Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Parenting Lessons Learned in 4U Soccer

This past March, Grady started playing soccer for the first time. While soccer season only lasted about three months, the lessons we learned during those three months were invaluable. While Grady learned how to dribble and pass, we learned things about ourselves as parents, and about our son.

This was Grady, at his first game. Note the body language.

During his first few practices, he would refuse certain drills, if he "didn't like them". He would come back to where I was sitting, and refuse to return to the field with his team. During his first few games, he stood still for 90% of the game, despite our yelling "Grady! Kick the ball!". Sometimes he all out laid down on the sideline, and sometimes he just walked off the field to play with Bella and Lilly. He said he didn't like soccer and wished I hadn't signed him up to play.

During the following weeks I learned a few things about my son, and about me as a parent.

-I learned that my son is shy, and feels safe with me, and that's ok. In the beginning, I viewed his return to my side as direct defiance. I instructed him to go play soccer, and he didn't. I would walk him out to the coaches, instruct him to stay there, turn around, and he would follow me. I would very calmly walk him back out. Sometimes he stayed there, sometimes he didn't. To be very honest, I was embarrassed and angry. I was embarrassed that everyone else's kid was out there playing, and mine didn't want to play or leave my side. And I was angry that he was making me look bad. But I began to realize that he was afraid and shy, and having a hard time in a new situation where he didn't know anyone, or even how to play the sport. There were times that I said "ok, you might not want to play, but we will stay here and watch".  I would not coddle him, or say "let's just go home", but I did allow him to sit by my side and watch the others practice.

-I learned that my son is his own person. He has his own personality and his own bent. He was made in God's image, unique and special. It is not my responsibility to force him to act as I think I would act in different situations, especially if he is fearful or afraid. It is my responsibility to teach and model the behavior I want to see, to prepare him for these different situations, and to encourage him along the way, but ultimately he is not me, and his success or failure is not directly equal to mine.

-I learned that it is more important to address his character and his heart, than to forcefully correct his behavior. This is a big one for me. As a parent, it is SO VERY EASY to give consequences for every little misbehavior. Perfect behavior is not the goal of parenting. Perfect behavior makes life easier for me. But that is not the goal, and that is not what is best for my children. The goal of parenting in this family, is to raise children that know Christ and follow Him with their heart, not just in their actions.

When my child stands in the middle of a soccer field and seemingly refuses to play, my instinct is to attempt to force him to do my will.  I could threaten some harsh consequence in an effort to make him obey. I could drag him off the field, give him a spank, then demand that he stop crying and get out there and play.

Instead I chose to give my son a little time. I let him sit with me when he didn't know what to do, and learn by quietly watching. I never, ever, gave him the option of quitting, but I did allow him to progress on his time table, not mine. After the second game, I sat down with him, and asked him to make some goals for the soccer season. I wanted them to be HIS OWN goals in his own words, not something I was lecturing him to do. We wrote them, and here they are:
1. No hands on the ball.
2. Stay with my team.
3. Participate.
4. Make a new friend.
5. Have a fun time.

You see, those are exactly the goals I would have told him to have. He knew it, it was already in there. He wanted to participate. He wanted to stay with his team. He was just having a hard time being brave. And I could have yelled and shouted and stomped my foot and tried to conform him to my will, and it's possible he would have performed as I wanted him to. But what does that teach him? It teaches him that mom cares more about what he does and about not looking bad in front of other people, more than she does about that fact that he is scared, and having a hard time. Instead I let him be responsible for making the changes that he actually wanted to make. I chose gentleness instead of force. I chose to pursue a relationship with him where we could work together toward his own goals. And I chose to see his timid and gentle heart instead of assuming his disobedience was an act of defiance and disrespect directed at me.

I want to parent as God is a father to me. He cares more about my heart than my behavior, although it is true that behavior is an outward expression of my heart. He allows the consequences of poor choices to happen, but is not waiting to drop the hammer down every time I make a mistake. He wants me to come to Him with my fears and my worries, and my failures and my struggles. He wants me to acknowledge that I am a big mess, but that I have goals. And that I'm trying. And that I might not get it right tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, but that I want to get it right. And that I need His help.

I want my children to make right choices, yes. But more than that, I want them to want to make right choices. Not because they're afraid of my discipline, or because they want to please me, but because it's the right thing to do. I want them to know grace and forgiveness. I want our house to be a place of true character development. I want them to be allowed to make mistakes, and to learn from them. I want them to trust me and know that they can come to me when they've done something wrong, because while there may be a consequence, there will also be a parent that loves them, and wants to help them make a better choice next time.

It took him the rest of the season to finally "arrive", but every week he got better. He reviewed and recited his goals before every practice and every game. We encouraged him, and clapped and whooped and hollered for him, every single time he achieved those goals.

By the end of the season, he was a different soccer player. Completely different. He was ALL OVER that field. He didn't stop. Now he LOVES soccer. He had overcome his fear, and he knew it.  He was proud of himself, and we are so proud of him.

When his coach gave him his trophy, he added that Grady was by far the most improved player, and the rest of the parents all agreed and clapped for him.

And guess who can't wait to play soccer next season?
That's right, my boy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Confessions and a Cruise.

If you didn't know, my mama is a travel agent. That is fun for lots of reasons, but one of them is that she occasionally gets to take *free* little trips. This past month, she was planning to go on a 3 day/2 night cruise on The Carnival Sunshine to The Bahamas with a business partner. The ship had been completely remodeled, and so it was a little promo trip for the travel agents, and for family and friends of the ship's crew. But her business partner wasn't feeling well, so I received a last minute invitation to take her place. To go on a free cruise. Uhhhhmm, yes. I called my awesome mother-in-law and lined up some babysitting, and then ran it by my wonderful husband, and hooray for me, he was fine with it. Yay!!

I took this picture with my cell phone, so the quality is not great, but I completely love it. We were on the deck of the ship as we were leaving Florida. Needless to say, it was windy up there!

And this is the not-so-hairy version. Not nearly as fun, right?

The hotel below is where we stayed this past July, with Bryan's family. We would stand on the balcony and wave to the cruise ships as they went past, so it was fun to go by on the other side.

 Goodbye Florida!

Back on the ship...there were dancin' machines. And tootsie's rollin'. The YMCA and the Electric Slide. Because really, what is a cruise without all of that? I will say this, my mom and I are people watchers, and there might be no other place so interesting as a cruise.

Our room was really roomy (considering it was a cruise) and since we were travel agents, we got free stuff too, yay!

 My mom even bought me a drink (or two)!

Here's an embarrassing story, just for the sake of keepin' it real, and get-to-know-yas. I'll probably regret posting this tomorrow. Anyway... I was in college, and I had never really drank any alcohol or been drunk. Being the responsible kid that I was, I wanted the experience, but wanted it to be on my own terms. So I hatched an idea. (Hatching an idea, is never a good idea, by the way.)

It was summer break and I was staying at my parents house. One night around midnight, two of my best guy friends came and picked me up. We drove out to an airport runway, and broke out a bottle of Southern Comfort and solo cups. I proceeded to drink about half the bottle straight, on a completely empty stomach. (Just for anyone who might be concerned, the driver did not drink. That would not be responsible, and this was a very responsible plan!)

I remember the entire hideous display, almost unfortunately. I don't think I have ever felt or looked worse. Ever. (I'm talking, not even ten strings of pearls could have gussied this girl up!) That really great idea of mine came complete with hanging over the back of  a pick-up truck vomiting, crawling around on my hands and knees on an airstrip vomiting, and vomiting until I thought my eyes would pop out of my head... needless to say, it was not pretty, or lady-like, or even remotely responsible. And thank goodness no one had an iPhone in those days! My dear friends drove me home safe and sound, and my sweet sister helped me get back into the house.

I threw up all night. The next day my head was still swirling and I continued vomiting for the majority of the day. Looking back, I'm sure I had some serious alcohol poisoning. All of that to say, ever since that rip-roarin' good time, I can not even smell alcohol without wanting to throw up. Really. I am scarred for life. I'm actually ok with that, and I'm thankful for the lesson learned, however I would NOT recommend the same to my children. Or anyone else's children. Children, do not repeat my experience. So anyway, I went on a cruise with my mom, and she bought virgin PiƱa Coladas for her 34 year old daughter. Hahaha. Whatever...

We landed in The Bahamas, and did a little shopping at The Straw Market.

On our last night, we had the option of either going to the lobster and shrimp dinner, or watching a movie. We choose to sit in the love nest and watch a movie.

I had SUCH a great time just being with my mama. It had been a while since she and I had gone anywhere just us, and it was wonderful to get away for a few days. Thanks Mom! xoxo

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Paramecium!

This morning during school, I walked past Lilly tediously drawing the following picture:

I got all excited and exclaimed, "Lilly! Is that a paramecium? A single celled organism with cilia?!?"

She looked at me crazy, and said dramatically "Noooo mom. It's a girl, with long hair. (dramatic sighhh.) And bootiful pearls...See?" "Of course..."

Someone, please say you see the paramecium??

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Today after church we headed for the beach. I had a wonderful day of sand and sun with my husband and my little loves, followed by dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Today and everyday, I'm so thankful for the opportunity to be a mama to those precious lives. I'm thankful for the mama that was such a good example to me, and I'm hopeful about the mamas my girls will grow up to be.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mamas out there!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Summer is here! (sorta, kinda)

Ya know, I don't really think we had a Spring season this year in Florida. It was cold, and now it's hot, and I don't remember much of the in between. And while yes, I am fully aware that there are still 49 days to go until it's officially summer, I'm thinking once we start hitting the 90°s, it counts as summer in my book. I'm just jumping the gun and making it official around here. Summer is heeeeeere! Tell all your friends!

Last week we hit the beach for the first time in 2014. It was as if these beach babies of mine had been bottling up all of their beach happiness and excitement and wave jumping goodness for this one moment. The moment their piggies hit the sand, I could almost hear Mel Gibson yelling "Freeeedom!".

They jumped and frolicked, and danced like a bunch of carefree little sprites.

Braveheart turned into "Chariots of Fire".

And from there, the musical in my head went to that great classic hit by David Hasslehoff from the Baywatch soundtrack, "I'll be Ready".


Ponce Inlet has been our favorite beach for as long as we've had kids. A friend asked me the other day why we like that beach so much. So here it is, my answer to that question, in picture form...

It's like one of those zero entry pools, except it is enormous. The sand is nice and soft. It's quiet and clean, and it feels relatively safe to me (as related to my fears of kids drowning, getting lost, being taken, etc...). There is a lifeguard tower right there, a pier, and an inlet, a beautiful lighthouse, and a favorite Mexican Restaurant close-by. All of these things equal our very favorite beach for so many reasons.

Soon after we got there, we were able to watch the release of two rehabilitated pelicans and a sea turtle. We didn't know about it in advance, but happened to get there just in time to join a whole bunch of others to watch this fun event.


We had fun learning a little and getting to see something new.
And then it was back to the beach.



And so we celebrated the emergence of summer 49 days early. And that's ok. We love this state in which Spring is but a fleeting thought, quickly swallowed by big bright rays of hot, hot sun. We embrace the upcoming days filled with trips to the pool, the beach, and the splash pad.
Until next time, goodbye to our favorite little place!