In Praise of Parents
An open letter to my adult kids:
I saw a funny post online that made me think of you and your stage of life. It said: Eat. Sleep. Take the kids to sports. Repeat. Since not all ten of the grandkids are sports fanatics, I use “sports” as shorthand for all extra-curricular activities – band, orchestra, piano, musical theater, chess matches, etc. – as I appreciate you guys for all the driving and planning you do to give the grandkids so many opportunities.
I hope you love going to all the activities in which they are involved, but remembering back to when I was the driver/planner, I know that may not be the case. I pretty much hated youth sports. Among other things, the math of it slayed me. If each of you three kids joined a team and had one practice and one game per week, there was the possibility that six days out of seven could be altered by sports. Forget family dinners; when was there even time to get nutrition into your systems? It was all so overwhelming!
Now, of course, it’s decades later and instead of following the activities of you three kids, I follow the activities of all ten grandkids. (I am so lucky you/they all live in Cincinnati!) Ask any friend who is trying to put a date on my calendar – it’s tricky! There is always a school play, sporting event, recital, etc. to attend. Good news, though, I’m no longer such a scrooge. I love it all!
Here’s what caused my change of heart:
- I’m not the one responsible for all the uniforms! They are all magically clean on game day with no help from me.
- Nor am I responsible for getting everyone to the game on time. In that inevitable last-minute scramble to find shin guards or baseball gloves or water bottles, my blood pressure is not spiking.
- And what about planning for the younger siblings of the sports star? Invariably, they will want snacks and water and coloring books. Not my problem!
- Undone homework? Ha! Who cares? Certainly not I!
- And most significantly to me, a mom who was always dedicated to the proposition that nutritious family meals were important, I can say with glee: Let them eat pop tarts!
Yes, I realize I am getting a little delirious here, but I am not exactly exaggerating. All of these elements – and more – have been figured out by a parent whenever a kid shows up for an extra-curricular activity!
Here is a reality check: It really is overwhelming.
And so, at this season of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – not to mention the season of soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and spring concerts – I thank you and offer three reminders of why all of this is as important as it is difficult.
Here is the official point of it all:
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Sports help children develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, learn teamwork, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem.
Extrapolating to all extra-curricular activities, another term for them is enrichment activities. Enough said?
Of course, we have to root, root, root for the home team – but catch my meaning:
Perhaps it’s because I am not much of a sports fan, but when I am at a game, I’m not really rooting for the team, I’m rooting for my kid. By my presence, I am doing team building for the family, for that home team.
When you were a toddler, Lisa, Scott and Shana were 4 ½ and 6 ½ years older than you. We had a t-shirt printed for you for their sporting events. It said “Go Scott” on the front and “Go Shana” on the back. Going or coming, whichever way you toddled, by your presence, you were rooting for the home team.
So was I. Back then and now.
And don’t forget that your actions speak louder than your words:
It was a cold, rainy, miserable, early morning in the fall of some year – decades ago – that I found myself at one of you guy’s soccer games. As we parents sat there getting drenched, somebody asked, “Do you think this will win us extra visits at the nursing home when we’re old?” We all laughed hysterically.
But really, this is an interesting question. And I have an answer: Possibly so. And if so, it would be your way of saying I love you, just as my sitting in the rain was my way of telling you the same.
Keep on schlepping on!
I know it can feel like the only break in the eat, sleep, take the kids to sports, and repeat routine is to stop to refill the gas tank for more of the same. And I know that the kids may never thank you, but please know that I do.
When you are drenched, broiled, frozen, or enjoying a balmy spring day at some home or far away field, I thank you for all that you are doing for my beloved grandchildren.
If you like my writing, did you know I have four books in print? They are all available on my Etsy shop. My newest book, Love, Loss, and Moving On, is also available on Amazon. Please have a look and tell a friend!