Archive for October 2011

A Letter to My Son

October 22, 2011

Dear Daniel

It’s over. It was a heartbreaking loss in that second playoff round. You had some pretty awesome saves in that game. But it still didn’t lessen the fact that you were hoping for a different outcome for your senior soccer season in high school. Watching you stand at the goal when the buzzer sounded the end of the second ten minute over time, and knowing how you were feeling was the hardest thing I have had to watch since you first started playing the game. And soccer is a game that you have come to love with a passion.

You were just five when we signed you up to play in a 3 on 3 learning league. We commiserated with other parents about having to fit your first game schedule around the Saturday morning Kindergarten Round Up program. You loved the cleats, your coach, your jersey and socks and your team mates. You weren’t too crazy about that first pair of shin guards however. You were very excited about your very first real honest to goodness grass stain. And true to your pre-Kindergarten self, the best part of the 30 minute practice/30 minute game process was the snacks.

The following year we were in the midst of dealing with the massive paperwork process to complete your sister’s international adoption. When we didn’t hear from a coach about the start of your 5 on 5 learning league, I surmised that I might have not sent in the paperwork like I thought I had. I scrambled to find a place for you to play and you ended up on a YMCA team. You were one of two boys and a gaggle of girls. Your coaches loved you and your fierce kick. The entire team loved the game as much as you did. And after your first YMCA practice I got a call from your coach with the other program. Oops. I had sent the paperwork in after all. But, since they were two different programs with two different styles of training, we decided to let you play both of them for a while and let you decide which one you wanted to stay with.

Oy.

We should have known then what your future would hold. You stuck with practices or a game every single night of the week that spring and played for both teams without a single complaint. And you were only six.

From that point on our family life revolved around soccer. Soccer shorts. Soccer cleats. Soccer socks. Soccer jerseys. Soccer shin guards. Outdoor practice. Outdoor games….in the heat, in the rain, in the sleet and in the snow. Indoor practice. Indoor games….at varying times between 5 am and 11:30 pm. Ice packs. Ibuprofen. Heat packs. Ice packs. Athletic wrap. Athletic tape. Bio Freeze. On and on and on.

For the next twelve years.

From a parent stand point, the logistics of this passion of yours has been very frustrating. This was especially true after your sister decided that soccer was her game as well. Carting two of you here and there, using vacation times and vacation money for out of town tournaments, stopping for quick ‘fast food’ meals to and from practice sessions, dealing with stinky, sweat soaked shoes/socks/jerseys locked in our car all weekend, sitting on the sidelines watching practices, sitting on more sidelines watching games, critiquing coaches and referees and keeping our mouths shut – or open – as the situation called for it. Soccer parenting is not for the faint of heart. I don’t think ANY kind of sport parenting is.

And what do your Dad and I want you to take away from all of these years?

Mostly we want you to take away the memories. Memories of team mates that provided you with camaraderie like no other. Memories of times when you succeeded when you thought you couldn’t….and failed when you thought you shouldn’t. Memories of hot summer days when sweat poured from your body and yet you pushed forward. Memories of cold freezing days that energized you even more. And of course….the snacks.

And we also want you to take away respect. Respect for the coaches you have had that have shared their gifts with you. Respect for the coaches you have had that taught you to be the best that you can be. Respect for the coaches that have believed in you and stood up for you. Respect for all of the opponents that challenged you to give it your all. Respect for the team mates that have trusted you….and that you have given your trust.

We hope that you have learned that soccer – like life – is not a ‘blame game.’ That you will not always be able to achieve what you want or expect to – but that there is a certain fulfillment in knowing that you have given it your best shot. That when that buzzer sounds at the end of a game – or a day in your life – you can always say, ‘I did my very best.’ We hope that you have learned that you will need all kinds of people on your ‘team.’ We hope that have learned to value each of them for what they bring to the ‘game.‘ We hope that you have learned that everyone plays a part in your successes and shares in the disappointment of your losses.

We want you to take away a sense of self and self-esteem for what you have accomplished as a player….and as a person. You are someone with skills. You are someone that can be counted on. You are someone that expects the best in others because you know you will be giving the best that you have. You are someone that enjoys a good laugh….and a heart to heart talk.

And we sincerely hope that you find a way to continue with this game that you have grown to love – as a player or as a trainer or as a coach or as an official…..or as a parent. And if that day ever comes, we have some good, solid sideline chairs and an umbrella you can borrow.

We love you, son. You have made us very proud.

Mom and Dad

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Side Tackle at age 6

October 22, 2011

Side Tackle at age 6

A Blogger’s Dilemma

October 13, 2011

It has been a while since I have written a blog entry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. No. Quite the contrary. I think I had too much to say and too many topics to pick from. I could never decide what to focus on. Like, here is my dilemma.

Back in August I had planned to write about how I was living the life of my mother. Our tiny patch of three tomato plants and four cucumber plants had given us an abundance of fruit that we were unable to eat. I decided to can them. And pickle them. I had rediscovered a large blue canning pot that we had used for our camping club’s annual August boiled dinner. I invested in the jars and the pickling salt and the spices and the general paraphernalia needed to complete the job. I spent three very hot days/afternoons slicing and dicing and boiling and capping. And enjoying the unexpected little popping sound the lids made as the jars cooled and sealed.

At the end of August I planned to write about the preparations for my 51st first day of school. Yep. You heard right. I have been celebrating the first day of school as a student, a teacher and a parent for fifty one consecutive years. This year my first school day was spent at a morning rally for my school district’s teaching employees. We enjoyed reconnecting after the summer break with a continental breakfast before our district staff meeting. We listened to the usual rah-rah of the district’s welcome back message, accomplishments and plans for the upcoming school year. It’s a kind of familiar exhilaration to see familiar faces again….everyone was sun drenched and excited about getting back into the classroom. They were looking forward to getting to know this year’s crop of ‘their kids.’ But nothing made me prouder to be a HVS employee than the video presented to the district’s personnel by our new union president, Josh Gignac. I have worked on staff with Josh. I know his humor. And I know his dedication to his craft and the people he serves. He managed to put a lot of heart – and a few giggles – into his little video….and got a standing ovation for it too. PERFECT way to kick off the year. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNyGN5boO6M)

And this thus my 51st school year began.

On September 11th I was planning to write about feeling all moved and melancholy about the 10th year observance of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone was all ‘do you remember where you were.’ Yes. I do. I was in a Kindergarten classroom. I had accidently flipped the wrong switch on my CD player and the parents helping in my classroom heard a snippet of the news reports before I switched back to Dr. Jean’s ‘Alpha-size’ song. I spent the day – along with the rest of my colleagues – teaching school to kiddos who didn’t know and didn’t care about anything other than that the weather was beautiful and we were going outside for recess. At every possible free minute we were glued to television sets. I picked my children up at their daycare and went home to the television there to see the repeated news reports about the devastation in New York over and over again. My own children were seven and a half and six years old. They seemed oblivious to what was happening. Until the next morning. Suddenly my son seemed panicked and driven to write a ‘report.’ (His genius of a second grade Teacher had made report writing a privilege in her classroom. When students were finished with their work they were ‘allowed’ to search her collection of fact books for material to write about.) That particular morning he saw pictures in the morning newspaper and we were suddenly on a search for scissors, glue sticks, tape, paper and a stapler. He put together a simplistic recap. His report read simply, ‘Planes crashed. Buildings fell. People ran.’ And it was illustrated with pictures cut from the morning news. I helped him add the last page. I meant it be a calming force in his mind. It read, “The helpers are here.” The pictures he found for that page showed firemen and police officers covered in dust, people serving food and dispensing drinks…..and praying.

It was a master piece.

He took it to school to share and later in the day his teacher approached me in the hall to thank me. She said she had struggled all night and morning about how to talk to her second graders about what had happened. She’d gone through the papers on her desk and found my son’s report. It was perfect. A horrible event perceived through the mind of a child. A perfect catalyst to allow her students to express their thoughts and fears about what they were seeing and hearing all around them in the aftermath of 9/11.

And so now it’s October. Those second graders of ten years ago are now high school seniors. My son’s final high school soccer season is winding to a close. His last homecoming dance has come and gone. We are starting to focus on college applications. My niece is getting married soon in Gatlinburg, TN. For once we contemplate embarking on an out of town trip that does NOT involve soccer. My daughter tripped over another player in a recent game, injured her back and we are now dealing with physical therapy, CAT scans and a possible MRI instead of practice, tournaments and games.

So you can see my dilemma. We are still here. I am still writing. It’s the focus that’s the problem. Welcome to my life.

Sigh.