This soccer mom has retired her cleats

Although this post is a little less ‘therapist’ and more ‘mom’ than normal, I write with both hats as I know many of my clients who have been on a baseball field, pool bleacher or dance theater and can definitely relate to the sentiments presented.

Grab your cleats, water bottle, shin guards and GET IN THE CAR…the words of every soccer mom.

Week after week, practice and dinner, dinner and practice and then weekend games.  Home or Away? House or Travel League? Win or Lose?

The soccer moms were my lifeline “can you drive him, I have a client ?” .  “We are out of town, can he stay with you for that game?”   “I got this practice, can you get tomorrow?”.

We spent hours on bleachers together; the soccer moms (and dads).  Freezing our tails off and burning into lobsters – soccer has no regard for the weather, if the fields are  open they are playing.

So many different teams; the three-year-old clinics, the house league made up of kids from the elementary school, the All Star team and the merging of house teams to make a travel team.  Each season new faces; new players bringing with them new parents.

The parents became my friends.  I spent more time with them than with my dearest  girlfriends.  It was so very seasonal; we’d be in each other’s faces all  Fall until the break before a short indoor Winter season and then Spring season started up again.   We rarely spoke to one another off season, but there were always warm greetings and hugs  at the beginning of a new game rotation.

Tournaments, oh the tournaments. Up at o’dark thirty to drive hours to a field in nowheresville.  Myself, another mom and four boys in my van.  It was always sweeter heading out than the return trip with the sweaty socks and smelly boys on their phones in the back.    We’ve had team meals all over Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, gathered in many a hotel lobby for pizza and once, even washed the uniforms in the hotel laundry room.  And, never was a weekend so much fun and connecting than the exhausting cold (and/or hot) tournament weekends.

Constant  laughter filled the parent cheering section.  We rooted for each other’s kids and cringed together when one of our players missed a crucial shot.  At every (and their were many) injury, all the moms pooled their Advil and ice in the spirit of healing.  On the sidelines we talked about books and vacation spots, we compared notes about our growing kids and tried to get the scoop on our own kid from a more-knowing mom.

We always had a season end party;  often at my house which was a lot of fun.   Fourteen sweaty boys in my basement playing X-box and a bunch of parents celebrating another good season of soccer and teamwork.

With the start of each season  we would lose a player or two. They moved, switched schools or went to another team.  For me, it was  sad.  I missed the kid and I missed the mom, my friend.  I would bump into her at the grocery store, we hugged, caught up and moved on to our shopping list.  Where was the bond? Was it a real friendship? All those texts between games, the laughter in our soccer chairs with the sun beating on our faces, it was so genuine at the moment and then our kids took us to different fields and new parent groups.

I could always count on the next season bringing another new kid with new parents.  New friends.  More car pool combinations.   More tournaments and laughter.

Last year there was a shift.  High school made for more options: Cross Country team, track, swimming and basketball.  The kids had new and differing interests. They also had more school work and less time.

My kid began Cross Country/Track all three seasons;  he liked it and was progressing really well. Daily practices, weekly meets as well as a heavy academic load plus soccer practices and games became overwhelming.  It was too much to make it all work and something had to give – my kid quit soccer.

Suddenly, I am a track mom.

But, what about our soccer friends? The connections, the games, the great coach and the wonderful memories.

Was it all just that: soccer? He misses it, he loves soccer, but he is running and has joined a new group of athletes.  Does he feel the loss like I do? I miss the team, the friends, the game.  Sure, he  misses it, but he is a sixteen year old boy, not a hormonal therapist mom who oozes in emotions.

Don’t get me wrong, track is great. The parents are wonderful and supportive, the coach is tough and committed.  A Cross Country meet can be half as long as a soccer game and the school provides buses!, but I miss MY soccer people.

What does it all mean? This role of being the kids’ mom to whatever activity is the activity du jour? Are connections fleeting? Were they real? Was it just in the moment on that one field?

I don’t have the answers, but I do have great memories and wonderful people in my heart that I know will cross my path again be it in the produce section or on some bleacher in my future.

 

Retired cleats and shin guard (oh so stinky)

Retired cleats and shin guard (oh so stinky)

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The Boomerang Teen Part 2

AirDancer

I said I would return with suggestions to avoid having your teen flop back into the house for an extended stay in the middle of a semester.  I make no guarantees, sometimes a one-way ticket home is inevitable and necessary, but here are some thoughts on how to prepare for a successful flight out of the nest.

I love the idea of sleep away camp. Any reader that has spotted one of my summer posts is aware of my proclivity towards all things camp.  I have promoted camp for infinite reasons (friendship, bonding, summer structure etc.) and one of the biggest reasons is for kids to get a taste of  being away from home.  There are many kinds of  camps that can meet this objective;   sports camps, Scout camps, academic camps and arts camps and they vary in length from a few days to an entire summer.

Camps provide a sense of independence for kids with the safety net of responsible adults who are not their parents to guide them.  At camp kids learn to manage their own clothes, toiletries and meals without mom and dad micromanaging all the details. If they miss a night of teeth brushing or lose a sock (or hundreds), it is all part of the process of learning to have some independence.  I have found that the kids that have spent time away from home for a period of time during their middle and high school years have had the easiest transition to college and have had  less risk for the boomerang swing.

When a teen has increased responsibility throughout high school, he will have an easier transition to college.  Freshmen start slowly, perhaps getting  more opportunities to socialize with peers in groups before they are juniors and driving independently. Many juniors and seniors obtain part-time jobs which teach them responsibility, time management and a bit about finances.   Extra-curricula activities also help a teen with independence; there are clubs with responsibilities, teams with obligations and bands and theater with commitments that the teen must learn to balance with academic and other expectations.

One of my biggest selling points with my clients and their parents is for the kids to become responsible for their own academics.  A freshman in high school should manage her own schedule by knowing when she has an exam, when papers are due and the status of her grades.  I encourage parents to be supportive and helpful WHEN ASKED, but to allow the student to manage his own work load.  The more autonomy a high school student has, the more success will occur in college.

Parents often tell me that their teen will fail if the parent lets go of the academic reins.  The best advice I ever got was at a back-to-school night when my oldest child’s teacher said “Parents, you have already completed second grade, it is their turn.”  Yes, it is their turn; their turn to learn,  their turn to succeed and their turn to fail.  I constantly stress to these parents that the fall is easier when they fail junior year before they are legal adults and still in high school than when they are half a state or country away, paying thousands of dollars for tuition and suddenly realizing that they don’t know how to manage their work load without mom leading the way. (Students with learning disabilities or attention challenges do require more parental supervision.  It is important to strike a balance between over-doing and supporting the student; not an easy task for many families).

My last thought is to address mental health issues if and when they present themselves.  If a child is predisposed to anxiety or depression and has struggled throughout her adolescence with symptoms of sadness, feeling overwhelmed or anger management issues, please GET HER HELP.   Sending a child off to college who is struggling emotionally can be a set-up for failure.  College is inherently stressful with its huge life transitions and rigorous academics.  If your teen seems to be struggling, getting him the help he needs before he leaves home can arm him with the extra tools he may need to have a successful college experience.

Again, sometimes things happen.  Unplanned trauma, anxiety or homesickness can occur; kids come home and it is okay.  There is always another path and other options, so don’t fret.

One last thought, have your kids learn to do their own laundry……if nothing else it will make for a more pleasant aromatic experience for the roommate.


What may really be going on with your high school senior

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He got in to ________.    She was deferred from ___________.    He was rejected from ________.   Two more applications to submit.    Anyone know how to fill out the FAFSA?

This is what I have been hearing from seniors in high school and their parents for the past couple of weeks.  The SATs/ACTs/ABCs, the essays, the waiting and that email (in my day it was a thin or thick letter) that elicits exaltation or deep sadness within one click of the mouse.  And, these are just the ones that applied early or rolling admission – this will continue over  the next few months until the big push in April when all colleges will have admitted their incoming freshman class.

I have worked with many seniors in high school.  It is such a pivotal time. In some ways it is a ticket out, a ticket to freedom and a move towards independence.  In many ways it is a very scary time.  As much as the  seniors are flexing their muscles to be on their own, there is something to be said for home cooking, clean clothes and mom and dad lurking around to ensure that life tasks have been checked off, paid for and handled.

Early in my career I worked in high schools and observed the precarious nature of that status of “senior”.  The seniors were the leaders of the school, captains of the teams  and enjoyed privileges of the upper-most upperclassmen (definitely the best parking spots and lunch tables). And yet, in my office they presented as anxious and vulnerable. Would they get in to a college? Would they be able to handle the work load, the transition and the independence?

It is normal to feel apprehensive.  I continually reassure my senior clients that they are not alone in these fears.  They have been under so much pressure since junior year jumping  through all of the “get into college” hoops that they have barely had a moment to ponder what it all means.

Enter second semester senior year, also known as “senioritis” or “senior slump”.   The applications have been submitted; some have heard from schools and some are still waiting.  Grades matter, but not as much as  before.  There is time again to pause, reflect and realize “HOLY COW – I AM GOING TO GRADUATE”.

Seniors may experience this as a sudden shock, a slow building of anxiety or depression or  via other symptoms like withdrawal from friends or a drop in grades.   Some of my clients have suddenly brought home D’s and F’s after a high school career of A’s and B’s.  I talk to them frankly about self-sabatoge; if they have anxiety about graduation and leaving home, a handful of F’s could easily upend that plan without having to admit “I’m nervous about the next step”. It can be easier to crash and burn through that last English credit than have to face the reality that this graduation thing is actually going to happen.

We adults often forget how emotional and challenging this time can be.  Teachers, parents and other adults act as  cheerleaders raving about graduation and the exciting changes that are coming. But the awareness of these trepidatious months can be really helpful;  attend to your seniors, acknowledge that this is a big time of transition and it is okay to feel uneasy or anxious.  They may just appreciate it enough to stick around for dinner one night this week.


College Daze

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I went to college. I had roommates and exams and parties. I stayed up late and slept even later. I hibernated in the library for what felt like days and existed in a world of 18-22 year olds.   We ate at weird times and were usually awake while the rest of the world was sleeping.

Fast forward thirty years (yes, my 30th high school reunion is this weekend).

I just returned from my first  Parents Weekend at my son’s university.  The students are young and fit and beautiful and young.  There were parents EVERYWHERE.   The car line in front of the dorm was like pre-school pickup; parents shuttling their kids to dinner, brunch and shopping trips to Target. My son remarked how different the campus looked this weekend with all of us baby-boomer parents schlepping behind our eighteen year olds.

A mere eight weeks ago these “rising freshmen” were anxious, new and still a little clingy as we dragged them through Bed Bath and Beyond,  and every other big-box store to stock their dorm rooms for the year.  They seem to have acclimated themselves to this new way of life; the dorm room smelled like sweaty sneakers, the back pack looked broken in and there were nods, hello’s and a few hugs to classmates as my son showed us campus from his viewpoint.

I learned about the “swiping” of the card which gets one  in to the food halls, the gym and many other campus venues.  I was instructed about when and where they were permitted to eat what and about these periods called “late night” dining; that would be the “9:30pm I haven’t had dinner because I got up at 12:00pm meal” that the campus  provides for these college students and their unique  daily  routines.

My son pointed out the classrooms, the faculty offices and the big and beautiful new student center adjacent to the gorgeous campus  pool.  I saw his particular nook at the on-campus Starbucks where he gets most of his work done (“I like the white noise, it’s not too quiet like the library, but not loud and distracting”) and the Student Government Office where he and his peers will convene weekly  as  members of the newly elected student government (may they have better luck than their Federal counterparts).

So many thoughts as a parent were swirling through my head, first and foremost being, when can I go to sleep since  I have been up since 5:30am and you rolled out of bed when we landed at the airport? But seriously, how their lives have changed so much in just two months.  Which experiences will be the impetus to their future adult lives? Who from this campus  will be their lifelong friends, partners or spouses?

It was also interesting to note how the freshman are learning to negotiate their way through life challenges.  One girl had an ear infection and had to spend three hours waiting at the health clinic because she hadn’t made an appointment only to realize she had no cash on her to purchase her prescription. A few classmates switched majors and thus have  an entirely new schedule from the one that they had constructed over the summer with mom and dad by their side.  There have been  fights, injuries and student probationary periods prompted by overindulging in underage drinking and I read a flyer on the dorm wall about “alerts” that a professor will send home if there is an academic concern.

The freshman are learning that the “Welcome to Adulthood” banner includes the joy of the greatest.party.evah. and the realization that “it is time to do some work” all wrapped up in the same college experience .   I am grateful that these students have the opportunity to wear the banner in a somewhat protected environment.   There are faculty, staff, resident advisors and upperclassmen all available to share both the joys and the great lessons of the freshman year.

May all the Freshman of 2013-2014 find joy, learning, great adventures and safety this year (and don’t forget to call your parents, okay, a text will suffice!)

Addendum:  Between completing this post and making final edits, I got a text from my son “I think I’m going to go to the health center to get my sinuses checked out”. Since he had been having symptoms all weekend, I praised his idea and reminded him to make an appointment to avoid a three hour wait!


Make it Stop

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Again?

I first saw it on FB  (that won’t surprise anyone.  1. that it was on FB and 2. that is where I get  my news alerts).

A friend had posted that her husband, who works at the Navy Yard, was safe.  Confused, I turned on the television only to learn that yet another person had taken innocent lives with a gun.

My  first reaction was out and out anger. I was pissed!

After watching too much news coverage on the local news,  I returned to the ‘source’ and saw a friend’s FB post about “death to the Yankees” (clearly a die hard Red Sox fan).   I gently asked if he would  consider squashing or obliterating the Yankees in light of the recent news.  He had, of course, not heard about the tragedy at the Navy Yard and quickly deleted the unintentional faux pax (Yankees or no Yankees).

This most recent tragedy is really eating at me.  I am an emotional person and always experience the sadness and loss of these senseless acts; but the amount of anger that is upon me was unexpected.

Tonight a client  told me about his five year old misbehaving.   Apparently this adorable kindergartener had “decorated” his bathroom with his sister’s make-up. He did this not once or twice, but as of last night, FIVE times.  His dad and I discussed his consequences and how they escalated in severity with each new lavatory masterpiece. We questioned what might be driving his behavior: negative attention, resentment at sister or just a budding artist?

Five times? He took his sister’s make-up five times?  What can his parents do to help him learn from his mistakes? How can he convey whatever the message is that he is trying to communicate? There is clearly something amiss in the dynamics of this family system.

I return to the latest violence.  Five times? I wish it had only been five times that some mentally ill person had taken a gun and redecorated the lives of an innocent family.  What  is the dynamic of this system? How many consequences  need to occur before some parents somewhere get their act together and stop this misbehaving?

I can still be stunned when one of my kids looks at me as the “grown-up”, the one to make a decision, the one to make it right.  Is it me, my peers, we adults that have to curb the insanity of this misbehaving?

I feel powerless.

I can vote, I can lobby and I can work diligently on the issues of mental health, but I can’t stop this insanity.  An elementary school, a high school, a college, a movie theater, a marathon.  These are our places, these are our lives, these are our friends and families that are getting killed – when will the grown ups make it stop?


The Sitter Search

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I am at IT again.  I have been doing this for eighteen years and IT is never easy. What is IT you ask? IT is the eternal search for a responsible adult that can care for your children while you are at work.

Early on it was the MOST stressful part of my parenting experience other than my kids getting sick, which, you can ask my friends,  we had plenty of (how many nebulizers can one family own?)   I agonized each time over leaving my infants with anyone other than me.  The first baby, particularly, was difficult. We were new parents, learning how to do this thing called ‘parenting’; three short months later, maternity leave was over and someone had to watch this baby.

In the midst of the exhaustion and shock of having this newborn, new daddy and I got to seek daycare.  There were fancy agencies to find you the best nanny (for hundreds of dollars to register), you could risk taking out an ad in the newspaper and pray for Mary Poppins, or you could get on a waiting list at a day care center.  The internet was not yet at our fingertips, thus no Craig’s List, Sitter City or any other form of www.

For some reason, once we finally hired someone they were short-termers.  I want to believe that it was because I was part-time and that was a harder niche to fill (rather than my kids were bratty). Remember the  show Murphy Brown with Candice Bergen where  each episode she had a new secretary?  That was the story of our day care – we went through about twelve babysitters in half as many years.  I wish I could tell you how many times I called my husband after walking in the house on a Thursday evening to say “she quit again”.

Then we found M.  M saved us; not only did she love my kids, but she added stability to our somewhat chaotic home, the best being  when she got fed up with my linen closet she would re-fold all the towels.  M worked for us for six years and raised my youngest (we often wonder who my youngest is really asking for when she calls “mommy”).  M is part of our family, so much so that when she announced her pregnancy, my husband said “we are going to be grandparents”, and her three year old now proudly calls me “Gramma Yorie”.

I wish I could say that after M left us for a full-time job that our headaches were gone. Sure,  as my kids got older, the fear of leaving them became less.  They could speak and keep me abreast of what was going on at home while I was busily seeing clients.  But, I still had to find someone that was responsible, kind and was a careful driver (I long since gave up on laundry or linen closet maintenance).

I found myself today paying, again, for Sitter City. Luckily, I have already had a phone interview with a college student looking for some after-school work.  Can I trust her, will the kids like her, will she be able to find the dance studio where kid #3 spends most of her time?

I think of all the new  moms  embarking on this journey that I have travelled so many times.  I can feel their anxiety and fears in my stomach as my own; for I have been there and know their struggle.  I have had many clients in this spot and have been grateful that I could fully empathize with them.

For anyone that is on the quest for the right day care, particularly as the school year starts, please know that I GET IT.  Your fears, your tears and your worries are valid and normal;  I would be happy to share them with you if you need, feel free to contact me.


Bucket List Part 2

bucket

As I was saying here, we rushed back to the Labor and Delivery Room all excited.  The “coaching” team got ready by charging phones and cameras and having, what we all thought would be, our last minute potty stops.

Mama was feeling fine; relatively pain free and resting nicely.  The nurse had checked her while we had been at lunch and said that she had dilated to 9.5 centimeters.   Another nurse came in and set up a table with  many  shiny, silver  scissor- type-plier things (they all looked the same to me, but I was not the one about to deliver a baby). After another check, the nurse came back and said that the baby needed to “slide down” a bit more and she would return in thirty minutes.  I love the “hurry up to wait” dance; and so we waited.  After half an hour there were some practice pushes, and then another thirty minute “slide down” break.  Remember we had all had our last minute bathroom visits? Yeh, not so much, there were plenty more trips and even a few minutes for me to finish that wilting salad.

Eventually, it was time.  Mommy got some serious pushing going with her fantastic nurse and helpful coaches supporting her both physically and emotionally.  There were pauses of seriousness and silence; mom would rest in between pushes and we would quietly watch the monitor waiting for the next contraction.  Out of nowhere, the wrong  bed button was activated and mid-push mom’s bed was raised and elevated  into some awkward contortion that sent us all into hysterical laughter.  “I guess we didn’t get far with that one” giggled the laboring mom.

Once it was clear that baby was soon to make his entrance, the nurse called the doctor on her fancy hospital phone. Enter  the doctor donning her scrubs and it all seemed real. Personally, I was sympathetically pushing with mom the whole way.  I had full blown tmj from gritting my jaw so tight with stress and anticipation.

And then, it happened: the baby  joined the party. It was amazing! He was suddenly on his mommy’s chest, the nurse was suctioning him and we heard the most beautiful cry you could ever imagine.

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His beauty was/is overwhelming.  I had tears and smiles as big as the moon; there is no way to describe how awe-inspiring it all was.  A bit later after the siblings had joined the party and then left to let mom have some quiet, I sat quietly holding the clean and swaddled newborn.  I said to mom “how was he inside of you less than two hours ago?”  Just unbelievable.

As I drove home while talking (safely on my handsfree bluetooth) to our  mutual dear friend in Ohio about the whole experience, I said, please don’t repeat this to anybody, but “I am exhausted!”.  Not like I had just delivered a baby or anything.

As far as bucket list items go, I have to say that this one just about tops it off.  It was an amazing and joyful day, I am so happy that I was included in this beautiful event.

Truly honored to be a part of this precious boy's life

Truly honored to be a part of this precious boy’s life