Just Sign ‘Em Up!


Olivia and Tallulah may disown me for writing this particular story. Though sometimes it’s tempting to want to sign your children up for the military at a young age, this isn’t about that.  However, sign-ups are here again for AYSO soccer season.  For those of you in other countries, AYSO is American Youth Soccer Organization.  Soccer is a huge sport for kids in America.  I don’t know what happens when we reach adulthood, ‘cos unlike in England, Spain, Mexico, Italy, South Africa and the rest of the world no-one here really gives soccer the time of day as a grown-up.

Needless to say, I have signed up all three of my children to run around a field and hopefully score a couple goals this coming season.  Dash, now 12, has always scored goals in soccer, before specializing as a goalie and I naively assumed that all children did.  Olivia (8) has gone two seasons without scoring and does not like the game (I wonder why?)  Tallulah (6) who looks tall and athletic, is scared of the soccer ball (mostly ‘cos her sister prepared her with menacing stories of mean running girls at bedtime.)  Both of them have told me in no uncertain terms that they do not want to play soccer.

So why has this crazy mother signed them all up?  Not to mention the fact that my husband or I have to get the kids to three practices and three soccer games every week. Come to think of it…I’m rapidly talking myself out of the entire proposition, which is not the goal of the story.

There are the obvious positives…running around and getting sweaty, working as a group, learning that you are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.  It gives my kids a social outlet that is apart from school. They will meet kids from other elementary schools, so that when they make that transition into middle and high school they’ll already know a whole bunch of kids from the other feeder schools.

But here is the kicker (yes, pun intended) for me…  Dash, even though he sometimes scores, is not the star of his team.  Whilst driving him to a friend’s house recently, I asked him whether I had made the right decision to just “sign him up” each year, when he was 8, 9, 10 years old.  These were the famous “NO” years for Dash.  Vegetables for dinner? NO!  Sports?  NO!  Ice cream?  NO!  I mean YES.  I was more than a little surprised when I received an unflinching, unreserved, in-my-face YES! Absolutely. Mom, you did the right thing.   Just Sign ‘Em Up!

Currently, Dash is a great, well-respected soccer goalie.  He understands and knows that he could never have gotten to this place or figured out his position without the years of practice and of winning and losing games.  He understands that you need to earn the respect of your coaches and your team mates over time.  He understands and values respect – others and his own.   And whilst many American adults may not have a passion for soccer, we do like our self-respect.

So, although I am sure that the concept of dogged determination and constant practice can be learned in other areas of life, group sports infuse this idea at a young age.   AYSO soccer is so well organized that all you have to really do is… just sign ’em up.

Dash is glad I did.

The Bits N’ Bobs of the Week Side Bar:

(AKA compulsory read for desperate parents trying to get their kids of the TV, computer, Wii, XBox, DS screen)

You may have heard through the grapevine about a certain World Cup in a certain country of my birth, South Africa, coming up.  Tallulah is all about the Spectator Sport.  She is the inspiration for this week’s “bit n’ bob of the week”.  For those of you with kids there is an entire section of my website devoted to arts n’ crafts or activities that are linked to the shows and now I guess the blog.  (See top of the menu on the right).  So voila… here goes.

FIFA World Cup Art’s n’ Crafts activity

Choose your country and some countries that your team is playing in the FIFA world cup.  Have your child make flags for each country using regular 81/2″ x11″ paper.  Attach popsicle sticks, garden sticks or kebab sticks on the back and wave to your hearts content.

Tallulah and I are rooting for England, (adopted country #1) vs. USA (adopted country #2) this coming Saturday.  The rest of the family are pulling for the USA.  I know, I know, the TV screen still involved, but I’m weaning slowly.


A Hike in the woods!

There was no camp today.  It was time to get my kids out of the house.  This is easier said than done, because the pull of “the screen” in my household is addictive, and my kids are happy addicts.  The screen can be TV, Video games, Nintendo DS and computer games.   This is probably, subconsciously, why I came up with Ms. Bits N’ Bobs.  It is a way to keep TV in check.  They can watch a little and then hopefully, on their own initiative, they will head off and make up some stories on their own.  In my dreams…okay it does happen sometimes.

“Why are we doing this?” my 11 year old moans.  “What is the point of all of this?”  He continues.  These are not rhetorical questions.  He wants answers.  I have got to believe the answer lies in the doing of it.  We head into beautiful Palos Verdes, an area just south of Los Angeles, with the most beautiful horse trails around. 

We borrow Rosie, an exceptionally exuberant half pit-bull, half lab mix and after remembering to bring water for the dog (not ourselves of course) we set off on our hike. 

For about five minutes, all goes well.  The kids are entertained.  The dog is running free.  Then…”how much further?”  “Can we stop for the dog to do tricks for us now?”  “I’m tired.  Can I drink some of the dog water?”  We get stopped by another dog and walker.  This lady warns us that the laws of dogs running free are very strict in this area.  They must be on a leash or we will get ticketed.  Okay, now I have visions of police hiding in the bushes waiting to pounce on my five year old.  My sweet angel is now asking to be carried.  “But I have somefin’ in my shoe, mum”.

I’m determined for a full mile hike.  So I just set off running with the dog, who is walloping me off my feet at about 50 miles per hour.  Happily the kids  follow and as I can’t hear their complaints, I’m in a world of joy. 

On the way back we discover a swing.  Not a fancy swing, but one of those home made swings, a wooden circle attached to the longest blue rope ever, the kind you find in those old movies where they swing across a gully in the middle of nowhere.

They swing, they push each other higher and higher.  Dash and Olivia push Tallulah.  She’s your sister, you take her…he pushes.  No she’s your little sister, you take her.”  They laugh and laugh.  I am the tree protector along with Rosie the dog, in case they are pushed for a header into the tree trunk (by mistake of course, by an older sibling). 

Of course, I was so busy having fun, that I totally forgot to take photos.  So you will have to imagine it all.

Even my 11 year old said he had fun.

The moral of the story… when all the bits and bobs have failed, just go out for a walk.  Adventure lies everywhere.

No such thing as a lazy child

Yesterday, I went on a run with Team in Training – the charity that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society…  http://www.teamintraining.org/ We were to run 8 miles up and down hills.  I was petrified of injuring myself, especially my knees.  I have previously never run more than 7 miles without feeling it in my knees, at which point I quit for about 6 months until I feel better and nice and chubby.

As we ran I joined up with a lovely lady named Cami.  She and I started talking about her brother who is fourteen and has received very mixed grades at school in the last year.  As I huffed and puffed along and talked so that I wouldn’t think about running, I was reminded of the terrible way that I had approached my 5th grader when he first brought home mixed grades this last October and November.

I believe my husband and I  simultaneously asked..”why aren’t you studying?”  “Are you just being lazy?”  “Don’t you understand the process?”  Finally, my child, barely holding back the tears managed to get out that he had no clue how to study, because he had managed to get all the way through the school system up until this point without studying. 

Now he felt like a real idiot that he needed to study, because he had been branded at school as a “smart kid” and apparently smart kids do not need to study.  I apologised (being a respectful mom) and bought him some index cards.  Then, I gently showed him, that  you read the text at least three days in advance.  You make some notes.  You read the text over two night before.  The night before the test, all you should do is to read your notecards. 

Cami’s brother was also being told he was lazy.  But he is 14 and has much greater face to lose than an 11 year old.  Of course, it is difficult for him to ask for help, because he is one of those “smart kids” and thinks he has just turned “stoopid” overnight.  Now everyone is calling him lazy and the saddest turn of events would be if he began to think of himself as lazy.

So now we return to my over-riding fear of running 8 miles.  I don’t think many people would claim I was lazy if I didn’t run the eight miles, but for those who tell people “you are lazy” for not walking a mile, or whatever their challenge may be…I challenge you…that the issue is not laziness, but probably just being overwhelmed by the challenge at hand.

I ran the eight miles, I didn’t get hurt.  I also had three to four people, from coaches to the lovely Cami who ran with me, telling me YOU CAN DO IT!  I HAVE FAITH IN YOU.