Monday, December 21, 2009

THAT kind of parent

Charlie has started wrestling and it has truly been quite an experience so far.

Now let me start by saying that Charlie is just about 7 years old (for those of you that don't know or have forgotten). It is a very freaky thing to see such a little boy locked in mortal hand to hand combat with some other little boy that is just as wiry and fast and strong as he is. And therein lies the problem...

Charlie is the kind of kid where his whole life, everything has been easy, everything comes naturally - from sports - like baseball, football, soccer, running - to things like schoolwork, making friends and actually having a sense of style - to the even more basic skill of really enjoying himself pretty much no matter where he is or what he's doing.

***Enter the sport of wrestling.****

Well practice was all just learning in a fun kind of way so it was very exciting at first. I was thrilled because the coaches are tough - tough in a good way. They don't take any kind of nonsense from the kids and practices themselves are very disciplined - and Charlie was really listening and paying attention and trying his best (i.e. not goofing off). THEN we had our first match. Oh boy, talk about tough - in that Charlie, the kid who is used to being the best at almost everything he does, and having it all come oh so easily, had to deal with getting his ass kicked around by kids better and stronger than him. And he proceeded to walk off the mat in the middle of his 4th match and have quite the tantrum, which included crying, storming and stomping all the way up a set of bleachers...and you must remember the acoustics in a gym. I was mortified.

I was not mortified that he felt so horrible. I mean yes, I felt bad that he was mother wants to see her kid so totally unhappy...but mostly, God forgive me, I was mortified because I was very VERY embarrassed. Thankfully, as I mentioned, he is still so young and junior wrestling is apparently notorious for tears and meltdowns. But his reaction was still a little extreme even within these parameters...And Tom and I are making him continue with the program, even though he would probably take us up on it if we said "OK you can quit." But not so that he redeems himself - and us - in future matches and tournaments by managing to hold it together. But so that he learns a few pretty darn valuable lessons that apply to life in general:

1 - Not everything in life is going to be easy and sometimes you have to fight tooth and nail for what you want. Don't expect things to be handed over on a silver platter with little or no effort on your part.

2 - When things get difficult, you try harder. You DO NOT quit.

3 - Sometimes, you are going to lose. And yes, it sucks when you do. And no, you don't get a trophy anyway.

4 - As good as you may be, at some point, you are going to come across someone who is better than you

5 - Respect authority...your superiors have the power to make your life not so fun. Be aware of that - and act accordingly.

6 - You are a boy - and sometimes it is not only appropriate but it is expected that you be aggressive.

Now let me say that Max is involved in Track, Cross Country and Academic ventures such as Debate and annual County Spelling Bees where many of these same lessons apply. And yes, he has wanted to quit each one of these several times. And Tom and I are as tough on him as we are with Charlie. But things have never been as easy for Max...which is another blog post completely.

We enforce participation in these activities because we both strongly feel that learning to act appropriately while competing with your peers can help build the kind of mental fortitude that generally seems to be lacking these days. There is truly something wrong with so many kids in this country. There is this sense of entitlement, a disregard of values and what seems to be an overall lack of respect for ANYTHING that doesn't make them feel good...and Tom and I find this absolutely appalling. We want to do whatever we can to help prevent this from happening to our kids.

And not that this is the only reason it's happening - but this seems to kind of sum up what's happening. In most kids' activities they don't keep score, no one loses, everyone gets a trophy and if they don't want to practice during practice and they'd rather run crazy or pick daisies...hey! That's ok! Let's not force them to do anything that might make them uncomfortable or tax them in any way, shape or form! Take it easy on them! And let's expect that they take it easy on each other and not get competitive or aggressive, why should they? Yes, it is football, one of the most vicious sports EVER but it's going to be a tie score anyway! It should be shocking if a kid gets up in another kids face and actually BLOCKS him! And if there is a kid that is naturally good at what he is doing - well...then by all means, let's let him slack off, be disrespectful to coaches and make fun of those who may not have his talent. After all, he'll be in the big leagues some day - he's going to beat those 1 in 50 bazillion odds against him...let's start to pay homage now.

And we all know this is what real life is like. You always get to pick who you work with. You always get the job you want for the most money possible. If you don't like something you're working on or decide hey! I'm not much for parenting this can always just stop what you're doing and move on to the next thing. You can tell your boss to go jump in a lake whenever and as often as you please. You never ever have to do anything that makes you pay the bills or give a presentation or wash dishes or carry a car seat with a 15 lb baby strapped inside or even fix a toilet. And if you did...well by God you should get a trophy for it! If some a-hole hits you, well shucks you don't have to hit him back. And if you do happen to be good at something then we all know you are allowed to act however you want and treat people as poorly as you think they deserve.

OK so that last sentence is unfortunately what real life is like - but you get my drift with the rest of it...right???

Yes, Charlie is 7. And wrestling makes him immensely uncomfortable for a whole multitude of reasons. Many parents would let him quit...even encourage him to quit. But Tom and I are THOSE kinds of parents. We feel there is a lot to learn from true competition, not the nonsense kind that's happening these days - and it's never too early to start teaching kids these lessons.

So if you're looking for me to tell me what you think, you'll find me on the sidelines - I'll be the short blonde with the big mouth...cheering her kids on!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cardio as Religion

So I just got back from a 10.5 mile run, which is in fact a personal distance record for me. It took me close to forever, which pretty much goes without saying, but I did it. Sadly, I did not come back from this run a size 4. You chuckle...but there is a part of me that is honestly surprised by this. For real! I mean, you run that far for that long you think you'd just shrink to almost nothing, right? Yeah. Wrong. But, anyway, 2.6 miles to go and I have a 1/2 marathon under my belt. You can all pat me on my size 8 (ish) back now.

But as I was running, two questions burned in my mind - - - how on earth did I get to this point and why the hell do I stay here i.e. why do I continue to do this to myself?

Well, as far as the "how did I get to this point" question goes - how it all started is really not terribly glamorous or inspiring. It was not a situation where I felt compelled to be more healthy or look better. I did not push myself and track my progress as I got stronger and better and faster. It was more an issue of having to walk multiple dogs and getting impatient and pissed off with how long it took so I would break into a jog - and it just went from there. Soon the jogging spurts were longer, which probably directly correlated with the smoke dissipating from my system.

You see, I used to smoke - really smoke. As in not one of these "I can take it or leave it" bullsh*t smokers that seem to be prevalent these days. I smoked like I meant it and then smoked some more. Air travel was pure hell. OK lets be honest an hour long meeting was pure hell. You know how the human body is like 80% water or some such pretty shocking figure like that? My body was 80% tobacco smoke. I made Phillip Morris proud.

But suddenly, out of nowhere, one cold February day almost 3 years ago, I quit. Again, not because I wanted to be healthy or because I had any inspiring desire to live longer for the sake of my kids - it just plain started to irritate me. Budd Lake is effing cold in the middle of February. The "needing" of a cigarette at inopportune moments - like when it is 4 degrees outside - just got to be too much for me to take. So, instead of going on my freezing cold porch to smoke I just said the hell with it - and that was that. That's not to say quitting was even more pure hell than air travel - and I will admit I still want a cigarette to this day - but I kicked it and its over and hopefully I will never have to deal with that whole hot mess ever again.

So that was how it went. The smoke cloud lifted its way out of my system, the running became more frequent and I went for longer periods of time without stopping...until I was counting miles instead of minutes. It got to "ok I did 3, maybe I can do 3.5? ok did that for a few weeks, now maybe 5?" and on it went until today's 10.5.

The bigger question is why do I keep doing this? Seriously, it's more like physical punishment. As I sit here and assess how I feel I can honestly tell you that practically everything from my waist down hurts. My hips, my behind, my quads, my hammies, my calves, my shins, my heels, my arches, the balls of my feet and the second and third toes on my right foot. And I am bound to get a headache later. But I can keep going because most importantly, my knees and ankles don't hurt. And shockingly, I can breathe - except maybe on the really big hills.

I certainly don't do it because I look better. As I sit here and assess how I look after months and months of running, combined with occasional walking, lap swimming, elliptical machine sessions, sit ups, push ups, weights, pilates - I can honestly say that my forearms look really good. But I keep going, because now I'm really scared to think about how I would look if I didn't. I'd loose my awesome forearms at the very least.

In assessing the long distance routes, I have to admit they are not at all relaxing. In order to get the distance, I have to go on main roads - many of which do not have sidewalks. There is not a lot of pavement between the white line on the side of road and where the uneven ground begins - and all along it is covered with sticks, acorns, leaves, trash, hidden divots...all manner of things that can easily produce a broken ankle. But it is understood that this little sliver of pavement is your allotted space if you are a pedestrian...staying on it often times makes it feel as though you are trying to run on a balance beam. Which makes it very interesting when you and the Pocono Produce 18 wheeler need to share the skinny little bridge crossing the Musconetcong River. It also makes it very interesting when you are running by the high school and loads of 17 year old boys are driving their broken down Tercel hatchbacks at Mach 8 to get back to the school before study hall ends and someone notices they are gone. But the most interesting of all was today's run - I was chased by an enormous Great Dane. Boy was he big! I half expected Shaggy and the gang to come barrelling around the corner behind him to lure me into some ridiculous trap and then try to take off my mask.

But I keep going, because once you've done long distance you have to keep trying to go further. You learn to block out the extraneous. And there are the peaceful runs through the woods and past the lake that quiet the mind and are good for the soul.

So get here I did, and stay here I will, and talking like Yoda I will not continue - I'm not entirely sure I answered the "whys" of it all, why running has indeed become a religion for me - but I guess when it all comes down to it, it may hurt like hell, I may not look a heck of a lot better for it, and it may at times be death defying, but it really and truly does feel good.

Keep in mind I am saying that while still sitting down....!!!!

As always, would love to hear everyone's thoughts/experiences etc!