Monday, October 22, 2012

A Moment with my Daughter

It was a momentary pause at the edge of the continent, my daughter and I hanging onto each other for warmth. It was not long before the too-chilly ocean breeze pushed us back to reality.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pacify Me! Pacify Me!

When will we realize as parents that constant entertainment is a disservice to our children? Teaching a child to be still, even for a short time, is a great gift that a parent can give a child.

As I sat in church this evening, I became aware of a familiar scent that I could not place. I looked to my left to see a nearby child munching nacho cheese Doritos. A few rows ahead, two boys were making quite a ruckus trying to wrestle Club Penguin comic books from one other. A pounding sound drew my attention to my right, where a young girl was frantically trying to shoot aliens on an iPad with her finger action. Mind you, these were not toddlers. These were not even preschoolers. These children ranged in age from six to ten.

This is not a diatribe on children disrupting church. I love children. I do not mind them making noise in church. It happens. I was there once; I remember the heat of embarrassment crawling up my body as I realized that my whining toddler was not going to stop, and a scene must be made as I gathered the child, the diaper bag, and any siblings to retire to the cry room.

No, this is a comment on the lack of the willingness of parents to require their children to sit quietly, without entertainment, for one hour a week. This is a plea to parents to buck up and stop being afraid of disciplining their children, for heaven's sake. And it starts in the cry room, where parents let their children run wild instead of using the opportunity to teach them to start learning to be still for longer than 30 seconds.

Oh, easy for me to say, my children must have been angels. Well, no. But my children never had food or toys in church, except for milk and a pacifier when their age was still counted in months. I confess I missed being in the actual church sanctuary enough to move forward from the cry room sooner than I should have. My kids made age-appropriate noise and probably bothered people on occasion, but we entered a blissful state when my son discovered that napping under the pew was something a three-year-old could do without being too conspicuous. It was a welcome relief for me, and humorous for the row behind us. But as he was closing in on school-age, even that had to stop.

Then my son started resting on my lap, or trying to stretch out on the pew. I had varying degrees of patience with that for a few years while he was smaller. But lying on my lap ended at some point, and now even at twelve he knows that his head on my shoulder is only sometimes tolerated. I know it's hard for kids sometimes to understand what is going on, but religion aside, I hold the firm belief that there is value alone in just learning to be still.

My sister has two sets of twins, eight and three. She can take all four of them to church and sit in the sanctuary. Sometimes she will have a rabble-rouser with a younger monkey, and have to leave for a bit, but mostly they are fine. I have taken the older two to church on several occasions over the past few years and have been remarkably impressed with their quiet, respectful behavior. And my nephew is as rambunctious and boy-like as they come. These children have just been taught to be still for an hour without the aid of entertainment. My sister is not afraid of her children, nor is she in need of the crutch of an iPad.

As I returned to my pew after communion today, trying to avoid stepping on the mess of Doritos on the carpet, I became increasingly disturbed by how many parents give up so easily. When junk food, comic books, and technology are pacifiers for school-age children, we are not allowing our children to grow up. And this does not even begin to address the message that is being sent to these children about the importance of their religion. I am not even going to go there. As a Sunday school teacher, I see parents all the time that expect me to instill the love of God in their children in one hour a week--unless of course there is worship at a soccer game that week.

Parents are the first and primary educators of their children. We must embrace that power and not give it away to pacifiers. Teaching a child to be still in the presence of God is a gift to them, not a punishment. As a dear friend, an elderly gentleman, once said to me about attending church, "With all God gives you, you can't give Him an hour?" My children know they will hear that if they ever complain about going to church, and they know that their pacifier is a stern look from mom. As my son rests his head on my shoulder even tonight, I allow it, remembering how tough it is even for adults to pay attention sometimes. But you quietly sit through those tough times, so you are there and available for the times that are truly meaningful. So to the mom of the seven-year-old banging on the iPad, leave it in the car next time as a reward for sitting quietly in church.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Reflections

To no longer be awakened at the crack of dawn on Easter morning by two exuberant little children is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It is a good thing because the Easter Bunny is not quite ready, and it is a bad thing because it feels like all that tradition and fun is gone by.

We even forgot to dye eggs this year.  We do it every year on Holy Thursday.  I did eventually buy the eggs and dye, but the package has been sitting on the counter for two days without anyone mentioning it.

I suppose I could be sad about the loss of the expectancy and innocence, but I'm considering skipping that.  For every little thing that I notice has passed, there is something to be thankful for to take its place.  For example, getting enough sleep. Or having time to put the last minute touches (okay, start puttting together) the baskets.  If my children were still bounding in to wake me at their age and size, I think I would be worried.

I look at other people's babies and small children and I smile.  I tweak their toes and googoo at them.  I enjoy their existence without needing one of my own.  (I happen to feel that way about dogs too.)  While my younger friends are frantically looking for a sitter, I am enjoying my freedom to come and go.  I am counting down the days when my daughter has her license, so I can send her out for Mexican food.  I have paid my dues; I have enjoyed that innocent time.  Now it is time for the next phase.

Until grandchildren.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Winning Spirit

My son's basketball team is quickly proving themselves to be the worst in the league. I say that with pride, because I tell my son that they surely have learned the most of any team these last few months. But I also agree with him that losing sucks.

It's not that we don't have a couple of talented players who hustle and score. But many have little experience, and they have never played as a team before. We have one tall player, my son, and with that height comes expectations. I watch him improving and getting more comfortable, but basically he's a nice kid with little experience.

At this game, the opposing team had four very tall players, one of whom was a man-boy who looked like he should be in high school and shaving instead of in fifth or sixth grade. The coach had obviously grilled these boys to be piranhas. They were mean and lean. And all their shorts matched.

While they were making score after score, and foul after foul, our boys were ducking and crawling to keep from being injured. Watching a thirteen-year-old pubescent shove backwards into a small ten-year-old boy made you want to go down on the court with a large handbag.

We had some bad juju going on too. Even our wiry guys were off today. If I had a nickel for every shot that traveled around the rim and flew out, I would have had enough for a large Gucci knockoff. It was a blessing the scoreboard was on the fritz today, because the score was something like GNP to zip.

Our team has played together enough to know who scores. The other players respect that hierarchy, and have dramatically improved their passing skills. My son gets the ball now and again, being tall, and has gotten good at passing. But just once, for him, I would like to see him go for a shot. Or at least have one of his teammates pass to him on purpose.

To my delight, one time when he had the ball and we were not yet on the board, he took that shot. The ball arced beautifully towards the hoop and licked the lips of the rim, but bad juju made it fly out again. Dang. I saw the word on his face.

Sometime in the second half, after the sympathetic referee froze the other team's score, we got on the board. My son even went for a second shot with similar results as the first. We scored a couple of times, with parents going ballistic with every shot. The parents on the other team were barely watching, chatting on cel phones and with each other.

Then something interesting happened. One of our players made a shot and the ball landed on top of the backboard and stuck fast. The referee called for another ball--not to keep playing, but to get the first ball down.

A couple of our teammates took a few shots to knock it down, but wires and poles kept it from contacting the ball. Even the referee tried a couple times. My son tried once, and kissed the ball, but it didn't budge. Still, I could see his mind working.

That look on his face is one I have seen a hundred times. We have nine mature trees in our front yard which have been home to errant remote control planes, kites, paper airplanes, sticks, ropes, hats, and even a pair of scissors once. Our homes also have some low elevation roof lines which have served the same purpose as the trees: to challenge a little boy looking upwards and wondering how he's going to get his boomerang down.

I could see that look on his face now. He had no step ladder, no grabber, no extending pole for changing light bulbs. He just had a basketball.

Finally, his outstretched hands received the ball from a teammate, and my son walked around to the side of the backboard. He cooly assessed the distance, aimed, and shot. The ball bounced off the other, which started to roll slowly along the backboard. In slow motion, the ball made its way to the other end and fell off to the ground.

The parents cheered as if the winning point were dunked. "Ten-pointer!" Even the other side put down their phones for a moment. A couple of my son's teammates congratulated him. But more beautiful than seeing that ball drop was the expression on my son's face as he loped off. There was his big smile with maybe a hint of embarrassment in the pink of his cheeks. But overall, there was the distinct look of pride.

Epilogue: The last game of the season was quite exciting, with a fingernail-biting spread of no more than two points the entire game. We were up by two when the buzzer sounded, and our team and the crowd went wild. Finally, to know what it feels like to win. Very cool.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Card 2010

Cool Blue Holly Christmas Card
Create modern Christmas cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Teaming Up for Fun

In a never-ending quest to team up and share our gifts with one another, my dear girlfriend Peg Windisch and I worked together to create an article about her non-profit organization, We Are Coaches. The organization is committed to "help empower children to grow the kind of wings that will serve them, and the world, in adulthood." The article appeared as the community non-profit spotlight in the August 2010 issue of Natural Awakenings magazine, a local San Diego publication. The article can be read here.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Melt Me

So my ten-year-old guy says to me this morning as he's buttoning his shirt, "Mom, you make my life easier." Then he counts with his fingers, "You wash my clothes, you give me food, and you just love me." As we're hugging he says, "You just help me get through life."

Wherever you are, my future daughter-in-law, you're one lucky girl.
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