Archive for June 2011

Because of Her

June 30, 2011

Driver’s Ed.

Is there anything that strikes more fear in the heart of the parent of a teenager? We are long past the days of kids cruising through our small towns looking for social action and the kind of jalopy racing depicted in the iconic ‘American Graffiti’ and other movies. Still the clamoring for independence and ‘wheels’ and a driver’s license begins earlier than it used to. Fourteen years and nine months, in fact. I know because I have been through it.

Twice.

He has a full on Level II license. He can, pretty much, drive himself anywhere at any time. She has a permit, has finished her second session of classes and is waiting for me to schedule a road test so she can apply for her Level I license.

I have to admit that having them able to drive themselves back and forth from school events and soccer practices and shopping all on their own has given the household parents an unexpected freedom. Just a few weeks ago we were trying to coordinate drivers for a social activity when it suddenly occurred to me that they could drive themselves. And they did.

The household parents went to a movie….alone…..and actually held hands.

Heh.

Luckily we have very good drivers in our teens. They know, first hand, what can happen. Five years ago, on a Friday night – we were cruising along the expressway in Novi on our way home from one of her soccer games when we happened upon a caravan of Hummers carrying National Guardsmen toward a weekend of maneuvers. We waved from the windows of our swanky red Aztek and they waved back. Hubby was driving and pulled behind them and suddenly another car – a smaller car – swerved in between us. My husband made a split second decision – the only possible decision – and saved lives. He took our car up the side embankment where it literally flew through the air, landed on two wheels, flipped to the side and then completely over.

My daughter immediately hit the button and opened a back passenger window before the car’s electronics shut down. I went into immediate ‘teacher mode’ and asked if everyone was okay. After a quick visual check, I told them to scuttle out the window and up the embankment. I assured them that Dad and I would be right behind. I remember seeing the two of them standing safely at the top of the embankment and then the other windows crashed in as we were immediately surrounded by National Guardsmen in all their camouflaged glory. The Hummer caravan had stopped.

We have a lot of memories from that night. Princess screeching as the paramedic attempted to cut her soccer shoe (“the very best ones I have EVER haaaAAAaadd, Mom!”) from a possibly injured foot. We talked him into just cutting the laces. And then there were visions of the Prince stretched out on the side of the road covered in camouflage jackets to ward off shock as he had several cuts around his eye and a possible head injury. He spent three hours calmly strapped to a backboard in the emergency room waiting for assessment. This was my kid with zero patience. And there was the mildly confused National Guardsman who went in search of the all important cloth bag in the back of the upside down Aztek that held this old Teacher’s report cards – which were still not computerized at that time. And the angel of a nurse (on her way home from work) behind us who stopped to help out until the paramedics got there.

It was a humdinger of a night!

And it was months until my kiddos were comfortable in the car again. A slight swerve over the speed notches at the side of the road could trigger intense anxiety. We had tons of conversations about how Dad’s decision was the only decision possible. How the little car would have been crushed against the Hummers had we hit it….and the people inside killed. How that red Aztek – which was totaled – did the job it was designed to do in protecting its passengers – the four of us. But time passed. Memories faded. And my kids are good drivers. A little anxious at times…..but good.

Less than a year after our humdinger of a night, another family experienced something much, much worse. The MacDonald Family of Lake Odessa, Michigan, lost their daughter, Keisha, in an automobile accident in February of 2007. As a memorial to their gorgeous aspiring model/actress daughter, they created ’The Keisha MacDonald Dare 2 Dream Foundation.’ It was this foundation that gifted the Michigan State Police with seven scholarships for their Teen Driving program. This Mom heard about the scholarships one morning on the news and clicked on the website to sign up her son. His was one of the seven names selected to join the already full program

So this morning I drove a somewhat grumpy teenager in the required slacks and collared shirt to the Michigan State Police Training Center which is an hour away from our home. (Grumpy because he had to be there at 7:45 am and it IS summer vacation after all!) But I know that his frown is going to be a pretty intense gaze and eventually a smile as he and his 14 other classmates learn defensive driving, skid control, serpentine control, controlled braking, evasive maneuvering, confined area maneuvering and off-road recovery….among other things. They will be buckled in, helmeted and under the care of the most highly trained drivers in the state. And get to drive Michigan State Police vehicles to do it.

Oh yeah…..he will be grinning.

And this Mom can rest a bit easier about the driving abilities of one of her teen drivers.

Thanks to The Keisha MacDonald Dare 2 Dream Foundation.

http://www.rememberkeisha.com

Guilty….as charged

June 14, 2011

Its coming back for a summer run. I just saw the ad. All new episodes of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras.’ Its not exactly a guilty pleasure but if the television is on, I can’t help but watch it. All those adorable little babies, glitzed and glimmered up with sequins and sparkles and lace and ruffles and make up. And hairspray. LOTS of hair spray.

Can’t help but be sucked into the tales of triumphs and woes as chubby little faces (and knees) prance and dance their way across mini stages in converted hotel meeting rooms. Curled hair pieces swirl around their faces as they shake shoulders and hips (can they really be called ‘hips’ at ages three or four or five?) and bat heavily made up eyelashes – sometimes false ones at that – while very serious judges make notations about ‘personality‘ and ‘stage presence.’

The best part for me though, is watching the moms and the dads. They are occasionally joined by aunties and the grandmas and do most of the actual ‘work.’ They spend hours at second jobs to pay for tiny dresses that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. They spend hours sewing on sequins to add more sparkle, hours making props and set pieces, more hours developing and practicing ‘routines’ or driving their children to professional pageant choreographers, and even more hours curling and spraying and applying makeup and dressing and undressing their babies. They spend weekends in out of town hotels and motels for competitions. And they seem to spend an enormous amount of time cajoling their little princesses through spray tan sessions and make up sessions and dress fittings and boring waits for their turn on stage. They can be seen dancing through the rehearsed routines in the audience, roiling with misery – and anger – if their kid doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to fill rooms and tiaras for every day of the week. And chest ribbons that proclaim their child ‘Teeny Tiny Littlest Miss Chockhaven Cheese Cake of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

SO very weird.

MY family would never be involved in something like that. No siree. My princess is almost sixteen and I would LOVE it if she would glitz it up a bit. A little makeup now and then. Curling iron and hairspray? No such luck. She is a sports girl and, like my son, plays soccer. Their lives are all about soccer cleats and the comfort of athletic shorts and sunscreen and water bottles filled with athletic enhancing liquids for replenishment. We have spent hundreds – no… thousands – of dollars on cleats, indoor turf shoes, shin guards, goalie gloves, jerseys, shorts, socks and soccer balls of every size and color over the years. We have driven miles and miles for games and tournaments in every kind of weather you can imagine. We have sliced an insurmountable number of oranges at 5 am because they would be needed at a far away game site at 11:30. We have scolded refs from the side lines and been scolded by refs on the sidelines. We have pondered the intricate processes of removing black mud and green grass stains from white shorts and socks and drying them….sometimes at 2 am in a hotel sink because they ‘forgot’ to pack the spare pair. We have visited countless emergency rooms. We have sought last minute sources for peanuts and protein snacks to hold our athletes until the next meal. We have sought out the best affordable coaches and clubs available in our area. And paid for them.

We have spent weekends in hotels and motels for out of town tournaments. We have shivered and sweat and watched from the sidelines, roiling in misery – and anger – if the team doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to cover a dresser top and bookshelf. And tee shirts that proclaim our child the champion of ‘The Catfish Cantaloupe Soccer Tournament of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

So very……not weird?

Thinking back to my daughter’s minute long obsession with horses and the horse competition world (where she won two blue ribbons!)….and her ice skating period…..and her gymnastic period…. I know that there are families that spend similar amounts of money and time with those sports. One step-daughter is just beginning in the dance realm with her twins while the other has been chasing her newly minted teenaged son in the football and baseball circles for years. And he is also dabbling with an electric guitar. A close friend has a daughter who just started a cheerleading ‘career.’ She is going to be in first grade next fall. Another friend just saw her youngest of five sign with a college for a swimming scholarship…..something all of her children did before high school graduation. Another friend has a daughter that has been playing guitar and writing music with an up and coming – really hot – local pop/rock band for 4 or 5 years now. She is fifteen.

Parents want their children to excel in what they love to do. There is nothing wrong with that. We want them to be busy. We want them to have a head start on things. At least that’s what I have observed. We want them to have the very best training they can possibly get for sports…music….dance…..and pageants. But I think its gotten a little crazy. Parents are starting their babies in these things. (Little Kickers had a soccer program for 18 month olds at one time.) And those skills are being developed WAY earlier than they were in my day. And focused on. And driven. Gotta keep all those little kiddos busy doing….something. And why?

These days, you are very lucky if you can get on an area middle school sports team without some sort of prior training or experience. Middle school! And if they want to stay with a varsity sport in high school, it is highly recommended that they continue playing that sport – or training for that sport – in the off season. Most sports, as well as dance and music, require year round training these days. Sometimes I wish we could go back and rethink things a bit. Rethink….childhood.

When I was in elementary school, my first experience with competition was through softball. Each area school had a baseball team with parent coaches. If you were lucky, you could field a team for 4th, 5th AND 6th grade. Each school played the others for two games – one away and one at your home field. Then we started playing at a community field….which was close to a dairy with an ice cream counter. Most teams were allowed ice cream only if they won. When my mom coached our school team, she collected enough money so we would get an ice cream cone regardless. To her, and ultimately us – her team – it was all about having a good time playing the game.

She was very forward thinking….my Mom.

My son started playing soccer when he was four and my daughter, when she was seven. We kind of….evolved…..into the club soccer scene. Going to bigger and better and more expensive is something that my husband and I have been at odds with quite a lot. Many times. We want the same thing for our kids that every parent wants, I think. We want them to have fun. We want them to excel. We want them to have a healthy self esteem. We want them to have friends with common interests. We want them to be healthy. We want them to achieve what they can with the gifts that they have. We want them to know how to deal with success….as well as loss. And it can be so very intense.

But, I would like to think that I’m like my Mom. And I think I have been relatively successful in that. Earlier this year my daughter wrote an essay for her freshman English class. She listed each of her soccer coaches and the things that she learned from them. She said that she had learned to love the game and to play well. She ended her essay with the line…..’my Dad wants me to be the best that I can be and my Mom just wants me to have fun.’ And she is so right.

And that is so very…….not weird.

However, I am pondering the possibility of a reality show – ‘The Soccer Moms of Catfish Cantalope Somewhere in the Sticks.’ It has a certain….ring….to it. And I know we could produce the necessary drama…..and comedy.

That’s just how we Soccer Moms are.