Archive for March, 2012

Racing To Conclusions

Posted on March 26, 2012. Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

My 6th grade son wants to play soccer for his school.  I want him to do track instead.  Our school recruited this amazing coach who was a US runner in the Beijing Olympics, who is super serious and teaches the technicalities of his sport and events.  While I don’t want to dictate, I think my son would benefit far more from his teachings than our more run-of-the-mill staff coaches who are catch-alls for boys soccer, girls volleyball, baseball, basketball, etc.  What should I do?

One Track Mind

Dear One Track,

My first thought was, WOW, your school landed a US Olympian?!?  That’s huge!  I wish my kids had access to someone of that caliber, you go girl!  Toss that “soccer mom” title to the side and make sure your son is on the right track!  Then, I had a second thought…

I must admit, I’m not a fan of running — at all!  In fact, the only time I run is when I’m being chased or there’s a shoe sale, so I am not the best person in the world to opine on the topic of track.  I just don’t get runners.  Honestly, when I see folks sprinting down my street, especially on cold, rainy mornings, I have this urge to stop and ask if they need a ride.

I’ve asked several of my friends who run for pleasure (if you can imagine) why they do it and they all answer the same: “because I love it”.   I believe them, otherwise, why would anyone do it?  Now a brisk walk, or even a decent stride, I can get my mind around, but running, I’m just not interested.

In my entire life, I’ve only run into one runner who admitted she’s not really a fan, but kept pounding the pavement anyway.  It’s one of our daughters buddies who joined the cross-country team, yes, the cross-country team (I won’t even drive across the country, let alone run it)!  When I asked her why she took up such a dreadful activity, she said it’s because she needed to put a sport on her college application.  CC was the only sport that didn’t require any skill, other than running, and the ability to deal with being bored for hours on end.

So unless you love it or want to use it as a tool to get into college, why would anyone on Gods green earth do it, right?  Okay, so I’m being overly dramatic, but I hope I’m making my point:  It’s hard to make someone do something they aren’t interested in.

These days I think we force kids to do things we want them to do way more than our parents did.  We take the notion that “mother knows best” to an entirely different level.   Hey, most of the time we do know what the better, in this case, track is, but not all of the time.

You’re clearly a good mom and have nothing but the best intentions for your child.  You want to make sure he has the best access to the most amazing teachers, coaches, etc.  However, trying to make your child play a sport they aren’t  jazzed about is like trying to make a cake in an Easy-Bake Oven – it’s just won’t work.  Even if you could fit the 9” pan in the small toy range, it’s impossible to really cook it with a 60 watt light bulb!

To be good at any sport, you need to be engaged, somewhat coordinated, and hope that your DNA matches up with your desired sport.

For example, let’s say you love playing basketball and that you are lucky enough to have the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson, as your coach…if you’re a 5’ 8” white guy, you’re still not making it to the NBA.

So I’m not sure an Olympic track coach can do much for a kid who wishes they were on the grass bending it like Beckham, instead of trying to chase Bruce Jenner’s records.  Sure, he may learn some fancy techniques, but if his heart isn’t in it, there’s not a lot of fun in being the most skilled 10th place runner, right?  I mean, what color is that ribbon anyway, Magenta?

Here’s the thing, at the end of the day, I just don’t believe it really matters what any of us played in school.  No one has ever called to see if I was interested in a game of volleyball, nor has anyone asked my husband, Scooter, if he’d be interested in discussing a business deal over a game of hockey.  See what I’m saying?

Here’s something else to mull over: the odds of your child becoming a professional athlete of any kind is 22,000 to 1.  In my opinion, the odds of him turning pro at something he can’t stand – zero.

Even if your child digs his sport, he still has a better chance of winning an Academy Award than they he does at making it to the cover of a Wheaties box.  I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be with my son on the red carpet, rather than sitting in the hot, blistering sun watching him run around a track in an outfit which looks like it was inspired by Richard Simmons.

Ask yourself, what is the end goal?  To have your son hopefully end up in the Olympics, perhaps even win a gold medal?  Or to enjoy a sport and learn the meaning of being part of a team?

Maybe it just sounds good to say your son is being instructed by a real champion, but honestly, that and 3 bucks will get you a tall latte at Starbucks.  No one cares, and if they do, you don’t want to be friends with them.

I get that being in the presence of an Olympian at the age of 12 can be considered rarefied air, but for your son, being forced to run track instead of what he’s interested in may cause him to feel like his oxygen supply has been completely cutoff.

I vote for soccer – which by they way, I can’t stand either, but I’ll save that for another column.

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Gay-O-Meter Mama

Posted on March 12, 2012. Filed under: Couples, Family, Parenting, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

Last weekend, my teenage daughter had a sleepover with a friend.  At the sleepover, the other girls mother told my daughter that her boyfriend was going to dump her because he is really gay.  Imagine how shocked my daughter was to hear that!  She then asked the mom how she knew and she said it’s because she has a “Gay-o-meter”.  It’s important to note that my daughters boyfriend turned down that friends invitation to a dance before he started dating my daughter.  So, the fact that my daughters boyfriend decided not to pursue her daughter, must mean he’s gay.  I don’t know whether to say something to the mom, or just let it go.  Geez!  This mother is worse than any “stage mom”. 

Mad as a hornet mother

Dear Mad Mother,

Whoa, Nelly!  This gal certainly gives new meaning to mother’s intuition!  Doesn’t it just take you straight (no pun intended) back to high school yourself?  It’s pretty clear this poor gal hasn’t left her pom-pons and Aussie Sprunch Spray in the decade they belong!

Sister, she’s carrying so much baggage from her teenage years you almost want to ask if she’s still using a boom box to play her mixed tape, which I’m sure includes the single Careless Whisper from Wham!  Unfortunately, she’s nailed the careless part all right.

Sounds like this mom is trying to make up for her own short comings.  I’m guessing she wasn’t super popular when she was a teenager, and is clearly still struggling with that now.  Only someone starving for attention would open their mouth and make such an alarming comment.  Can you imagine how much pain it takes for a person to get to the point?  Talking badly about someone else’s child to make themselves feel better?   And to also use their own child to try to right perceived wrongs?

She’s what I classify as a hater.  Haters are everywhere and she happens to be one of them.  You know the type – they’re never happy for anyone else’s success, they believe if someone is more attractive than they are, they must be dumb and if they’re rich, they must be mean, awful people.  Dealing with a hater is hard.  In fact, it’s my policy to stay as far away from them as possible — mainly because I’m afraid the bad vibe they give off will cause them to spontaneously combust!   There’s so much negativity and jealously swirling around in them, it makes you wonder how they find time to manage their daily lives.  Clearly, as in this chicks case, she isn’t doing that very well as demonstrated by her current target: teenagers.

Since it doesn’t sound like you’re ever going to want to be friends with this gal, unless she undergoes some sort of hypnotic transformation, then I say you should have a simple conversation with her about the incident.  You have nothing to lose, but will feel better know you did something.  By the way, I’m referring to it as an incident, a police term, because to me, it’s criminal what she said to your daughter!

Despite the fact she’s given you plenty of ingredients to add to the pot she’s already stirring, I’d avoid discussing either of your girls or the boyfriend, just keep it to the most disturbing part – the gay-o-meter statement.

Keep it basic, let her know you’re trying to raise an open-minded teen and would rather not have someone discussing sexual orientation of any kind, gay, straight or otherwise.

We all know there’s no scientific proof anyone actual has a gay-o-meter so I think you’d be wasting your breath by trying to prove that one way or another, so try not to get caught up in the verbiage, but rather focus on the overall implied meaning.  That way you’re not accusing her of being a liar.  Side note: you never really want to call someone a liar, even if they are, because once you do, they shut down all listening mechanisms and the conversation/argument takes a different focus and gets off track.

The reason I suggest talking to her at all, is that I think you need to let her know this isn’t cool, not only for your daughter, but for anyone else she comes in contact with AND for the boy in question — bless his heart!  He’s done nothing to deserve this attention and I feel for him.

Whether her statement is fact or fiction, this is a form of bullying.  Making any comment (positive or otherwise) about someone’s sexuality, unless they’ve been on the cover of People magazine reveling their sex change, is not okay, it’s downright cruel.

Make sure you tell your daughter to tread lightly with this friend.  I’m not saying the friend is like her mom, but the gal certainly has imbedded herself in her daughters dating life to a disturbing degree.  If you allow her to have any contact with this other mother, keep a close eye on it.  This woman has her sights set on anyone who she perceives to be better than she is…honestly, at this point, it seems that would be pretty much anyone.

ps. Don’t expect to make serious headway with this chick, at this age she’s pretty set in her ways.  The goal here is to let her know that at least one other person has been offended by her off the cuff comments.  Might I add, Lord help her husband!

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Rugrat Resume Rhetoric

Posted on March 6, 2012. Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

I can hardly believe that I’m being counseled to create a resume for my kids while they’re still in elementary and middle school!  I think I wrote my first resume my senior year in college.  Those who’ve walked in my shoes tell me that kids need to be competitive from a very early age if they’re going to get into a good high school.  My question is, what extra-curricular activities can young kids do to fill a resume?  Should I be worried my kids aren’t standout stars at school?

Ignorance was bliss

Dear Bliss-less,

Way back in the colonial period when I went to high school, all you had to do was show up.  We only had one option in my small town, so there wasn’t any discussion and certainly no resumes!  Thank the Lord, as I’m not sure what school I would have landed given my only two skills: fire baton twirling and clogging.  Can you imagine the medical releases my mom, Norma Jean, would have had to sign off on those?

So I was as surprised as you are sister when our oldest, Betsy, hit middle school and folks started talking about “resume building”!  What resume?  What building?  At that point she couldn’t even load the dishwasher without guidance, what in the world could she possibly put on a piece of paper that would make her stand out at age 11?   I quickly realized I’d have to harken back to my creative writing class days to turn her limited abilities into talents.

Betsy’s hair styling became: “has an eye for details and exhibits extreme patience on long format projects”.  At the time she had a MySpace account, which was quickly turned into: “creative director of child friendly web page”.  And my personal best — begging for the latest pair of designer jeans translated to: “has strong negotiating skills and shows promise as a litigator”.

During this ridiculous exercise, I started wondering…how many other parents are feeling the way I feel?  Is it possible I have the only child who hasn’t saved all of her allowance in order to buy pet food for the local animal shelter?  Had I missed my mark as a mother by letting my daughter blow her hard-earned cash on candy and music CD’s?

Putting my years of watching Magnum PI  to work, I started sniffing around other parents to see what “talents” they were listing for their children.  Cocktail parties offered the best bragging opportunity, where it was common to hear the following:  “my child is a concert pianist”, “my kid speaks 3 languages”, “my daughter started her own clothing line and is donating all the funds to the children of Africa”.

I think my favorite was the parent who was hanging their hat on their son’s bagpipe playing proficiency!  Talk about hot air!  Really?  You’ve been making your child play the bagpipes???  A skill that’s only utilized in our society for funerals and Scottish weddings?  Good gravy!

Had I really been that remise as a parent?  Not focusing every waking moment on some random craft that would somehow, someday get Betsy into a high school somewhere that would lead her to an ivy league college?  That’s when I decided to just be blatantly honest with the other parents about who my child was.  A novel concept these days, I know!

I remember the first time I told someone if NASA was recruiting based on MySpace pages alone, Bets would be their first call. Although I had braced for a backlash, the other parent laughed out loud and admitted they were in the same boat!  A boat that was apparently on a course to nowhere – with no life vests, just a dingy for a mom.  After all, that was what other mothers and fathers had led us to believe.

Despite their best efforts to look like their child was on course and they were at the helm of their kids ship, I quickly started learning that most parents were lying about their child’s actual GPS location.

Here’s the reality, the majority of moms and dads in this country are just like you and me.  Instead of a ship, we’re in rowboats.  Nonetheless, we are doing the best we can sailing those small vessels trying to keep our sons/daughters on track.  Why isn’t that enough?  Why is there this ridiculous pressure to make our kids row harder and grow up faster?

Once I was honest about where Betsy really was in life —  a normal  tweener, others started being candid back.  That’s when I learned, there were more parents like me than the piano playing, bagpipe blowhards that had been commanding all the attention at these get-togethers.

With that said, unfortunately, in this day and age, your child does need some type of resume, but it’s not the kind you and I have to submit for a job.  Think of it as tool, versus an actual resume on linen paper.

Here’s why: most of these high schools will ask for recommendation letters – when you ask your friends or one of your childs teachers to write one, 9 times out of 10 they will ask for a bio on your child.  This is to help them draft an informative letter, basically, the more they know about your kid, the better the letter will be.

The goal is to make your child look like they care and are an active participant at his or her school, not valedictorian…we all know, there can only be 1 of those, so don’t worry.

Schedule a meeting with either the principal or school counselor and ask them what the different schools are looking for, it’s their job to know.  Get their advice on what schools they think your child would do well at.  They can also give you some great tips on how their resume should be crafted.

Anyone who tells you your child must be a rock star or bagpiper, as the case may be, to get into high school is uninformed and unrealistic.  Keep in mind, these private high schools are a business at the end of the day and need you as much as you need them.  They need your money to keep the doors open and to keep donations from alumni coming in.  I truly believe schools are always looking for good kids, not perfect kids.

Take a deep breath, you’re child is going to be fine.  You are a parent who cares, which is truly half the battle.

Ps.  If you need financial aid, they can help you with that information as well.  Most all private schools offer some sort of scholarship to students who can’t afford tuition, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask.

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