make me more likely to have them and having a newborn in the house seems to set off several of those triggers (lack of sleep, not eating well, stress, holding my neck in a weird position for an extended period of time, etc.). So over the last three weeks I’ve had a number of pretty serious headaches. This baby is totally worth it, but it has lead to some rough moments as I try to meet everybody’s needs while feeling like a shadow of myself.
If you don’t experience headaches like this, feel blessed! I wouldn’t wish these on anyone. BUT they do provide great perspective adjustment for me.
When you’re having a headache, nothing is enjoyable. I would do anything to make the headache stop. And eventually, it does. When that happens, there is a bit of a high associated with it. I feel like I could do anything and all of the sudden the mundane or even downright icky parts of my life seem great! I’d rather pace the floor with a screaming baby while I don’t have a headache than go out for a fancy meal when I do. While I really do hate having headaches and in the midst of them it really feels like there’s nothing worse in the world, I do feel like they are a gift in how they allow me to enjoy and appreciate my life more when they’re gone.
This experience has made me think about my other moments of suffering.