When We Pay to Have Our Kids Treated Poorly

This weekend I took my three kids to a sporting event. The players were beasts, hungry for a win. The fans were going crazy, at times jumping out of their seats to cheer on their favorite players. And when the ref made a bad call — a really bad call — the coach on the opposing team went nuts. He yelled at the ref. He belittled him. He kept it up way after the play was over. We could hear his comments all the way in our seats across the field. And he didn’t stop. He went on and on. For the entire game. Seriously, the whole thing.

No, I wasn’t at the Bears-Packers game on Sunday. I was at my local park watching a bunch of eight and nine-year old girls playing soccer. The referee couldn’t have been older than 16 if a day.

I’d like to attribute this guy’s behavior to an overzealous parent. Like the one that yelled out: “That’s right, play tough, knock her down,” at my daughter’s soccer tournament over the summer. Or the mom who I heard screamed “kill ’em” at her son’s Pee Wee football game…the one who put herself in a time out because she was so shocked those words came out of her mouth.

But unfortunately this guy — this adult who was charged with “coaching” this team of impressionable young girls — is a paid professional. He is licensed. He does this for a living.  Instead of showing his players that sometimes refs make a bad call and you have to rise above it, all this guy taught them was that complaining, belittling, and basically bullying is appropriate when things don’t go your way. And don’t even get me started how I feel about the way he treated the young man who was just trying to do his job — a kid who probably now wants to quit refereeing because an adult who should be a role model instead treated him like crap.

I’m not here to discuss the current state of kids and club-level sports. We just started our journey and I’m certainly not qualified to talk about if club-level sports are ruining our kids’ love of the game or creating better athletes. As a family we’re trying to balance the love my kids have for soccer — and our love of watching them — with the hectic schedule and expense of it all.

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What do I know? There is no way I’m paying that much money to have someone yell sarcastic comments at my kid three to four times a week. That right is reserved for me and I do it for free.

As my eight year old came off the field that day, she turned and said to me: “Mom, I hope I never have a coach who talks to me like that. He was mean.” And I couldn’t disagree.  The guy talked to his team in such a condescending way that it sounds like “you idiot” should be at the end of every sentence. “Are you on the right side of the field Susie (you idiot).” “Maybe you should pass it next time Betty (you idiot.)”  By the end of the game, I was having vivid imaginary discussions in my head about what I would like to say to him, and believe me, the language was stronger than “you idiot.”

But coaches like this really concern me. Club level sports are a  major commitment, both in time and in money, and there are weeks I feel like my kids spend more time with their coach than with me. I worry about burn out and the pressures of too much competition. And more importantly, I want to make sure that in addition to becoming good athletes, they are also becoming good human beings.

Fortunately I do know that money talks. Parents need to remember that in addition to the time commitment and financial burden associated with the proliferation of club sports, we also have more options than ever before. There really is a club for every player at nearly every skill level. Clubs are only as strong as the players they keep, so don’t underestimate the influence you have. I’m not saying you should threaten to walk off every time you’re unhappy, but you shouldn’t stay at a program you don’t believe in, or one where your child gets treated poorly.

I believe it’s important for parents to not solely look at an organization’s win-loss record when selecting a program to join. Remember, this is a business, and before you hand over your money — and your child — you should check them out as you would any other service provider. Talk to other parents about their experiences, find out if any complaints have been filed against the club’s coaches, and ask to see if they have a code of ethics. And most importantly, trust your gut.

But what I really wish more parents would do is speak up. When you see a coach exhibiting poor behavior, talk to them about it even when you are concerned it may impact your child’s playing time. Contact the head of the organization to discuss it if you are apprehensive of approaching the coach. And if you really feel like your concerns are being brushed off, speak up by choosing a different organization. Because your child may not remember if he won that game at age 10, but he may remember that degrading coach for the rest of his life.

Is your child starting out in youth sports? I really like the site Moms Team, the premier online youth sports information gateway for the 90 million youth sports parents seeking advice, community and product information from a world-class team of expert psychologists, nutritionists, athletes, medical doctors, journalists coaches, referees and parents dedicated to one mission: to make sure that youth sports is safe, affordable, stress free and more fun.

 

 

Dear Barbie, Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear Barbie,

Break ups are never easy, and this one is really tough. Seeing your blue eyes for the last time as I snapped the Rubber Maid lid on your resting place made me feel pretty bummed. I’m really going to miss you.

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Sports Illustrated Barbie

I don’t want you to take the blame for the end of our nearly decade long relationship. It’s not you. It’s not even me, although I know I always complained about your clothes being all over the place and the Dream House being a mess and your Camper being parked in the middle of the basement.  It’s just we don’t have enough time to commit to nurturing our relationship anymore with soccer and piano and horseback riding (the real kind, not the plastic kind.) I mean, we don’t even take baths at our house anymore, which used to be our quality time.

But I don’t want you to think that this has anything to do with your looks, which I know you’ve taken a lot of heat for the last few years. I have real-life friends that have teeny weeny waists and perfect boobs, long gorgeous hair, and perfectly made up faces. These women run marathons and do yoga and count calories, but they are so much more than that. They also volunteer at their kids’ schools and raise money for charity and hold the hands of their sick friends and give banana bread to their new neighbors. They are skinny and beautiful but also positive and strong. They are just like YOU.

Because I never needed you to be a body image role model for my kids. That’s my job, and I’m pretty good at it. Your job was to open up the imagination of my girls, and you did that and more. You helped my kids run a veterinary office, a school, and a clothing store. You enabled them to have elaborate fashion shows, pool parties and horse riding events. They played house and raised babies and had weddings on some days, and on others performed surgery, filled in cavities or piloted a plane to Disney. It was hours of fun.

And you never complained. Not one time. Not when you were strapped into the corvette with Cinderella Barbie and launched down a set of stairs. Not when you received a really bad hair cut that just couldn’t be fixed. Not even when you lost a foot due to a freak incident with a visiting dog. You were always there ready and willing to do whatever it took to make this relationship work with a smile on your face and a dream in your heart.

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Paratrooper Barbie

Life hasn’t been easy for you either. You went through a very public divorce, enlisted in the military, were shamed in the media and even at age 50, you are still constantly compared to other dolls. But through it all you held your head high,  kept those feet arched up and carried on.

I’m sorry, Barbie, but there’s no turning back now. Little girls always grow up, and unfortunately it’s time to move on. I already sold the Dream House (under market value unfortunately), put the car, yacht and plane on Craig’s List, and sent your friends — Skipper, the Disney Barbies, and whoever those brunette girls were — to shack up at the Goodwill, where hopefully some new families will take them in. I even sent the Barbie jeep and scooter to a new home where some different little girls will get to enjoy them. It really is over.

But I want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for teaching my kids that a fancy ball gown and cowboy boots are an appropriate outfit for any occasion. Thank you for going along with whatever story my girls created for you that day. And even though your clothes are slutty and your stilettos too high and your make up is over done and your boobs are just a little too perky for my particular taste, I’m thankful we could get a Barbie for whatever my kids wanted to be that day, albeit a soccer player, princess, surfer girl or doctor. I’m sorta glad we missed your drag queen phase, but I think even that would have been fun.

I want you to know that although I’m sending you away for a while to a place called the attic, your memory will always live in our minds and in our hearts. And I hope one day — if I am lucky enough — you’ll come back into our lives again when my daughters have daughters of their own. I will welcome you back into our home with open arms and maybe even a new environmentally friendly dream house.

Because even though I know you’re just a doll, you’ve been so much more than that. You’ve been our ambassador to imagination and the purveyor of creativity in our home. And you’ve done your job well.

So long, Barbie. Until we meet again.

Love,

Me

P.S. I’m glad you never took Ken back. I always thought he was riding your coattails anyway. And no one’s hair looks that good all the time.

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When Our Parenting Insecurities Get the Best of Us

I was recently on the soccer fields waiting to pick up my daughters when a mom started chatting with me. She asked who my children were, and after I pointed them out she excitedly told me how great my daughters and the other two girls in the group were doing with the larger group of boys. I then of course asked who her son was and as soon as she pointed him out she began to ramble  on about how he wasn’t having a good practice today and they weren’t sure if soccer was his thing and he had a growth spurt recently so he wasn’t as coordinated as the other boys and he wasn’t as fast.  I could barely keep up with all the things she was saying, and I got the distinct impression she thought I had been watching how poorly her son was playing on the soccer field (which is a big laugh since I don’t know much about the game!)

What did I see? A cute kid kicking the ball back and forth with other cute little kids. He looked the same as everyone else.

I thought about that mom again when I took two of my three girls on a bike ride to the park. I ran into a mom I had met previously who has an adorable little girl. I smiled as I watched her chase her brother around the playground squealing his name. I turned to my new friend and asked how old she was. This is the answer I got:

Untitled design-2“She’s almost three but she has a speech delay so that’s probably why you may think she’s younger. We’re working on it but I know she’s hard to understand and I’m concerned with her going to school soon because other kids don’t understand her and I don’t want them to make fun of her although she’s made so much progress and…..” she went on and on.

I finally interrupted her to let her know that she didn’t need to explain anything to me because first, I couldn’t even tell that her daughter had a speech delay; but second, I got it. In fact, at one time I was her.

It’s funny how sometimes you can change the course of your own history in your head, but one small conversation can jolt your memory back to another time. I feel like my persona today is that I am very open about my parenting style and resolute in advocating in the best interest of my children, particularly when it came to raising my twins and the developmental challenges they both faced, one a little more severe than the other. Despite appearing like typical kids now, we have spent hours with physical, speech and occupational therapists to get them to this point. And although my mantra has always been that sharing my story could help someone else, in the beginning — when my daughters were under three — I did the same thing this sweet mom did. I was all about the preemptive strikes with other parents, assuring them that I was aware my kids were not the same as others.

Like when we went to our first two-year old Mommy and me class and my kids were not talking yet, couldn’t sit still, and spent more time gnawing on the books and blocks then interacting with the other kids. I made sure to let the other moms know that my girls were preemies and still catching up, because of course in my mind, all the other kids were behaving exactly as they should.

Or the time a grandmother stopped me in the grocery store and started chatting with my duo and I quickly told her that they had speech delays — because the fact that they were just staring wide-eyed at her face meant she could tell they didn’t have a vast vocabulary yet.

And the time a mom told me how cute it was that my daughter walked on her toes like a ballerina and I blurted out that I had already tested her for autism. That one was really smooth.

Let’s face it and call a spade a spade. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed and insecure that my kids weren’t like everyone else’s, so I tried to make sure other parents knew that I was aware that my girls were different. Because yes, it was all about me, and although I wasn’t sure if they were judging my kid I certainly didn’t want them to judge me. So not my finest hour, and it is painful to admit this now.

But fortunately I’ve grown a lot since that time, and in fact, I think dealing with my kids’ developmental delays back then really prepared me for when things got more challenging later on with educational issues, team sports or even social interactions. And I recognize it in other parents now — that painful conversation you have with strangers because you are feeling insecure and in some cases, a little embarrassed.

Does this mean we don’t love our kids? Absolutely not. Does this mean we need to get a grip on our own insecurities? Absolutely. But how do we do that?

I had to realize that it is never my kids’ job to make me look good as a parent. It is never my kids’ responsibility to do things on the “typical” developmental schedule. It is not my kids’ duty to be the best at school, at sports, on the playground. The only job my girls have is to become the best people they can be — and my job is to help get them there.

When you let that fear of judgement go — essentially making it not about you — then you can actually start enjoying your child’s activities and their progress, or sometimes even be content at their pure joy in participating in an activity– even when they suck at it.

As the mom of two pretty competitive soccer players, my husband and I have worked hard to tone down our pre-game, during the game, and post-game coaching of our daughters. We took to heart what researchers Bruce Brown and Rob Miller discovered when they asked college athletes what their parents said that made them feel great when they played sports:

College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response:

“I love to watch you play.”

This also rings true for those of us who know we are not the parents of a future NFL pro or an Olympic athlete, and especially for those of us whose kids struggle at life just a little bit more than others…for those of us whose children’s achievements come in different forms, such as graduating from therapy, making their one basket in a season or learning a new life skill — even if it takes them a little longer than everyone else.

I love to watch you play. No matter what it is. So powerful and so liberating.

When you know your kid may not be the best on the team, instead of saying that you know he isn’t as athletic as the other kids we should just respond with: “That’s my son, and boy does he love to play!” When you meet someone new at the park with your developmentally challenged daughter and they ask how old she is, your first comment should be: “She’s three and I love to watch her whip around the playground!” And when a sweet grandmother comes up to you at the grocery store and starts talking in your daughters’ faces about how cute they are, the only response should be: “I know. Aren’t they delicious?”

Because our kids don’t need to be explained — and we have to stop worrying that we will be judged, even when judgement might be happening. They need to be celebrated. Every single one of them.

And I’m starting with mine.

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We started horseback riding lessons for my daughter to combat a mild case of CP in her lower extremities. Now she is a beautiful rider.

Team Fleming

Team Fleming trying to look tough

 

 

 

Guest Post: How My Daughter Taught Me to Put Myself “Out There”

Recently I had coffee with a fellow blogger (and friend) Alison. She runs Life a Little Brighter, a great site to find easy, affordable recipes, DIY projects, crafts and other tips to make your home life more memorable.

We talked about my post Dialing my Extrovert Down for my daughter…understanding that just because she wasn’t crazy social like I was didn’t mean there was anything wrong with her. Interestingly enough, she has the exact opposite problem with her daughter, who needs to talk to everyone — and anyone — she encounters. She agreed to do a guest post for Playdates, and I hope you’ll stop by her Facebook page and give her a “like!”

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“Who are your friends at school?” I ask.

“Everyone!” she responds.

The other night, my husband was out of town, and I decided to take the girls to pick up some Lou Malnati’s (the BEST Chicago deep dish) as a treat. Lou Malnati’s doesn’t deliver to our area, so I packed up my five year-old and three-month-old, and headed to the next town over.

The entire experience was a perfect representation of my oldest child’s personality.

Walking through the downtown area, she saw a group of pre-teen girls, “Hi friends!”, she shouts to them. This is nothing new. She does this when she sees any size group of kids, any age. I used to cringe when she did it…but now I just roll with it.

The girls giggle in response. “She’s adorable!” one of them shouts to me. “I like your raincoat!” said another. I smile… I guess that wasn’t so bad. Frankly, I’m impressed–when I was Alyssa’s age, it never would have occurred to me to talk to girls so much older than myself.

We head into the restaurant and go to the hostess station to pick up our pizza. The desk is pretty tall, and Alyssa can’t see over it. She jumps straight into the air a couple of times, “Help me, please!” she asks me.

“Alyssa, it’s just a desk. With like, a computer. There’s nothing to see,” I answer.

She jumps a couple more times with her hands above her head, “What’s going on over there? I can’t see.”

This is ridiculous, I think to myself. Nonetheless, I pick her up momentarily so she can wave hi to the ladies behind the desk, and confirm for herself that there is nothing interesting to see.

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Next, she sees an older gentleman sitting in the waiting area and waves to him. “My name is Alyssa! And this is my baby sister, Brianna,” she says, pointing to my stroller. The man smiles at her and then me. I make a half-smile, kind of like saying; she’s something, isn’t she?

But what she isn’t… is me. She takes after my husband in personality, and during moments like this, it couldn’t be more obvious.

I was so quiet as child; timid, at times. I would take my time in a situation, observing my surroundings before I made any moves. As an adult, I’m more confident in general, but I’m still quieter than my five-year-old daughter. Which sounds kind of pathetic, but she really is out there, on display. And I worry that she won’t always be well-received.

When she speaks out, all sorts of negative thoughts pop into my head:

Why does she need to be so loud? She doesn’t even know those girls. What are the girls going to think about this little one shouting to them? What if they don’t answer? What if they laugh at her?

Can’t she just stay behind the desk and wait for a minute? Why is she so curious? What does she think is going on back there?

She shouldn’t be bothering that man. She’s never going to see him again, why introduce herself?

I know I sound like a curmudgeon, but I worry about people rejecting her, especially kids her age. That’s part of putting yourself out there; you never know what the response will be. Most kids aren’t as forward, especially when they first meet someone. I worry that they will think it’s strange that she’s so talkative and boisterous.

Here’s the thing. The more open you are with others, the more likely you are to be negatively judged. However, there are a lot of good outcomes that result from being more outgoing: making new friends, strengthening those connections, having your needs heard and met. So far, things have only been positive for my daughter. It has inspired me to put myself out there more, and stop worrying so much about how my daughter is perceived.

She knows how to sit still, work quietly, focus on a task, etc., when necessary. So why should I sweat it that she shouts hi to everyone she meets, or is the first one to volunteer…for anything?  My quiet nature is how I was comfortable as a child. She needs to live her own childhood, and feel confident in her own skin.  And whatever that involves, I need to get over it… and support her the whole way.

Alison is a former junior high school teacher turned stay at home mom to her two daughters. She is a blogger at Life a Little Brighter and a freelance writer.  Visit her on Pinterest and Facebook.

Top Five Worst Times to Be a Mom of Multiples

A fellow mom of multiples and I were chatting the other day about how people still think we have our hands full because we have twins; but in our minds, once your kids get a little older, it’s no different from any family having two children close together.

And I would even argue that sometimes having two is even easier than having one. Constant playmates, more offers of help, and constant playmates (did I say that twice?) are just some of the bonuses of having your children in pairs (or triplets) as opposed to one.

Yes, in the beginning it’s brutal. More diapers, more feedings, more chasing around, but it does get easier.

Until it isn’t.

Double the blessings, double the fun is definitely true — except during certain milestone events that every family goes through. It’s can be a wee bit harder when you have more than one kid going through these things at the same time.

Here’s my: Top Five Worst Times to be a Mom of Multiples.

Number 5: Santa pictures/family photos. It’s like they feed off of each other.

My twins, the first year I took them to meet the big guy.

My twins, the first year I took them to meet the big guy.

Number 4: Learning to drive.  Have you ever seen this Subaru commercial where a dad has to teach his sons to drive a stick shift? Hilarious. My favorite line from an identical twin: “Dad, you didn’t show me, you showed him!”

"Dad, you didn't show me, you showed him!"

“Dad, you didn’t show me, you showed him!”

 

Number 3: Terrible twos and threes. The frustration, tantrums and stubbornness does not seem to be doubly worse, but instead ten times as worse. And they are crafty. They don’t do it at the same time. They spread out the joy so one is always whining or crying or fussing. They say that the newborn stage is the hardest. Well, I think “they” were smoking crack. Anyone who has survived the terrible toddler stage with multiples knows that dealing with feisty twins for 24 hours a day/ seven days a week is enough to make anyone drink.

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Number 2: Puberty. They say that the terrible toddler stage is the hardest? Well “they” were wrong. When it comes to puberty, it doesn’t seems to be double the hormones when you have twins. It seems to increase exponentially. You will never know how many times a door can slam until you are in a house with twins going through puberty.

 

 

 

And the number 1 worst reason to be a mom of multiples: When they hand out recorders!

Sure, this is what it looks like.

Sure, this is what it looks like.

 

Seriously, twin moms should be exempt. One of these painful instruments is almost too much for a parent to bear, but give a home two (or even three) of these things playing different songs at the same time. Yes your ears actually can bleed from bad music.

 

 

 

 

5 WORST TIMES TO BE A TWIN MOM

 

What do you think is the worst time to be a mom of multiples?

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