The Obtuse Magic of the Right Fielder

Okay. We have all been there. Our six and seven year olds are  either good athletes or they are more like blind botanists pulling weeds from the grass than they are a ballplayer. A child who would gladly volunteer his “cup” to provide water to the flowers he is collecting rather than whatever that uncomfortable thing it is doing anyway. Every team has one . And I can’t speak to to the collective history of the right fielder, whether they start loving sports and move to the infield, go up in the batting order, or in our case, just became more proficient at picking flowers, bugs, dirt, anything that wasn’t a baseball.

What to do? For a while they made him goalie on the soccer team, not because of skill, but because he didn’t like to run.

Those games were PAINFUL to watch. Not because we were embarassed (or not only because we were embarrassed) but because he looked so unhappy.

Most of my best mothering is reactive, I mean in hindsight. This son didn’t have the words to give me a two hour discourse on why he prefer being on a stage. I don’t think he could have articulated what would have made him happy because he hadn’t experienced it yet.

So I had a problem. I had two younger kids who loved sports and one child who mildly acquiesced to them but showed to real interest.

What’s a mother to do? It wasn’t a skill problem. My son didn’t care about getting better and beside, how good do you have to be at six? But it was effecting him adversely, no one wanted to pick him for teams, it was torture to see his little face so unhappy on a beautiful day beneath baby blue skies.

And that’s when I turned into Detective Perot. I started watching him, not merely making sure he brushed his teeth, got dressed, changed underwear but really started noticing what made him smile.

The answer arrived in Kindergarten. With outfits more elaborate than some seen on Broadway, our kindergarten curriculum put on a lot of shows. He wasn’t subtle. He was the kid standing a foot closer to the audience even thought they were supposed to be in straight lines. He was the kid who knew all the words to the song as well as the hand movements, and probably the composer too. And you could hear his voice soaring over 29 other kids because he had been told that singing loudly was synonymous with singing well.

I sat back in absolute wonder. He was an artist. A performer. He wasn’t not interested in sports, he was extremely interested in the arts.

From that point on life got better. Not just for him, although he bloomed a little bit bigger with every program we found, but for us. To have this child be driven by something foreign to his parents turned into one of family’s best blessings.

Because of him, we have been to Broadway, because of him, his middle brother who hurt his back is in school plays, because of him we have the most eclectic, wonderful musical library the world could imagine. And as he got confident in these little ways, he became more confident in big ways. Acting is communication and it is hardly any surprise now that he is a gifted writer. And that confidence of knowing who you are and becoming better and better at it is a gift he gives himself and us everyday.

So be careful if you have a Right Fielder, he might be the next great thing!

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Courage? What Does That Look Like For A Parent

Over the holidays we watched Lord of the Rings. The movie itself is beyond the scope of my blog, but it did get me thinking about courage.After all, if a Hobbit can save the Middle Earth, can we courageous enough to be parents?

I would have answered this question so differently when my children were newborns. Back when my baby was the cutest thing on earth, the most clever child to pick up a Cheerio, when I cooed and swooned over their every smile, even though some of them were invariably due to gas or pooping, I would have had such a different answer than I do now. I’m not sure I had any inkling how much courage parenting took, and I’m not even talking about the real heroes who raise children with disabilities and sicknesses, I’m talking about the average Joe.

Which kind of brings me back to the point. I was kind of thinking that the most courageous thing I could do as a parent would be to prepare my child to be extraordinarily loved, but to know that he/she would probably turn out average. Average. The word seems to be an anathema in todays world of “select teams,” and honors classes. But if we are really honest with ourselves, aren’t we all mostly average. Sure we have quirky things that distinguish us, but at the end of the day, don’t we all mostly just want to be loved and have someone to love? Are all those shiny trophies and medals really as important as being nice, honest and ernest?

I don’t think so. But it takes tremendous courage to judge your kid, not on his outcome, but his effort, compassion, interest.

Can you imagine a world where getting an A was less important than being a good person? How many more things could we notice if we weren’t hoping for A’s and staring roles in plays? If kids felt supported for being their best self do you think there’d be as many school shootings?

I don’t think we are all equal. Average is not equal. We all excel somewhere but I have to say, at the end of the day, if we honestly summed and averaged our components, we would probably fall closer to our neighbor than further away.

But it takes tremendous courage to walk that line. To support your child and to want them to work hard, but to care more about the process of what they are doing, how they choose it, what they feel about it, than it does to put up an A paper on the refrigerator.

I’m sick of refrigerators. They’re cold and those papers always blow away anyway. I’m not always courageous, I fall into the seduction of success as readily as the next person, but I’m trying. I put those magnets in the drawer and started looking at what my kids are doing instead of how well they were doing it and these are some of the things I found.

They are good. They are nice. They make mistakes. They correct them if they can. They are funny. They have interesting opinions. And none of this means they will go to Harvard. But it doesn’t matter, because I am allowing them to just be people, their own average self, and all the while I will love them extraordinarily.

Divorce, Why Gray Is The New Black

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The baby boomers have exploded, and their marriages are the first casualty.  Divorce rates among people older than fifty have risen to one in four, a rate that has doubled in the last two decades.

These aren’t the one dimensional, commercial interrupted Kim Kardashians and Bachelor, Bachelorette, marriages either.  On the surface these people have made it.  They have stayed together to raise their children, and they have likely gone through some other traumas too including loss of a parent, job or change in health status.

Why are they baling now, when the kids are out of the house, they’re close to retiring and the have plenty of time for each other?

The WSJ reports that it’s a result of the “Me” generation.  Individuals who married expecting to be happy instead of expecting to stay married.  Researchers in white coats are investigating why this marriage ending cancer has infiltrated middle age American marriages, but before we complacently accept this statistic into our already lowered collective conscious, let’s do our own research.

A simple trip to any neighborhood restaurant, a walk around your manicured block, might reveal more than the article in the WSJ.  What’s missing from these pictures is the presence of these gray haired couples.  They forgot how to be together somewhere on the way to soccer, or piano  lessons or during the business of parenting, holding down a job and running a household.

It’s not a simple lesion to fix.  Once you get out of the habit of being together, the natural resolution is to be apart.

But it didn’t have to be that way.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  The couples in the WSJ weren’t abusive, malevolent or fiscally irresponsible.  They were unsatisfied.

In a society where an answer to a question is determined by the speed of your internet connection, where TV guide is obsolete because you can watch hand picked programs on your computer, satisfaction has become a tricky word.

We may have become a society of emotional masturbators, happy to satisfy ourselves alone or quickly rather than to patiently explore the constant reinviting, of another person into our pleasure.

I have no doubt that at fifty plus, after 10-15 years of emotional dissatisfaction these couples are done.  I just wondered what could have happened if 10-15 years ago they were able to turn to each other instead of turning away.

Being with someone is not as easy as falling in love on a reality TV show, or sparkly Disney movie, it’s a constant, daily commitment to invite someone to your table.  Someone with their own agenda’s likes and dislikes.

So tonight.  When your kids are about to slip away into the dark realm of their internet worlds, stop them.  Make them talk to you.  Talk to them.  Talk to your spouse.  Engage them.  Teach them to engage.  Teach them that the compromise required in vital relationships reap much more than you ever give up.

Who knows?  You may just be saving your own marriage.