I’ve got game! Forcing children to succeed takes effort

Nailed it. Little Son earned his first stripe tonight at jiu-jitsu!

by Melanie Nicholas

Nailed it. Little Son earned his first stripe tonight at jiu-jitsu!

Nailed it. Little Son earned his first stripe tonight at jiu-jitsu!

It is hard to raise active kids when you’re not an active parent. But I am trying. We have done ballet, soccer, swimming and now, martial arts. I am committed to dabbling in any sport they show the remotest interest in. I want them to find that activity that will energize them, help them develop discipline and a sense of confidence in their bodies and in their achievements.

The Hubs loves to be outside and he thrives on competition. He signed up for one of those mud races last year and then ran his first half marathon in November, both sans training. And he did very well in each! I dabbled in sports growing up, taking dance, playing soccer, doing cheer and I even had a brief flirtation with tennis. But, in truth, none of them was as fun to me as reading and I just didn’t pursue them with much fervor. Well, that and I am not much of a team player, either. And, I don’t like to be uncomfortable. I hate to sweat, sunburn, bruise. I also don’t enjoy things that make me feel vulnerable or incompetent.

We had my sister-in-law and her boyfriend over for New Years and everything was going along swimmingly. Well, that is, until The Hubs pulled out the board game Curses. I know, I know. You are already thinking I would be an excellent player in a game developed for potty mouths. But, it’s not that kind of cursing. The game gives each player a challenge card to complete, such as run around a table clapping, and then a curse card to hand out. Now the curses can be anything from speaking into an invisible CB radio, to talking like Scooby Doo or even shouting out pizza toppings every time someone claps. The curse cards layer upon the players so that they are doing strings of ridiculous things throughout the game. I drew a challenge card that instructed me to demonstrate how I would transform into a werewolf during a full moon. Now, I watch a lot of science fiction. A lot. And I know what it looks like to transform into a lycanthrope – and it ain’t pretty. It’s all pain, stretching, reshaping snarling and somehow, people’s clothes always come off! And imagining myself, re-enacting that transformation made me feel embarrassed and shy. Heart palpitation uncomfortable. And I am pretty sure I said something akin to, “I hate this game.” So I hemmed and hawed, thinking someone would give me a pass. Nope. Wrong hyper-competitive crowd for that. So, blushing furiously, I looked at the moon and howled. And while I did not die from the experience, I feel like I came pretty darn close.

The kids have their martial arts class twice a week. Little Son has moved up into the 8-and-older class, and this was his first week to practice with his new teammates. Things were “off” from the get-go. I hadn’t sewn his new patch on. His electronic enrollment card wouldn’t register. His lips felt chapped. He had a growing pain in his left leg. He wanted to go home. Being a non-athlete, I was not sure how to handle the situation. I explained to him that I couldn’t see well enough to thread the darn needle. I tried for an hour. That hole is tiny! I then tried to scan his card, rub his leg and give him some lip gloss. He wasn’t having it. Finally, I resorted to telling him to “suck it up, buttercup.” He got on the mats, finished the first warm-up drill, then walked off the floor trying to hold back the tears.

“I want to go home. I don’t know how to do any of this,” he whispered in my ear. “That’s why we take classes Son, to learn how,” I reasoned with him. I felt so much empathy for my first-born, red-faced and unsure of himself, anxiety creeping up on him and threatening to smother him. And I wanted to give him a pass, like the one I wanted so badly during the board game.

But I know enough about being afraid to live up to your potential that I just could not give him one. So, we compromised. He sat next to me and watched the entire class. We dissected the moves, studied the patterns. And as he watched the other students, he realized that several of them were new to the class as well.

I secretly love that I can’t really make my son do anything he doesn’t want to do. I hope that when someone offers him his first beer or cigarette, he holds fast. But I still want to find ways to encourage him to explore his own talents and strengths, build his confidence. So this weekend, I will tell him about my challenge card, and I will ask him to watch me practice morphing into a werewolf. Even if it kills me to do it. In turn, I will ask him to practice his Kimura wrist lock. On his dad.




Grief makes it hard to find joy during Christmas

My Marley girl

My Marley girl

Christmas is supposed to be perfect, joyous, celebratory. But I haven’t been feeling it the last few weeks. My tree is done and all my presents are wrapped. I have a few last-minute things to take care of but overall, I should be feeling relaxed and ready for some magic.

But instead, I am in a funk. Everything feels juxtaposed. On the outside, things look festive, but I feel sad on the inside. I miss my brother and his sweet family. They just live too far away to see very often. I miss my nephew Cole. I’m sad that he isn’t here to play with my kids and tell me jokes while we set the table for Christmas dinner. He should have been 16 last month. He should have gotten to be a lot of things. His death has fundamentally changed our family, the grief is what lives on.

On Monday, we said good-bye to our sweet old dog Marley. Two years ago, the vet told us he didn’t expect her to live much longer. But Marley sure fooled him. Several thousand dollars in laser therapy and medications kept her with us a little bit longer. The Hubs hoped we could hang on past the holidays, but we just couldn’t be that selfish. Marley couldn’t hear anymore, and last week she lost her vision. I found her lost in her own backyard. She was bumping into the fence and the trampoline trying to find her way to the back door. I knew I couldn’t make her go on like that anymore. But I was so very tempted. She looked like a big fluffy red panda and had the softest ears, like mink. I just keep crying, missing her footsteps and her not-so-soft snores. I asked Cole, who loved dogs, to find her and take care of her for us. Continue Reading

How not to tell your kids Santa isn’t real

When your mom crushes your dreams ... .

When your mom crushes your dreams … .

I was driving the kids home Tuesday night, concentrating on the road and half-listening to Bodacious tell her big brother all about her day.

They were talking low and sweet, and I was congratulating myself on my superb parenting skills. I was so busy patting myself on the back that I didn’t really hear what Parksalot asked me from the dark corner of the backseat.

“Mom. Did you know, there are some kids in my class that say Santa isn’t real?”

What I did hear was the voice of Robot from one of my favorite TV shows, Lost in Space.

“Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”

I tried to buy myself some time.

“What do you think?”

“Welllll,” he draws things out real slow when he is trying to decide if he should be honest with me, “I’m not sure. I don’t think so. He’s kind of like a reverse robber. Who breaks into a house to leave things?”

His sister is a quick-draw with her opinion however.

“No. I don’t think he’s real at all.”

I explained all about the Greek St. Nicholas and Kris Kringle and baby Jesus and said that in America, we roll them all into one at Christmas. What I want them to know about Christmas is that Christ was born for our salvation and that presents are good, as long as we remember that giving to others with happy hearts is the most important thing.

We picked our family Christmas charities, an animal shelter and a children’s mission project, and everyone seemed satisfied and happy. As I pulled into the driveway, I though, huh. That was a lot easier than I thought it would be. More self-congratulations were called for!

“Mom. If Santa isn’t real, what about the elves?”

“Well what do you think, Son? If Santa isn’t real, why would the elves be?”

I expected that tidbit to slide down just as easily.

Instead, the faint rustle of Robot’s flailing dryer vent arms could be heard, just before Little Son burst into tears.

John Cena, our naughty elf, loves to slide down the stair banister!

John Cena, our naughty elf, loves to slide down the stair banister!

“Wha-wha-what about John Cena?” he asked. John Cena is our damnable Elf on the Shelf. I hate his sweet plastic face and weird felted body. I especially loathe having to come up with bits of mischief for him to get into each night when all I really want to do is go to bed. It’s all hands on deck if John Cena wants a rodeo in the living room. Don’t forget about the time John Cena decided to ride a large glittered reindeer through the kitchen, leaving a helluva mess on the counters and floors. Y’all know glitter doesn’t come up, it just scatters from room to room leaving a sparkly trail of crafts-that-were.

But these kids of mine enjoy every cut glass bit of it. They love when we moan about the mess he has made, they love to hunt for him in the mornings before school and Bodacious in particular relishes chastising him for his creativity when it involves re-dressing the tree in sock and underpants. Continue Reading