Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

A Weekend of Competition

So, we devoted last weekend to competition. Kind of ironic because I’ve been researching the effects of competition on young kids for an article, and the news isn’t good—but that’s another topic.

Ty’s competition was a big one—the elementary state chess tournament, held in Redmond. Some 1400 kids and their families (6000 people or so) gathered at a massive church for a day of chess. Picture it. Crowded halls, noise, lines for T-shirts and coffee and sandwiches, kids, parents, strollers, camping chairs, laptops. And then periodically, waves of humanity all trying to get to the same place at the same time.

By the end of the day, we were spent. I can’t even imagine how kids can concentrate enough to play chess, but they do, and I’m utterly impressed. Perhaps it’s actually more peaceful to sit across from a kid your own age and play a game you love than to deal with parents in the aftermath.  

And at the state level, you can bet there are parents who care about the outcome. Really care. These aren’t the parents who value speed or teamwork or hand-eye coordination—they’re the ones who value intelligence. You can practically feel the brainpower at work in this kind of setting. (But there are lots of regular parents, too, who are there to support their child’s love of chess.)

For me, coming from a sports background, it’s all eye-opening with its own set of vernacular. You hear such things as “Aiden, you’re white on board 36,” and “Now take it slow, don’t just think about your move—think about what he might be setting up.” I say “he” because the tournaments are dominated by boys. There are girls, too, but not nearly as many. The other thing you hear—way too much—is “Did you win?” My personal twitch.

In contrast, Leah spent Sunday afternoon trying out for the Whatcom Development League—that’s the more competitive soccer league for 5th and 6th graders. Leah doesn’t typically like competition, so Curt and I were surprised she wanted to try out. She doesn’t really mind if she doesn’t make it because then she’ll have more time for horses, her other love (she’ll find out in a couple weeks). When we arrived at the fields to register, the woman behind the table told Leah everything would be fine and the most important thing was to relax and have fun. Leah and I looked at each other. “She is relaxed,” I said.

Completely different setting from chess but no less competitive. I could tell by the way the coach addressed the parents he was trying to head off potential tantrums. “Your daughter’s score is purely numerical,” he said (read: objective). “If your daughter doesn’t make it, you can contact us and we can give you her scores, let you know what things she needs to work on.” 

Okay. Huh. This competitive stuff feels like such a slippery slope. You think it’s for fun, and then suddenly it’s not. 

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Hanging with the Brady Family

Now that the weather seems to be acting its age—today is truly a stellar day—we probably won’t be hanging indoors as much as we have been. Actually, we haven’t been indoors that much because ‘tis the season for soccer.

But when we are, there’s a certain song my kids hum a lot. It’s the theme song from The Brady Bunch. Over spring break, we lazed around in the morning, watching episodes on DVD. Sometimes the kids watch several episodes in one sitting—that’s the beauty and the danger of watching TV shows on DVD, but we prefer this to paying a cable bill.

My kids love this show. Have you watched it since you’ve become an adult? Yeah, I feel a little sheepish admitting I watch over my kids’ shoulders. Call it revived childhood (my family lived mostly TV-free, and I did the best I could to get my fill at other people’s houses).  But you know what? It’s actually fun.

Here’s what I get out of it: 70’s memories that remind me of a less plugged-in life—phones with cords, rotary dials, making tapes on old-style tape recorders (remember how fun that was?), records, banana seat bikes, and bad kitchen decor. No cells, no texting, no wii. We watched an episode devoted to women’s lib, and another devoted to the oh-so common tonsil surgery back then. And another about Peter dealing with a bully and his standing up for himself rather than the school or his parents stepping in. And no one got expelled. My, how times have changed.

The Brady kids also seem to come and go on their bikes whenever they want, to wherever they want, even the youngest, in a way our kids can only dream about (no helmets, of course, and also no round the clock news about the latest boogeyman).

 Language: “far out” and “groovy” and “out of sight.” Did we really say this stuff? Okay, maybe that’s Hollywood. 

Here’s what my kids get out of it: they love the kids. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The kids and their various phases of interest and their problem solving skills. I’m guessing my kids also like the parenting style that is uh…kind of different from mine. Firm but always calm and kind. Mike and Carol never get mad—at the kids or at each other. Oh, to have parents like these. They present a united front, and more often than not they leave the kids to discover necessary lessons on their own, as Mom and Dad ruefully shake their heads, waiting for the inevitable fall. The kids always learn, of course, although sometimes they get a little discipline nudge from their parents (who never, ever cave even if it means the kid missing a special camping trip). Need a lesson in effective parenting? Take it from Mike and Carol. 

The Brady kids also always apologize to anyone they’ve wronged, and always with sincerity. That’s the part I keep hoping will rub off. But they also bicker like real kids do—not in the pat, witty way of today’s TV kids. In fact, they sound a lot like mine (mine: “Don’t be a jerk”; “I’m not”; “Are too”; “Am not”; “Are too”; “Am not”: “Moooommmmm.” And so it goes).

After we’re done with The Brady Bunch? I think we might try Gilligan’s Island. I hear it’s pretty funny for adults—lots of stuff to get that we missed when we were kids.

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Relieved and Perplexed

So now, rather than try to explain in a delicate way what rape means (The R Word), I have to explain to my 11-year-old why a woman would go to such lengths to fake an assault (here’s the latest article in The Bellingham Herald).

This news was the buzz in our house last night, and Leah was deeply perplexed. I went online to read the Herald article, with Leah reading over my shoulder, and then we read it again this morning in the paper. For my part, I feel relieved to know we don’t have a couple of violent guys out there targeting female runners. (Not that women are totally safe now, but at least the threat feels less immediate.)

Leah, however, was not only not relieved (because it was never personal to her in the way it was to me), but she couldn’t reconcile at all why a woman would do this to herself. The questions went on and on. “But how can she still believe she was assaulted if she wasn’t?” “Where did she actually run?” “What did the dogs figure out?” “What kinds of wounds did she actually have, and did she do them to herself?” “Why would you hurt yourself on purpose?”

Most of my replies? “I don’t know. We’ll probably learn more in the days to come.” I did not go into the fact that this happens to women often enough—she does not need to know yet—or that for every woman who fakes it, there are ten who don’t (don’t quote me on that number—I have no idea what the stats are). But we did talk about mental instability and the difference between being mentally disabled and mentally unstable. We talked a little about the possibility of mental illness, but it only perplexed her further—she has no frame of reference for understanding it, and she just couldn’t conceive of the power of the mind.

Then came a question I hadn’t considered: “What does her family think?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, it would be terrible for them to get the news that this had happened to their daughter. They would have been really worried, and then to find out she faked it all must have been embarrassing for them. It must have made them mad.”

Huh. Yeah, of course that would have been terrible, and yes, now maybe embarrassing. I hadn’t stopped to consider it from her parents’ perspective.

I’m sure the incident will be all the talk among the fifth graders at school today. I will be curious to hear what other questions come home with Leah.


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Son of a Writer

This is what you look like when you’re the topic of your mom’s magazine article and she needs photos to go with it and you don’t feel up to being the subject. (Please don’t tell him I posted this.)Ty feeling upset

How did we get here? I wrote an article for Wondertime on kids and rock climbing (due out this summer), making Ty and a little climb on Sehome Hill the subjects. I took a load of pictures on that sunny day—it was truly a stellar day (not anytime recently)—and he didn’t mind at all because he was having so much fun with the climb. When I offered the pictures to the magazine, I realized at the same time that Ty wasn’t wearing a helmet. Not normally an issue, but when you get into things at the national level, you have to think about safety.

So we went back last Saturday to shoot photos with a helmet. We had waited for the snow to pass, for the rain to stop, for the days to warm up a little. You know how it’s been lately. I started gnashing my teeth, worrying about the deadline. When finally the weather broke, we whipped up to Sehome Hill to catch the climb while it was dry.

For Ty, it wasn’t nearly so easy this time, probably because it was his mother’s idea, not his, and he made every excuse in the book for why he was having a hard time (how about you’re pissed off at your mom for making you do this, sweetie?), finally breaking down into the tears you see here. I felt bad. He never said he was mad, but he did grumble, “Why do we always have to fake photographs for your articles, Mom?”

He’s referring to an article published in FamilyFun. In September, our family took a four-day trip around Washington with a photographer following us the whole way. It was fun to do things on someone else’s tab, and the trip itself was fun, but being photographed along the way was odd, and more work than any of us anticipated.

The upside of the climb? When Ty asked, I agreed to pay him $5 out of my paycheck for his participation. Now he can’t wait for the check to arrive.

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Spring Break Sleepovers

Ty went to a friend’s house for a sleepover on Sunday night. And when he came home late the next morning, he pretty much headed out to play with another friend down the street, whom he hasn’t played with in months. He seemed fine, so I let him do it. Not like the early days when the day after a sleepover was a complete wash, and the afternoon had to give over to meltdowns and a nap.

At dinner he still seemed fine.

Dinner, as it happens, was the staging ground for another sleepover, this time with a friend of Leah’s at our house. Curt and I watched Ty go into pesky-little-brother mode for R. It’s hard to put a finger on what he does exactly, except to say that he brings up topics he would not normally think of (the topic of who knows how many swear words was this evening’s top choice), and he likes to moderate the conversation. Leah, predictably, gets seriously irritated. I find it all a little amusing, but the fall-out from an irritated older sister is enough for us adults to keep Ty in check.

At Mallard Ice Cream, our after-dinner outing, Ty sat with the girls at one of the tall tables with the round stools. They didn’t seem to mind him hanging around. And when we got home, I let him watch half an hour of a movie with them. (Just for the record, he and I had agreed on this arrangement at Mallard’s.) At that point, I said it was time for bed. For him.

He came unglued. “But I want to watch the rest of the moviiiieeeee.” And then, after I explained the arrangement again, “But I’m wiiide awake.”

Uh huh.

The tears began, coursing down his cheeks as he ate his requisite post-dinner, pre-bedtime snack of bread and butter (really salty butter tonight). He sobbed as he glugged down a glass of water. He sobbed as we hiked the stairs. He sobbed as I undressed him, pushing angular, eight-year-old limbs into sleeve and leg ports. He sobbed into his toothpaste. In bed, lying on his back, he sobbed until the tears ran into his ears. “But I’m wiiide awake. Really. I’m wiiide awake. ”

“Goodnight, Ty. I love you.”


We didn’t hear from him until the next morning.

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