23 September 2013

run, boy, run

hey boy.

this weekend your father, your brothers and i all stood on the sidelines cheering you on. we sat under a huge sky filled with the most amazing clouds that danced and darted around like something from a cartoon. we watched you awkwardly try to keep up with all the upper classmen. it was a sight. you running through that huge field with hundreds of boys from all over the state. muddy fields.

you don't particularly love running. but you are a dutiful son doing what your parents tell you to do. and this is something we thought would be a worthwhile venture for you. 

when i watch you run, although your pace is not fast, your spirit not yet competitive, i see a boy who will someday be a man. a man who will settle and find himself out on a path. a man who will hopefully go out for a run to work out his anger. a man who will choose to lace up his running shoes rather than light up a cigarette or down a glass of whiskey to take the edge off. 
sitting out in a field for 7 hours has its challenges

like latin and music and science and reading, exercise is another tool, i, your mother wish you to have in your belt as you begin to tinker with the world, your world. and even though i do not run or read latin or play an instrument, i want a bigger, broader, more lavish life for you and when i say lavish i do not mean the louis XIV variety.  i mean lavish like huge green fields filled with open spaces to run with a backdrop of hills and trees as far as the eye can see with a sky overhead that is so expansive you wonder how you never noticed it before. that is what i wish for you. 
fan club

so saturday, i, your mother sat on a tarp looking around at hundreds of people who were mostly runners. all of our faces were chapped by the sun and the wind. and i thought "how did we get here? our boy is in high school!" i watched your team mates tolerate your younger brothers. i held my breath as i used a port-a-potty. and i lost my voice from cheering you on, my faithful, dutiful, adventurous first born. i can only hope you continue on this path that we have set before you. and maybe someday you will choose to run.
even when no one is making you. even when you can't hear people cheering you on.


16 September 2013

tri hard: this is sparta!

several years ago, the Mister and i watched the movie 300. and even though the boys never saw it, they picked up the theme very quickly. even the littlest began shouting: this.is.sparta!

the movie kinda changed my life in terms of how i saw my four sons. i sat aghast watching the spartan culture unfold in the life of a boy who very quickly began training as a man. it shocked me. it shook me up. and then i wondered why it was so upsetting. i think it's because the brutality was so so so savage. it was so foreign because fighting in our american culture is seen one way: unnecessarily bad. we forget that boys need to wrestle literally and figuratively to gain the momentum that launches them into adulthood. and often the wrestling is not with another person, but with themselves.

a few weeks ago i was cheering on the sidelines. coach asked, "are your boys nervous?" i honestly replied, "i have no idea. i never asked them." i wouldn't assume they were feeling nervous and wouldn't want to plant that idea in their mind if they're weren't. instead i asked them the day of the race, "how are you feeling?" and they all answered, "excited." one wondered if he would get kicked in the head during the swimming.

like most things in my life, when i chose to sign my four very inexperienced boys up for their first triathlon, i did so on a complete whim. no consulting. no planning. no research. no talking about it. i took a word from nike. and just.did.it.
we moved back to Nashville late May. the following week, they were training.

we showed up for the first practice, me giddy and very, very curious. them along for the ride{let's humor mummy} which has been the general posture for these many years. the trajectory of our family is: mum has a fun idea. boys play along. sometimes it goes well. this was such the case with their first go with triathlons.

one of the coaches came over to meet me after the first practice. "i have to tell you charlie paid us the best compliment of our careers. he said, 'i am so satisfied with the variety of exercises you chose to teach us. it's challenging, but so worth it'." i had never heard my 12 year old use the word satisfy in my life. and that would be the theme of their 3 month stint as triathletes. very, very satisfying. 

a few weeks back, these 4 boys o'mine participated in their first triathlon. and all managed to bring home the first place trophy in their age division for first timers. all were completely satisfied. and after it was all said and done, i told their valiant coaches that we would sign up for wheel barrel racing if we knew they were coaching. you see i saw my boys change. for the better. and the coaches were the ones who ignited that change.

with some really great coaching, an open mind and a mother who cheered{and kept all her anxiety to herself}, these boys have started what i hope is a lifelong love with this sport. 

i guess my point in all of this is as parents we must let our children experience their own fears and victories without us, their guides, telling them what to fear {i mean this in the sense of emotional fear rather than imparting wisdom}. and that's the hard part. figuring out how to impart wisdom without imparting fear, our fear based on our experiences. 

i have to bite my tongue and jump up and down with my hand over my mouth somedays just to keep my mouth shut whenever i see my boys scale a wall or climb a tree or run in a field out in country on a scorching day. to see them take on challenges that i would never want for myself, but that are deeply satisfying-for them. because they are their own people and isn't that the goal of parenting? to guide them as they become their own independent people?

i have to remind myself of that when i watch my two oldest walk out the door to school everyday. they are forging a new life for themselves with experiences that are so rich-and uncommon to me and separate from me. they are lone reeds in many ways. but boy are they gaining strength in ways i could never have hoped for or imagined. and that strength is what gets them through a grueling cross country practice. it's what helps them negotiate with difficult classmates. and it's that strength that will carry them into their burgeoning manhood. 

i always told people, "my boys are more athenian than spartan" a reference to ancient history. athenians being more epicurean than the fierce spartans. i clearly was wrong. all of my boys, as it turns out, are spartans. and as the 7 year old likes to shout: "this.is.sparta!"


12 September 2013

home economics

he had his eye on the prize. and the prize came with a hefty price tag so he began to plot. how o, how could he afford to satisfy his hankering? 

we live on a large wooded lot-over an acre of trees-so when he asked if he could rake our leaves, i knew this endeavor would be worth the 20 dollars he wished to earn. 

and it was so worth the 20 dollars. to see him raking leaves in a summer downpour. to hear him say, "as soon as i rake a pile, more leaves drift down. it's maddening." and to watch him rig the trash bins and snow shovels, well. yeah, i was happy to fork over the dough. "it was a lot harder than i thought it would be." isn't it always?

as i watched him work for two days, in the heat, in the rain and ultimately in the cool of the early morning, i recognized in him a drive to work hard to earn a fair wage. it made me glad that for as long as the boys have been able to walk, they have been expected to pitch in around the house, ours or others. 

"many hands make light work" is one of our family adages{another is: "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem}. and hard work is no stranger to these boys whose hands bear blisters and brows scars from roughing it up a little. 

i would be lying if i said they required little coaxing. and money is a very, very good motivator as it seems that capitalism is alive and well in our little nook of the woods. each boy has his wish list of tomfoolery to spend his nickels and dimes on. 

and for this boy of 10, well, he has his eye on some new arrows for his bow. perfect. just perfect.

enjoying a freshly raked yard-for now,
xo gf

09 September 2013

a monday morning challenge

Do one thing every day that scares you.

running isn't his forte, but that didn't stop him for joining the cross country team. yesterday was his first meet. despite the hills, the heat and never being on this particular trail, this boy of 12 finished his two miler in 18 minutes. he wasn't too impressed with his time considering the first kid finished in 10 minutes. i reminded him. slow and steady wins the race. pace yourself. it's only the beginning.

most of life feels like a race. are we running away from something or towards something. or both?

just something i'm wondering. and in keeping with the roosevelt quote, today i plan to do something that scares me. namely surprise a bunch of 7th grade boys for lunch. 
the team with their coach

here's to enjoying the run.


08 September 2013

social security

i was in the car alone yesterday. and whenever that happens i turn the radio dial to NPR. there was a program on talking about finances. one of the subjects that was discussed was that of social security. the young paying into a fund that helps provide for the retired in our nation. the young caring for the old, the old who once cared for the young. it made my mind wander to a few days back. 

he was up early as was i. he finished his breakfast and still had 30 minutes before he needed a ride to the bus stop so i reminded him to unload the dishwasher. as he unloaded the dishwasher his older brother came in the kitchen. 

"okay, mom. i'm off." i looked at the clock. it read 6.38 am. i gasped, "why ever are you going to school THIS early?" he blushed. i looked deeply into his eyes. "why are you blushing?" he flatly replied, "i am not blushing." i reminded him of the obvious, "i can see your red cheeks you cannot." "well, there is nothing that embarrasses me." okay. who said anything about embarrassing?

he walked past me and walked back into the room. "anyway, i usually walk over to school at 6.42 because i WALK and it takes some time to get there." i just sat looking at him. he who is innocent need not defend himself is clearly not an adage of which he subscribes. i waved him off with a "have a great day at school. learn lots!" and he was out the door.

once he cleared the threshold, i asked his younger brother, "what was that all about?" the more diplomatic 12 year old speculated, "maybe he has discovered giiiiirls." i seriously doubt it. i am more concerned he is jonesing for a little free time to look about the school for hidden passages and locks that need picking than i would suspect he has began his fancy of girls. but then again, i am just his mother so what do i know.

the 12 year old was left alone with me. so i asked him, "why would you assume it was about a girl? have you discovered girls?" he sweetly confessed, "i've had my first crush. i mean i am 12 for crying out loud." that didn't seem like a reasonable argument. 12? yeah so. 

i reminded him that we know many people who have waited a long time like til the age of 19 to begin romantic entanglements. he scoffed, "i'm 12. it's time." so then i asked, "well, tell me about this first crush." and we began a 20 minute game where i guessed and he told me if i was "getting warm" as i guessed girls we know who are his age{he confessed she's his age}

needless to say, his bus came and went without me guessing which has me guessing. does he just think he ought to have had a crush as a normal boy of 12? do we put expectations on our children that don't rightly fit? 

how many times have i heard as an adult has very innocently asked one of my boys, "are there any girls you're keen on?"

assumptions can become the steering wheel of social mores. and without ever thinking or wondering if it's right, we assume that at 12 a boy should have his first crush. in some cultures a girl would be having her first child {or at the school up the street}. all because we accept this as normal. a new normal. 

i am not new normal. i am old normal. and i refuse to follow some unwritten guide book that tells me what i should or should not be doing or allowing all in the name of new normal otherwise known as relavent.

i guess i am wondering as a new mother to public school kids, why are we as a society so quick to ask our kids to grow up? push them out of the nest before they are ready? 

my 12 year old confided that a friend of his cut him out of her life when she confessed she liked him more than just friends, and he told her the feelings were not mutual. she told him he has "commitment issues". i have to ask, "what the hell is wrong with this?" a 13 year old girl telling my son who doesn't even shave to hurry up and mature. it makes me wonder, who is feeding her her lines. 

i am not the only one out there who is watching the train wreck of speeding maturity without wisdom that lands most kids in a place where they ought not to be. in the nursery. and i saw first hand recently when i had the opportunity to have lunch with 4 young girls who are still in high school and about to have babies. four dazed faces sitting around munching pizza and trying to make small talk with four adult women. it was awkward and sad. but are we calling it out? or are we somehow condoning it? watering the plants of destruction? 

somewhere along the line we have failed our kids. we have asked them to take on a mantel of responsibility that their small shoulders cannot bear. it breaks my heart. a month into having two kids in public school, and i am broken hearted. even though i thought i was living in a place where brokenness was clearly revealed, i accept now that i was living in a bubble. a nice, cozy insulated bubble. and you know what. i am glad. i am glad that for the first many years of my boys' lives they lived around wholesome, edifying and hopeful surroundings. it prepared them. it gave them a mark on the horizon. something to steady their gaze as they go out on their walkabouts. their north star if you will. because for the record i find it unacceptable that high schoolers are parents. i find it unacceptable that parents have children and then forget about them. i find it unacceptable that children ought to have any pursuits other than that of kids. junk food, riding bikes, swimming, reading, staying up too late watching cheesy movies and getting into squabbles with their siblings. 

save the romance for a time when it can be navigated with more wisdom and understanding. a larger vocabulary and perhaps a high school diploma. you think i am crazy. but i beg you to wonder what good comes from forgetting that children still deserve a childhood where mistakes are skinned knees, failing a pop quiz and sunburned faces. bodies tired from long bike rides and minds full of curiosity. have we come so far that we have essentially forgotten what childhood is?

have we forgotten that children have a good 18 years to grow and learn and prepare for adulthood? that is a rhetorical question. when i hear young teachers complain about getting sexually harassed by their 8th grade students, the answer is clear.

the caller on the radio show asked, "is social security just a farce? will there be something waiting for me when i retire in 40 years?" i can only hope. and i can only hope that the children who attend school with my boys will have a childhood waiting for them for just a little while longer. childhood, is it becoming a farce?i beg you to pursue this with me. 

grieving with hope,
xo gf