Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Track Manic

So I’ve recently discovered the ultimate challenge for me as a mother: It’s watching my kid (any kid, actually) compete in track and not getting all het up about it. Cello recital? No problem. Soccer, I’m pretty laid back. Horse riding? Totally clueless. But track, oh, I can’t help it—I just get soooo excited about track. My heart flutters, my legs tense, my body leans forward, all while sitting in the stands, mind you, with no physical involvement whatsoever, except for clapping for kids pounding down the track (or jogging or straggling or barely finishing, whatever the case may be).

You’ll also hear me say things like, “Wow, that kid can run, look at her pace, hope she knows what she’s doing, hmm, she does look like she knows what she’s doing, check out that kick, wow, I wonder what her time was, well, we’re going to be reading about her in the paper for sure when she hits high school.” It’s a running commentary I am hardly aware of. And then some parent will ask if I ran track, too, and, well yes, I ran the … and here we go. I even still remember my times.

So anyway, yesterday, at the middle school city meet at Civic, I decided to support Leah by hanging around the long jump pit, where she was competing in her only event of the day. Up till now, I’d always watched from the distant vantage point of the stadium shade. She seemed happy to see me, or at least the water bottle I’d brought along for refreshment in that baking heat. (Naturally, most kids didn’t have water bottles.) But then came the unsolicited advice after each jump. “You have to explode down the runway, sweetie. The faster you run, the farther you jump.” And this: “Throw your arms out in front of you when you leap. That’ll pull your body forward.” And this: “Try lifting your legs higher—thrust them out in front of you.”

I have no idea what I’m talking about. I never did the long jump in school. But I can’t resist analyzing the strategy and form of any track event that involves some kind of running (okay, pole vault, I’d know better). To her credit, Leah didn’t brush me off or seem irritated but simply took my comments in stride. “Okay,” she would say and look like she was actually considering the information, and then she’d go and jump exactly as she had been doing all along. 

I’ve heard those ex high-school football players replay games from their deep, dark past. Those replays don’t make them sound like they know anything, they just make ‘em sound pathetic, as if high school football was the only worthwhile experience of their small little lives. Oops, only now it’s me. Um, yeah, no. These poor kids don’t want to hear my stories; they don’t need to hear my commentary (I wonder what she says about me, they’re surely thinking). They don’t need my advice (but if they ask for it, of course…).

Today is the second day of the meet. I get to watch Leah run the 4 X 100 relay, an event I know a lot about, including what it feels like to completely botch it at the state level and disqualify (nasty feeling, I tell … but there I go again).

Today, I resolve to clap and congratulate and cheer (or cheer up). And under my breath, my new commentary? It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not about me.

Wish me luck.

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Idol Upset

Our family is buzzing with the latest network news: Kris Allen has won this season’s American Idol competition, and no one in our family can quite believe it (“No guy who spells Chris with a K should win,” my husband said). Leah, who has been tuning in to this show every week on our computer, is spinning. She was so sure Adam would win. So were we all. America surely got it wrong. So says I, the person with no musical talent whatsoever.

We got hooked on this season’s line-up back in January when we were at Disneyland and had three evenings of cable TV at our disposal. Just so happens that American Idol auditions were going on, the very early stages of them, and we laughed and laughed and looked forward to the next evening’s worth of bad performances and what Simon would say.

“Are these people delusional?” I asked (did I mention what a Simon fan I am?). “Do they not know they can’t sing?” Apparently not.

Kris can sing, but I do believe this is a case of good looks winning out. Kris is just so dang cute in a boy-next-door kind of way, while Adam is a little edgy with his guy liner and spiky hair. Even so, I thought the country was ready for Adam. And yet, when it came to voting off the cutie, the country couldn’t bring itself to do it.

Kris seemed shocked, and a little sheepish, when his name was announced, and yet that’s part of who he is and what makes him so likeable. He was pleased, too, of course. But I wonder how he feels today. A friend of mine, whose kids also tune in, says being voted #1 is overrated, and most often the #2, 3, and 4 singers do more with their singing prowess.

But maybe I know less than I thought. This Idol article points out why Kris came out the winner, so maybe there’s more to Kris than I give him credit for. Or not. This article describes the polarizing effect Adam had on people, and why Kris was the beneficiary. I felt embarrassed for him last night, but I’m rethinking that today. Adam will find his way, no doubt, and if there’s a place in the music world for the self-effacing nice boy too, I’m good with that.

American Idol’s newest fans will be keeping track. 

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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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