Time with my Boy

I’m having a week with Stephen. Lindsey is at Beach Week with our church youth group (Stephen wasn’t feeling compelled to attend this year) and Paul is traveling with work. We are navigating this new space just the two of us and I sort of love it. We have this natural camaraderie that is unique to the first child that made you a mother, almost broke your will to live, and then went on to rebound and become this person who makes you laugh out loud with just a raised eyebrow or a smirk. No one laughs at my jokes louder than Stephen. No one understands Stephen better than me- at least for right now.

We have settled into this easy pace, without any interruptions from our beloved but absent family members. We get up and while I go to the gym, he goes for a run. He works on his online Drivers Ed and I work on household projects. We eat lunch together (Paul grilled us so much food before he left so we would have lunch leftovers). He games online and I work on my projects. At 3:30, he drives us to whatever coffee shop we have decided to visit. He is so funny when he drives. He is so conscientious of all the driving rules but he talks nonstop out of nervousness about anything. We drove 15 minutes one way today and he recited lines from Forrest Gump the whole trip.

When we get to the coffee shop of the day we chat for a few minutes and then we read or I journal. He has summer reading to complete so he has worked on that, but he also finished The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien) for enjoyment. When he finished that book he set it down and said, “I’m done.” I looked at him and saw the emotion in his eyes, and I set down my book. “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked. He proceeded to tell me how much he bonded with one character and then that character died. We talked about the power of a writer to create people we care about. He talked about why that character mattered to him.

After coffee we make dinner plans. We eat and then he games again with his friends. We take care of the dogs. Watch D-Day retrospectives.

It’s one week. But it’s one of my favorite weeks of 2019, so far . He will graduate in three years. He was hard work for so many years and now he is my joy. He is not the smartest, sportiest, ambitious, most eloquent, most likeliest, best Christian teenager. But he is figuring himself out. I love him with every fibre of my being.

He makes me laugh.

He makes me proud when he puzzles out what he needs to do to take his next right step.

I am excited about where life might take him. I’m also a little scared about that.

He has never been the Perfect Child but our journey has been all the richer for it.

I love time with my boy.

Endings

Lately I’ve been thinking about endings. Maybe it’s the end of school year, the graduations, or the irrational reactions to Game of Thrones in my Twitter feed, but I feel surrounded by endings. It’s the time of year, and we are captivated by the Grande Finale.

I am here for a good ending. I love a mike drop. A one line zinger that encapsulates everything. The farewell party. The long hug and squeeze. The rapid burst of fireworks at the end of the Fourth of July. I want it grand and I want it to signal to all those involved, This Is The Final Act. The end has come- you have not misconstrued anything. There will be no curtain call. You may go home and rest in the security that you experienced it all.

But what I’m learning is that not all things end with the Grand Finale. Sometimes, a thing, relationship, commitment, a phase or season of life just stops and that’s all there is. It’s like that meme that circulates on Facebook parenting pages that’s says, “One day you will set your child down and never pick them up again.” I have always had a visceral reaction to that and my flippant response is typically, “One day I will change a nasty diaper for the last time too, but nobody’s holding space for that milestone.” All snarkiness aside, I think my problem with the meme is that I hate that there is no ending to the phases of childhood. They all meld together forming this cohesion we call life. I may want confetti and balloons when I set that child down for the last time but that’s just not how this works.

Lindsey’s volleyball season ended about a month ago. I won’t bore you with the details (other people’s kids’ sport stories are never interesting), but it was so weird. Club volleyball lasts forever and it seemed we were building for a ending- a bid for Nationals. We just missed, but we left our last tournament with the hope that there would be a trickle down bid and the girls would be back in the gym in a week. That didn’t materialize and just like that, we were dismissed. I told Lindsey, “The Summer is now open. Volleyball is over.” She didn’t say much, but a few weeks later we were driving to school and out of nowhere she said, “That was so weird how volleyball ended. No goodbye. Nothing. It was just over.” I agreed with her but I didn’t have any real counsel to give.

This morning, Paul and I were taking a walk and I was telling him about the conversation I had with Lindsey. “She was right. It did seem weird without an ending.” He said, “But that’s life. There isn’t always a neat bow on things. I have had mentors and professional relationships and they just end. There’s no farewell party. No angry fight. The purpose ends and you move on. There’s not always moral value to an ending.”

I found resonance in that.

It doesn’t mean we don’t try to end well. I tell my kids to finish strong in everything and I do the same myself. I think celebrations and putting a period at the end of a season has value. But I’m learning that we don’t have to hunt down a fancy finish where there may not be one. Sometimes we live in the tension of “I guess that was all.”

And that’s ok. That’s life.

Being A Sports Mom: What I’ve Learned From The Sideline

This week is sandwiched by volleyball tournaments and track meets, so it had me thinking about what I’ve learned sitting on the sideline.

We have two kids. Between the two of them, we have tried a lot of sports. In the early years, we did this to keep them active and engaged with other kids. There are parents with different motivations, who see sports as the long term ticket to college or fame (and it can begin as early as three-year-old soccer), but that was never our intent. Along the way, Stephen fell away from sports and Lindsey fell in love with them. She played soccer, then volleyball and lacrosse. Recently, she has narrowed her passion down to volleyball, and Stephen has picked up the individual athletic pursuits of his choosing- sporting clays and track. So we find ourselves, many Saturdays and Sundays, on fields and courts around Georgia. I’ve learned many lessons (some the hard way) as the parent of an athlete, that have made sports-mom-ing a better experience for me and my kids. These may not be true for everyone, but they have proven vitally important in how we treat our kids as they compete in sports.

1. Watch my own child. Don’t be worried about other kids, other parents, referees, the scoreboard- none of that matters. This is one of the few moments in their life when I have no other demands but to cheer for them. My only responsibility is to watch them do a thing they have chosen and trained to do. I often joke that when I was thirteen, I didn’t care about anything as much as Lindsey cares about volleyball. She has given so much of her time to training so she can be valuable to her team. I watch her and I am amazed at her commitment to this sport. I am amazed by her.

Stephen told us when he started high school, he was going to run track in the spring. We were a little surprised because he seemed uninterested in sports when he was in middle school. We don’t know anything about Track & Field, so we put the responsibility of getting involved squarely on him, and he did it. He’s had two meets now, and watching him run might be the proudest I have ever been of him. My pride in him has nothing to do with his performance on the track. I’m proud because he chose this activity and he has followed through with it. He trains every day and has the funniest sense of humor about all of it. When I watch him run, more than any other time in his life thus far, I see the man he is becoming. If you see me in the stands at a meet, I will have the goofiest smile on my face the whole time, because that is my ornery toddler, my strong-willed kid, turning into a self-disciplined young man.

2. Recognize it’s a season. When I say that, I don’t just mean a spring or fall season, but a season of their life. This will end. One day they will walk away, and hopefully it’s with fond memories. I can help facilitate that by keeping it in its proper context. The sport does not define my child. Their success or position on a team will never be the deciding factor in a happy life. Not one person on their deathbed looks at their life with regret because they weren’t the starting first baseman on their high school baseball team.

It’s just a season. A few pages in the scrapbook of their life. Enjoy it and treasure it for what it is. One day I will miss all of this: watching them compete, the wins and losses, their growth mentally and physically at the sport, even the crazy schedule we keep- AM wave tournaments in a city 2 hours from home or splitting time at a track and a gym on Saturdays. I will miss the good, the bad, and the crazy, but there will be many other rewarding seasons in their lives. The best is still to come. Hold on loosely.

3. They will learn life lessons on the field or court. The learning won’t all be rules and strategy and situational play. Don’t get in the way of the life lessons. Don’t run interference for them. It’s hard to be a bystander when I see adversity or pain coming my child’s way, but sometimes the road they are called to in life will require wisdom gleaned from what they learned competing or in team dynamics. Those lessons don’t always congeal right away. Character building takes time and distance and that space is fertile ground for bitterness to grow. Don’t be bitter. Trust timing and perspective to bring wisdom and peace. No matter how long that takes, believe this experience will make them stronger.

4. Coach them how to manage their feelings and perceptions. What I know strategically about the game of volleyball or the conditioning needed to run 800 meters could be written on the head of a pin. I don’t coach my kids, because I have the dumbs when it comes to their sports. I also pay a billion dollars for them to play and so I assume their coaches are being compensated to do the heavy lifting. The pressure is off me to break down technique. What I can coach them on are their feelings about what happened. Their perspective at this age tends to be a bit inward focused, so having conversations where we can look at things from a different angle are so valuable. I’m not running any interference on the life lessons, I’m just helping them frame things in the proper context.

These are my Sports Mom lessons learned, so take that as you will. They may not be for everyone. I have seen plenty of parents coach their children from the sideline so maybe that yields the results they desire. It’s just not my business. These are the boundaries that work for us. This is the place where we can appreciate the value of sports in our kids’ lives and also enjoy the balance of family, school, rest, and play.

We’re playing by these rules. If we play this right, they succeed at life. That matters more than any game.