WHAT I REALLY WANT TO SAY

“I speak my mind¬†because it hurts to bite my tongue.”

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Disclaimer: This is not a personal account of my life to date, but a compilation of many conversations with parents behind closed doors.

Political correctness. It’s what this country has ingrained in us. It’s what we can or can’t say on social media, in a text, an email or to someone’s face because it’s not “socially acceptable” or in fear of ticking someone off. Our tone can be misconstrued, our intent can be misread, and so many times we let things go in fear of the backlash.

We have all faced our set of challenges along this parenthood highway. We’ve met people in all facets of our life that we really wish we could speak our mind to but didn’t. We’ve bit our tongue countless times and let it sit on the back burner where we brewed about it for days. In a perfect world, people would take criticism well, advice to heart and suggestions would be appreciated. Before reading further, know that I do believe MOST people are good in this world, but this is for all the parents who shut their mouths when they really wanted to say…

HEY PARENT: Your kid is a jerk and you have no idea. And if you do, shame on you. You have no clue the damage they have done to my child. And by the way, you are a jerk just like your kid. I’m tired of you acting like you are interested in what I’m saying until someone else comes along that’s more important, has more money, throws better parties or can do something for you that I can’t. Too bad, just like your child, you lost out on a great friend.

HEY TEACHER: I know you are just a person like the rest of us and have good and bad days, but please don’t take it out on my child. You are with them 75% of their day. They look up to you, admire you and even on their worst days might be desperately seeking to gain your approval or encouragement because they might not get enough at home. Listen to my kid when they come to you with a problem and help them if they have the courage to approach you. Build them up, especially if you know they struggle.

HEY COACH: I won’t suck up to you like everyone else. I won’t drink beers with you and get close to your family to benefit my child because one of these days my child will have to prove themselves without your help. And they will flourish. Please treat all your players equally, and for God’s sake, be a good role model. Encourage, inspire and motivate. Not by yelling, demeaning or punishing my child. Remember positive words go a long way on and off the field. Stop the mind games and watch my child soar.

HEY FRIEND: Stop judging me for the decisions I make. You have no idea what’s going on inside the walls of my life. I am doing the best I can but you might not know I’m in the middle of a health scare, having marital problems, dealing with a severely depressed child who’s struggling with an addiction, or at risk of losing my job. People don’t post this stuff on Facebook so you might not be aware of what I’m going through. Be supportive, be kind and ask me to meet you for coffee. (PSA: Before my friends start texting me to meet at Starbucks, no I’m not going through any of this right now but thanks for thinking of me. Remember it’s a blog.)

HEY HUSBAND: Don’t tell me I look “FINE” ever! Always tell me I’m beautiful and love me more every day. Understand that I’m really tired at 10pm, physically, mentally and emotionally. Don’t try to talk to me on the phone about finances when I’m checking out at Costco. Throw a load of laundry in the washer if you see it piling up and once in a while surprise me with dinner on the table when I get home from a long day. Better yet, hire a sitter and plan a date night mid-week. But mostly, just be there for me, being a mom is hard and is seriously underrated on the job index.

Life is too short not to speak your mind. Life is also too short not to share our experiences with others, the good AND the bad. There is always a way to soften your words to get your point across, but never apologize for your feelings, especially when it comes to your happiness or the well-being of those you love.

HEY READER: Have a good day, you’re awesome. ūüôā

 

 

 

DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY

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You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying over the future.¬† ~Anonymous

It’s human nature to worry. When we become parents worry soars to a whole new threat level. Little did we know, that worry would become ingrained in us from that day on for the rest of our lives.

In the beginning our worries are relatively small. We worry our baby isn’t eating enough or gaining¬†weight. We worry¬†they aren’t sleeping through the night, rolling over, crawling, walking or talking as quickly as the¬†other kids in our mommy and me class. When they’re older the issues get bigger making our worries greater every year.

Yes, for some people faith gets them through tough times, others it’s family and friends, those support systems we can’t live without. But that deep, dark fear, that immense pang of worry when our baby is sick, when our toddler falls and hits his head on the playground, when our daughter is bullied in middle school, when our teen doesn’t answer his phone and is out past curfew, and when they move away and go out on their own. Daily fears can build up and consume EVERY, SINGLE part of our life.

And suddenly everything in our world is affected. Our relationship with our spouse, our co-workers, our parents, our friends and most of all, our children. Worry will always be part of parenthood, but have you ever thought how constant fear and worry about the future affect your life today?

The dictionary definition of worry is “to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” A few synonyms for worry are strain, stress and tension. Some antonyms; calmness, content and peace.

Think about it. What sounds better, stress or calmness? Tension or content? Strain or peace? Pretty simple huh? Not really. But if you think about, worry can ruin your relationships. Worrying constantly about your children will inevitably consume your adult conversation with your spouse, when you should spend that time “dating” each other and connecting as adults. Worry can ruin your relationship with co-workers if you show a lack of trust or have issues delegating tasks. Worrying constantly about your kids can make you a helicopter parent, a nag, a “NO” parent, a perfectionist, a genuinely not fun person who has zero chance to score a Starbucks date with your teenage daughter.

As much as I can’t erase your worries as a parent, we can learn to manage them. Keep in mind I don’t have a Psychology degree or MD. I’ve just been a mom for the past 17 years. I don’t know everything but I do have a few tricks to a worry-free or worry-less life.

  1. BREATHE. Have you ever gone through an entire day without taking one deep breath? Yeah, me too. Sit for a minute, in carpool line, at your desk, in the bathroom, at a stop light, and just breathe, deeply.
  2. BUSY. Especially in the darkest moments of parenthood, don’t hide. Don’t lock yourself in your room or disconnect from those around you or the activities that you love, stay busy. Bonus your laundry and dishes will always get done.
  3. PRAY. If you’re at all religious praying can ease your mind and warm your heart. If you’re spiritual or meditate take some time to yourself.
  4. EXERCISE. Nothing helps clear my head better than a good workout. I’m not a fitness guru, sometimes I go for months and never lace up my sneakers except to sit on the sideline to watch a soccer game. But I have heard exercise increases something in your brain that makes you feel better. That’s as scientific as I get.
  5. SLEEP. Everything seems like it’s falling apart after 3 hours sleep. Hit the hay. You’ll feel better in the morning and can tackle problems with a clear head.

Moral of the story, worry less, live more. Stay present, stay calm…today. Yesterday may have been awful, tomorrow may be plain dreadful and 2018 may be your worst year yet. But you are here today, how will you choose to live?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This land is my land, this land is NOT your land

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Dear Kids, the world I grew up in is not yours…let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a boy who rode his bike for miles and miles after school down winding streets, through woods, stopping at 7-11 for candy on the way home well after dark. Now he sits in silence gazing at a screen with X-Box remote in hand, talking online to random “friends” who he’s never met. He spends hours watching “You-Tubers” or “Googles” the answers to his homework online.

Once upon a time there was a girl who played dress-up, “House”, board games, hide and seek and kickball in the back yard. Now she Snap chats to keep her 500 streaks up, spends an hour editing a post to attain the most “likes”, and hides behind a screen as she texts hurtful words or comments because they’re “anonymous”.

I was that little girl playing dress-up 30 years ago, your dad was that little boy riding his bike through the woods. We were those kids that lived without fear, grew up with our neighbors and had dinner with our families at night. Nothing was perfect back then, we all had struggles and tragedies, we loved and lost, we had hope and defeat.

But today for you and your friends, this world is not our world, nor will it ever be. You are growing up faster than we ever did, struggling to balance a technological life with reality. You are witnessing first hand acts of terrorism, acts of evil…things we only saw in movies when we were your age. You must be wondering why bad things happen to good people, why there is so much hatred?

There has been more than our fair share of “bad” lately. Our country is divided on so many levels, evil acts are terrorizing people all over the world.¬† People are tweeting, “Love will win”, “Love conquers all”. All good thoughts, and I truly hope love does win and conquer all.¬† But in reality how do we make that happen? How do YOU make that happen.

I don’t know the answer to that question. But I can tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to put down my phone and lap-top, and stop watching the news. I hope you decide to do the same. I’m going to stop tweeting about love and go out in the world and do it. I’m not going to ignore the homeless man that comes to my window. I’ll make eye contact with people on my walk, smile and say hello. I’ll strike up a conversation with someone who looks like they’ve had a rough day, finding a way to put a smile on their face.

So go out and make someone’s day. Always be respectful, empathetic and kind. Chat with your friends face to face instead of Face Time. Let your voice be heard and stand up for someone in need and for something you truly believe in, even if you face ridicule or embarrassment. Show love and kindness to those who have hurt you, those that annoy you, those that anger you. Everyone has their own cross to bear, don’t let yours weigh so heavily that you can’t see into the hearts of others.

And if you start today and do this every day, then maybe, just maybe my land will be yours again. Remember, you can make a difference. Write this quote down on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~Mother Teresa

I love you guys,

Mom

 

 

WASTED TIME

Mia and Mama scalloping Crystal River

I’m exactly 365 days until my first-born goes to college. I’ve been slightly emotional and teary-eyed at Facebook updates my friends are posting complete with pictures of dorm room transformations and emotional embraces as goodbyes are being said. I’m a year from that point, I have time…or so I thought until mass this morning.

We sat to the right back like our family always does in the cathedral downtown.  The choir sang peacefully as mass goers funneled in through the narthex. I love attending mass downtown because you see people from all walks and facets of life. The walls are filled with a beautiful melting pot of people created by the same God we all came to worship today.

But something was different this morning. God was sending me a clear message. In front of me a toddler with pig tails sticking up from the center of her head was being held by her grandpa, a pale-faced elementary-aged girl with rosy cheeks was sitting on her mom’s lap to my right, a sleeping infant in her mom’s arms to my left, a college aged girl and her boyfriend sat behind me, and my 12th grade daughter snuggled up next to me in the pew. I was surrounded by the circle of my daughter’s first 17 years of life.

Honestly I didn’t listen to much of what was being said in mass today, I couldn’t focus on any intention or prayer because I was completely distracted by the infant, the toddler, the young girl, the college girl and my daughter.

I relived the tough years waking up several times a night to comfort and feed her as a baby. The busy years chasing her around the playground as a toddler, and the school years trying to protect her from every bully and make sure she was thriving academically. My eyes began to water thinking about the teen years worrying about her and trying to find the right balance between holding her close and letting her go.

But one thing rang constant throughout all those years, the wasted time. If I had everything to do over I would have napped with her more as a baby and not worry so much about having a clean house and homemade baby food. ¬†When she was a toddler I would have gotten off the bench more and stopped talking to other moms and jumped on the swings and held her hand down the slide. I would have let her fail more in primary school and not compare and worry so much that she was keeping up with her classmates. I would have let her skip more sports practices to be at family events, middle school parties, or just to have some much-needed “downtime”. I wouldn’t have let other’s expectations; coaches, teachers, family members and friends dictate how my child was to perform, excel or participate in various academic and sports activities in her high school years.

Don’t get me wrong, I did some things right along the way. I don’t have a heart full of regrets and my daughter has turned out to be a pretty awesome kid. I know she’s ready to spread her wings and I will be crying a river feeling empty inside one year from now as she embarks on the next chapter of her life.

So take it or leave it, maybe my story helps bring some perspective to your life. Live, love and have fun now! Hold your baby a little longer tonight even if you have work to do. Blow bubbles with your toddler, the dishes can wait. Take a bike ride with your child, some of the best talks will be during this one on one time. ¬†Watch a little Netflix with your teen, let them pick the show…the laundry can get done later.

Don’t let life pass by too quickly, take advantage of the wasted time you still have. ¬†So goodnight and God Bless, I’m off to snuggle my daughter…

MOTHERHOOD…THE UGLY TRUTH

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When our kids were babies we shared every milestone and dressed them in cute clothes for monthly pictures but we didn’t talk about the afternoons we cried for no reason locked alone in a bathroom.

When our kids were toddlers we dragged them around to every Gymboree or music class we could find but then lay awake at night wondering why our children were not walking first, talking in complete sentences or as outgoing as their buddies  in all of those classes.

We volunteered for every field trip or playground duty at school in the elementary years to find out who our kids hung out with or how they were doing socially only to get in the car and cry behind sunglasses when we realized our kid was the bully or the one that no one wanted to play with.

As our kids got older we posted on social media their successes and accomplishments, not their failures. We posted the “good” or edited pictures from vacations, not the ones taken of the kids screaming, crying and not willing to pose. We bragged about academics when our child was on top, but not when they were desperately struggling.

Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it only gets harder as our kids get older and their problems get bigger. So to all my mom friends out there, I wish you all the best on Mother’s Day and every day! I pray that you have the strength and faith to get through the hard times. I hope you know how much you are worth, all the worry, fear and pain you go through is not for nothing. I want you to know you are not alone no matter how many mothers or families you judge yourself against…remember everyone has their own cross to bear. We are all mothers, we all have an undying love for our children and we are all living the same¬†ugly truth.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!‚̧

 

 

 

SPORTS PARENT WAKE-UP CALL

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“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius¬†

 

It hit me hard this morning.¬†The kind of hard where you can’t control your emotions. Where you try to sniffle up the snot that¬†fills your nose and¬†tell people your eyes are watery due to allergies or¬†contacts.

As I sat in the Neurologist’s office among a crowded group of parents and kids, tears welled up in my eyes and my heart started to race. My breath became short and¬† overwhelming guilt-ridden stomach pains thrashed sharply as I sat on the cold leather couch.

I had¬†waited for¬†30 minutes already. When I arrived no one was in the waiting room but me so you can understand my impatience at not being taken care of before now.¬†I had things to do, errands to run and little time to fit it all in. All’s I needed was a copy of the paperwork regarding¬†my daughter’s recent¬†concussion she got last month during a soccer game. The school needed the paperwork for¬†their records.¬†I needed that paperwork or they might not let her back on the field tonight.¬†It’s Districts week for high school. She has to get back out there. What if she doesn’t? What if she’s out another week? What if she has no endurance or plays terribly when she does¬†play? What if the coach benches her anyway? All these things were rolling¬†through my mind while sitting by myself in that waiting room.

And then they walked in…

The first family had a young girl in a wheelchair hooked up to multiple tubes. She was wearing a “Frozen” sweatshirt and had drool traveling down her pale chin.

The second was a frazzled middle-aged mom with a boy who looked in his late teens. He came in screaming, grunting and running around the waiting room. His mother grabbed him gently by the arm and settled  him down, coercing him to the chairs on the far end of the waiting room where he preceded to silently rock himself back and forth.

The third family didn’t speak English. Their child looked to be about 10, had braces on both legs and a walker. He couldn’t verbally communicate in Spanish or English. He sat down quickly in front of the TV to watch cartoons. He never blinked.

The last family to come in was a young couple with a beautiful little girl who walked with a very noticeable limp. She sat down next to me and smiled. I said, “Hi! What’s your name?” She quickly lifted her hands and “signed” to me. Her mother explained she was deaf and had several other learning and motor delays.

That’s when it hit me. The fact that I was overly concerned and annoyed that I couldn’t get my paperwork in a timely manner now seemed ridiculous. The fact that I was worried about my daughter playing soccer tonight, her playing time and performance, suddenly didn’t matter.

As I looked around the room I thought to myself…these kids will never play soccer like my kids. They won’t ever make a D1 travel or varsity team.¬†But do you think their parents are worrying about that? No way! They are finding ways to help their kids live life to the fullest. They aren’t consuming their time with¬†worry that their child won’t score a goal or hit a homerun. They aren’t fearful of their child being cut from the high school team or not getting an athletic scholarship.¬†They don’t criticize their kids when they miss the catch for the winning¬†touchdown or¬†yell¬†from the sidelines their frustration with a child’s performance or effort.

The dark side of youth sports has infected so many parents, including me. How very sad.¬†I’m embarrassed to have spent so much time¬†through the years overthinking¬†our children’s performance, their skill level and their future.

So¬†today I am¬†simply thankful for¬†our three healthy children. I’m thankful they can run and play sports because I love to watch them compete. But I am more thankful¬†they can walk, and talk, and feed themselves. I feel blessed that they can go to normal schools, drive a car and have a good job someday. I won’t take each healthy day I get with them for granted, knowing all of that could change in an instant.

Thanks God for the wake-up call. I’ll see you at the game tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

For Better or For Worse ‘Til Sports Do Us Part

 

mama-tatoWE ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS WITH A LIFETIME CONTRACT ~ Phyllis Koss

When our kids were little our weekends¬†revolved¬†around the YMCA watching¬†them play every sport¬†offered. Every season brought something new and we found immense joy seeing our children conquer their first steps in basketball, soccer,¬†flag football and cheerleading.¬†Almost as important as watching our kids stumble around the field or court were the friendships we made with other sports parents. The coffee talk at the morning games and the spontaneous lunch or ice cream outings with these families were some of my favorite memories of¬†our kids’¬†early sports years.

Everyone was happy. Even if¬†the¬†team¬†lost there were still smiles and high fives and a tunnel¬†to run through at the end of¬†the game. As years went by¬†the six-week YMCA sports seasons turned into semester-long specialized sports training then year-long travel/club sports commitments began to take over most of our lives. We then divided¬†into soccer,¬† gymnastics, basketball, football and¬†lacrosse families.¬†Everyone’s schedule became so intense that we rarely, if ever, had the chance to connect over coffee, share birthday cupcakes with the team or grab a beer and wings at the local pub after a hot afternoon match.

Gone were the Saturday mornings when the whole family got in the car to attend the sporting events for the day. Now Saturday morning was planned the Monday before, in everyone’s planners, on the refrigerator calendar, and in alerts on smart phones. “You go there, I’ll go here, then we’ll meet and swap kids then maybe I’ll be there by half-time, if not send them with so and so and we’ll meet up back at home tonight or tomorrow when the tournament finishes.”

The years of “dividing and conquering” had begun. Not just on the weekends but during the week as well. Not just other families but ours too would be separated most nights as we drove our three kids to different practices at different times in different locations.

We found ourselves scheduling everything around¬†their schedules.¬†And we weren’t alone. Almost all of our friends have kids who are in sports, most of whom are highly successful athletes living the same life in a different house. I love these families and respect their dedication and commitment to their children’s goals and dreams.

But as our kids have gotten older I’ve seen an alarming amount of these families begin to crumble…from the top. I remember sitting in a church marriage seminar with¬†my husband¬†when we were newlyweds. The speaker drew a pyramid on the white dry-erase board at the¬†front of the room. At the top he¬†wrote “GOD”. Below he wrote, “HUSBAND & WIFE”. Below that was “KIDS”. Below that was “EXTENDED FAMILY”. And so on…through friends, work, etc.

His point was to never lose focus on the pyramid. He told us to live our life from¬†the top then go down. Never¬†from the bottom up or in between. He said, “Always…always put your marriage first, above your children. Because without a strong husband/wife relationship there is nothing. And your marriage won’t last.”

Over the past few years our insane sports schedule has sometimes taken over our family life. We were focusing more on the losses and disappointments our kids faced on and off the field and the life lessons they painfully were going through more so than spending quality time together as a married couple, away from the kids, away from the field.

We are surrounded by friends who were once smiling at each other¬†at the YMCA games and holding hands walking back to the car. Not so much anymore. We often witness our friends fight over how their spouse reacts or doesn’t react to their child during or after¬†a game. Parents who don’t sit together on the sidelines anymore and¬†who disagree on training options, coaches or school choices based on sports. Parents who never see each other because of the logistical nightmare they endure every evening their kids jump in multiple cars to go to practice.

We have been there. We have fought and cried and lost sight of what that church speaker told us almost 20 years ago. We had toppled off the pyramid and were free-floating in the youth sports milky way.

Fortunately for us, we have¬†a strong foundation in our marriage and I have a husband who will do anything and everything to make me feel like there is no one else in this world that matters more. People often compliment our marriage and ask how we do it. My response is always, “We work hard at it. We are honest and real and don’t get lazy with our relationship. Marriage is not perfect, nor will it ever be but with hard work, huge love and respect, it will last.”

So anytime we start to veer off track we quickly find ways to reconnect and prioritize our relationship. We plan more date nights, we have wine by the fire pit after a long day of sports, and don’t talk about sports!¬†We constantly remind each other to stay present in our life together.¬†But¬†it’s hard, trust me I know. It’s¬†easy to get caught up in our kids’ lives. Everybody does it but¬†no one talks about it.¬†So I am.¬†For better or for worse don’t let your pyramid fall apart.

THE COLOR OF FUN – SPORTS PARENTING 101

 Mia beats player 4

“Your children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them in with your favorite colors.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer

Yes we are that family that loves sports, all sports. We love to watch and play sports, we even compete, sometimes too seriously, against each other in our own backyard.¬†But one thing we never forget is to have fun. Some families like to read, play board games, make music or art together. Since we all lack talent pretty much in all those categories, we play. We have fun. So as many times as we’ve watched our kids’ teams win or lose, as frustrating as it may be we remind them that sports should be fun. And more importantly it should be THEIR fun, not OURS.

Years ago we were those sports parents who tried to talk to our kids after¬†practice or a game. Whether the outcome was positive or negative, we felt the need to have a discussion. Looking back, I really think we thought we were being helpful by sharing our insight and talking things through. Turns out we weren’t.¬†Several years back I remember my then¬†10 year-old¬†glaring at us as¬†we began to discuss a particularly bad game he had. He looked his dad¬†straight in the eyes after he rambled for 10 minutes¬†and said, “How long is this life lesson going to be? I just want to be prepared.” That was about the same time I went to my first¬†youth sports seminar and listened to¬†sports-life coach David Benzel¬†talk about how to be an effective sports parent. I remember sitting there thinking to myself, “Wow, we’re doing everything wrong.”

Things changed in our house for awhile and we didn’t talk so much as submit little bits of wisdom on short car rides or walks with the dog. But we quickly realized the kids didn’t always¬†want to discuss their sports life with us. And then an amazing thing happened. We shut up. And guess what? The kids started coming to us. They suddenly wanted to talk about a practice or¬†game, a bad play they made, frustration over a new drill, confrontation with a teammate, or ideas on how to approach their coach. So we sat and we listened, and we listened. And we bit our tongues…A LOT!

Sadly,¬†not all sports parents learn this lesson early enough, or¬†at all.¬†One night about a year ago I was jogging on the soccer field while our oldest daughter was practicing.¬†I passed a dad yelling at his young son who was all of¬†8 years-old at the time. The boy had tears streaming down his face. It was dark and all the younger players were already home in bed. Not this little one, he was still there training one-on-one with his dad,¬†getting reamed out in the process. On my 4th¬†lap around the field he was still training and still crying. I smiled at him, but he looked down. My heart broke. He was not having “fun”.

Maybe this kid will be the next Messi or Ronaldo, or maybe he’ll get burned out at 12 and quit. But one important thing hit me that night. Even if that kid makes it big, what kind of relationship will he have with his father? Will they even be speaking when he’s 18? Will he thank his dad in¬†a victory¬†speech after a match? I don’t know.

What I do know is this. Creating a safe environment at home for our kids has been critical. They receive enough feedback, positive and negative from their coaches and peers. They don’t need it repeated from us. And¬†although it’s very, very hard¬†not to step in sometimes, I know their path must be theirs, not ours.¬†So we keep our mouths shut and trust that this is all part of their life plan. And¬†in those tough moments¬†when they aren’t having fun, we know¬†they are still drawing their own picture. So we sit and we cheer them on and¬†try not to connect their dots, highlight what we think is the right choice and allow them to color outside their own lines. Even if the scribbling makes us crazy.

Happy coloring…Dana

Sacrificial Judgement ~ The Life of a Sports Parent

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Sports do not build character, they reveal it. – John Wooden

I think it’s safe to say that every parent at some point or another feels overwhelmed. Every parent questions their decisions, their insane schedule and their family’s sacrifices. All of these statements are¬†especially true for sports parents. I haven’t met a youth sports mom or dad¬†that hasn’t sat down at some point and said to themselves, “Is it really worth it? Why are we doing this?”

We have three children¬†who all play travel soccer. They love the sport and have made wonderful friendships along the way. But as they get older I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit feeling guilty more times than not about the¬†time our family commits to this sport. Particularly because of the judgment I feel from other parents or¬†the kids’ peers along this journey. A month hasn’t gone by that at least one person doesn’t criticize us for spending almost every weekday¬†driving the kids to practices and weekends at soccer games/tournaments, most out-of-town. We are often forced to divide and conquer and although we’ve met many families just like us over the years, we’ve¬†come to realize this is not the norm. And it eats me up sometimes.

I have no idea if we’ll regret the choices we’ve made 10 years from now. But what I do know is our kids are happy and confident. Our kids are healthy. And they are genuinely good, respectful and well-mannered kids. Soccer has taken away most of their social lives with classmates or neighborhood friends, most¬†who don’t include them at parties due to their schedules and some who even make fun of their sport or commitment to it. But they also have teammates/friends we’ve all grown to love and cherish, kids who are just like them, kids who share and support their schedules and who’ve been there for them through ups and downs.

Someone asked me recently if I missed having free weekends or wished I could just stay home and live like a “normal” family. Sure I feel like that sometimes. But¬†for us, this¬†insane schedule is¬†our normal. And as much as I complain about driving all over, staying in two-star hotel chains, cheering from the sidelines in the rain, eating out of a crock pot, wiping tears after a bad game or holding a hand during the pain of an injury, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Part of me loves soccer because it keeps our kids busy and out of trouble, which is especially helpful with two teenagers in the house.¬†Soccer has¬†allowed our family to travel all over the country and even overseas. These trips together as a family have been unforgettable. We’ve met so many wonderful families along the way who I know will be our lifelong friends no matter where and when our roads divide. I love soccer because our kids have been forced to learn to communicate with adults and their peers without our guidance from a very young age. They¬†have good time-management skills in order to get their schoolwork done because they know if their grades drop, so does soccer.

But I love soccer mostly because of what John Wooden said. “Sports do not build character, they reveal it”.¬†It’s¬†great to see one of¬†our kids successful on the field, the moment he or she scores the winning goal, has the perfect assist or¬†earns “MVP” of the match. But what’s more impressive is the character of the people they have become. They have learned to be humble when they win and gracious when they lose. They have learned that hard work eventually breeds success and a strong work ethic will get them far in life. They have learned to communicate with difficult teammates or coaches in tough situations. They have learned life isn’t always fair and not every coach or teammate will like¬†them. Their attitudes on and off the field are a direct reflection of the lessons sports have taught them over the years. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I have no idea how long any of our kids¬†will continue soccer. They could quit tomorrow. And that’s ok. But for today I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity each of them have to play this crazy game. So yes…the sacrifice is worth it.

EXPLORE.DREAM.DISCOVER.

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

 ~ Mark Twain

I can‚Äôt think of a better quote to wrap up¬†our daughter’s graduation from middle school this week.¬†I never thought I’d be this emotional about an 8th grade commencement, but I am. I still look at her like she’s 5, we snuggle like she’s 2, and she doesn’t hate me yet, most days.¬†I just can’t imagine our home without her in 4 short years…

There is something rather special about an 8th grade graduation. Some people deem it unnecessary, some laugh at the idea while others like me look at it as a “test run” for high school graduation. I’ve actually been prepping for this day since our daughter’s first “real” graduation from¬†“Little Bugs” class at a local¬†gym when she was 18 months-old. The teachers lined up the wobbly toddlers, painted their hands for memory prints on colored construction paper and gave each a handmade purple graduation cap. Most of the kids tossed the hats off immediately,¬†our daughter ate the tassel. They waddled around for photos as the moms and dads cried tears of laughter, joy and pride. Then we went to breakfast and ate waffles, never in a million years realizing we’d be sitting here 12 years later prepping for this same precious child to walk down the aisle out of middle school and into the halls of high school.

Ugh…

The first half of¬†her 8th grade year I looked at her and thought to myself, “…there is no way this kid is ready for high school, she’s barely¬†hit puberty, she’s still a baby, she’s so naive, she’s never going to survive.” But this Spring semester everything changed. She has had more challenges and obstacles thrown at her both physically and mentally than any 13 year-old deserves. But the beauty of these moments is getting to watch her handle each and every one of those curve balls with ease, confidence and true grace. I look at her differently now and know in my heart I have nothing to worry about as she bridges into high school.

Her room is full of motivational quotes, her phone scattered with inspirational messages, her journal full of dreams and goals most adults have never thought about. And she’s only 13. And she’s going to be fine. In fact, I know in my heart this kid will be more than fine. It’s me who won’t be fine because¬†I know in a small way she doesn’t need me¬†anymore. She’s ready, without holding my hand as she waddles down the aisle, without needing a wink or a nod from me…she’s pulling up her anchor and setting sail into the unknown, uncertain walls of the next four years.

So I’m ready, after years of preparation, to sit and watch¬†our daughter¬†proudly graduate from 8th grade. And I’ll no doubt sob, but I’ll be ok, because in my heart and deep within my soul I know this beautiful, courageous little girl is more than ready to take on the world,¬†propelled¬†forward one wave at a time…to explore, dream and discover.