Thursday, March 26, 2015

You are not staying

The girls made plans to meet friends at the library this afternoon. When we discussed it last night, the blond twin said her friend’s mom wanted to make sure I was going to be there. She has four children with her fifth grader as her oldest. It is hard for her to bring all of them places like the library for more than an hour or so.

I told the blond twin I would take my computer to the library and do some work while they did their homework. The brunette twin made plans for her project partner to come home with us after school.
Today the girls came home, ate a snack and got ready to go to the library. I was packing up my computer when the blond twin said, “Mom, you are not staying. You know that, right?”
We talked about last night’s conversation. She told me her friend’s mom didn’t care of I stayed. Anna, their friend who came home with us after school, confirmed that her mom was ok with her going to the library with the group -- and without me hovering. I hesitated for a minute because I didn’t speak directly with Anna’s mom. Knowing Anna and her mom, though, I decided that  Anna was telling the truth. After all, who wants to end up in trouble for lying about being able to go the library with the other girls? I told the three girls in our car that I’d double-check with Jenine’s mom and decide what to do.
Jenine’s mom was fine leaving them all together. I gave the blond twin my phone, told her to call if she needed anything and made plans to pick-up the girls at 5:00 p.m. They headed off to do their research, chatting happily and giggling.
It was so easy. All the girls were happy to be at the library together. All the moms were thrilled to have them together. It was one more independent step as they march together towards middle school.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Connect the sports

The brunette twin was telling stories about her first softball practice when she said, "Oh yeah and Coach knew I play golf."

I said, "How?"

She replied, "When I hit the ball I followed through like I do when I hit the golf ball. He asked if I played golf because most girls don't follow through. He said I did a really good job."

It was the first time she realized skills from one sport impacted other things she might try. She was so proud of herself that it made me smile. She was so sure she didn't have any softball skills and it turns out she's been practicing her batting whenever she hits the golf ball. Oh, it's not exactly the same, but it's close enough that her coach complimented her batting and made her week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The great mitt scavenger hunt

The girls really wanted to join a softball league this year. I did some research and found a casual, local league.

Their coach has been sending regular updates so we weren't surprised when he set the practice schedule. An email a couple of days later said that the league had an equipment shopping day set at a local sporting goods store. League representatives would be available and the league would receive a percentage of the sales. I was so happy to know that someone would be able to help us figure out all the equipment we needed. I realized we could do it from a list, but having someone to give us advice on which helmet or proper bats was a relief.

The morning of the first practice, I checked email to find a message saying, "Remember to have your girls bring their mitts and bats to our first practice tonight." I realized then that I had a lot to learn about organized softball.

If I had thought about it, I would have realized that the other girls already had mitts and bats. The sporting goods shopping day was to update or upgrade equipment. There probably weren't too many other families starting from scratch.

I started thinking about who might have mitts we could borrow. I crossed many people off the initial list because they wouldn't have been home from work before we needed to be at practice. I decided my best two bets were Uncle Dave and Uncle Steve. I called both, left messages and waited.

In the meantime, Daddy called to talk about practice. I told him the girls needed mitts. He immediately offered to visit a few stores during his lunch break.

A couple of hours later Uncle Steve called. He only had mitts to fit his high school age sons. Aunt Sue-Sue called after Uncle Steve to say she found some mitts in the garage. We crossed our fingers for luck that the mitts would fit the girls. Daddy called to say he bought two mitts. We made plans to meet up to get those mitts if the ones at Aunt Sue-Sue's didn't fit. Now we had lots of options, but didn't know if any would work.

Right after school the blond twin and I ran to Aunt Sue-Sue's. We were on a tight schedule. We had to get there, try on the mitts and be back at school within 45 minutes to pick-up the brunette twin from choir.

One mitt seemed to fit the blond twin. As luck would have it, the other mitt was a bit bigger. We thought it would fit the brunette twin. We thanked Aunt Sue-Sue and drove back to pick-up the brunette twin.

Luckily for us we were able to find mitts so they walked in with at least one piece of equipment. Now we just have to deal with the rest of the list...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I didn't get my allowance

I carry a piece of paper from a trip Daddy and I took before our girls arrived. It says that I had enough money to pay for ice cream while we were in Williamsburg, Virginia. I pulled it out recently and showed him that I still had it. We both fondly remembered the trip and the moment.

What made it memorable was the idea that I had any cash in my wallet. For our entire marriage I have always turned to Daddy when I needed cash. I just never carry very much cash. I have a debit card and credit cards. It's rare that I need much cash.

This weekend I went to the bank to get some cash. I left it in my wallet. It didn't take long before Daddy turned this into a running joke. More than once we needed to pay for something and he said, "I can't pay for it. I didn't get my allowance yet." He laughed when he said it. I rolled my eyes. The girls took in every word.

"Do you really get an allowance?" the girls asked. Daddy, of course, said in his most dramatic voice, "Sometimes, but Mommy hasn't given me my allowance yet." The girls immediately turned around and told me that I should give Daddy his allowance. The girls worried that Daddy wouldn't have enough money to buy his lunch at work next week. After all, I hadn't given him his allowance. He laughed. I rolled my eyes at him

When I told him the girls talked to me about giving him his allowance, I reminded him that this was one of the rare occasions in our marriage that I had more money in my pocket than he had in his. The last time it happened we marked the occasion with a note. This time it was seared into our girls' memories, even if they didn't really understand why Daddy laughed every time he talked about his allowance.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Some secrets you don’t keep

I walked home with our twin fifth grade daughters listening to stories about math class and icky boys and library events. It all seemed quite ordinary, which is why I was surprised to receive a message from Mrs. H, another fifth grade mom, asking if I heard what happened at school that day.

It was too late to ask our girls, so we talked about it at breakfast the next morning. The blond twin said she and Mrs. H’s daughter had a disagreement, so she thought the other girl was mad at her. I told her that fifth grade girls were always getting into disagreements and making up so I was pretty sure that Mrs. H wasn’t calling about that. We walked to school and I didn’t think about it anymore.
When Mrs. H called, she said her daughter didn’t give her all the details, but here’s what she knew. A student in our girls’ class went to the health aid the day before because her arm was bleeding through her shirt. She came back with a bright pink bandage covering her arm from elbow to wrist.

The story Mrs. H heard from her daughter was that the girl told our blond twin that she was cutting her arm because she was upset. There was a fifth grade boy she liked who didn’t like her back. The blond twin asked her if it hurt. The girl said no. The blond twin told her not to do it again because she might really hurt herself. I explained that our daughter never said anything about it to me when I asked. I told Mrs. H that our daughter probably didn’t know what “cutting” meant since I didn’t know that I’ve ever talked to our girls about it.
I spent the rest of the day with a sick feeling washing over me in waves.  I realized that young girls faced serious issues at younger and younger ages. Still, knowing that a fifth grade girl was cutting herself because a boy didn’t like her really unnerved me.

If anyone had been in our house that day, they would have worried about my mental health. I kept rehearsing what I wanted to say to our girls. Sometimes I just did it in my head. Sometimes I spoke out loud to our dog. I wanted to make sure I said the right thing so our girls understood how important it was to talk to us about cutting and what it meant when someone started cutting herself.  I was about an hour away from meeting our girls to walk home from school when I hit upon my key message.
There were some secrets it was important not to keep. If a friend told you that she thinks a boy is cute, you keep that secret. If someone told you that her feelings were hurt that you were invited to a party and she didn’t get an invite, you keep that secret.

Anytime someone told you something that involved hurting him/herself or others you had to tell a grown-up as soon as possible. You were not breaking a confidence by sharing secrets involving activities that could end up with your friend or someone else hurt. The secret might be about someone cutting herself, like their school friend. As they grew up the secrets might be about more dangerous activities. I gave the example of friends using drugs at a high school party. We talked about how dangerous it was for their friends to talk to strangers on the internet. We often talked about how dangerous it was for our girls to interact with strangers on social media or gaming sites. I expanded that conversation to include their girlfriends talking to older men via those same channels.

I explained that it wasn’t breaking a confidence when someone was doing something that might be dangerous. It was important for us all to look out for each other and try to keep each other safe. Once they gave an adult the information, it was up to the adult to act. Their only job was to make sure we had the information to process.
Our girls seemed to understand the distinction. They talked about secrets to keep and secrets to tell Mommy or Daddy immediately.  We talked about other people they might tell. The girls gave examples of when they might have to tell those people something rather than wait to tell Mommy or Daddy.

When we arrived home they went through their usual routine like nothing changed. I knew that everything changed, though, and not for the better.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learning the hard truth about being a Chicago sports fan

Last night we were flipping channels when we landed on the Chicago Blackhawks game. The announcer said something about the referee talking to Coach Q about Patrick Kane. We watched for a few minutes, but the announcers never said anything else about Kaner. Someone from the Florida Panthers was in the penalty box; we didn’t know why. I called my Mom to see what happened. As luck would have it, this was the game she wasn’t watching live. She had no idea what happened. At the intermission we finally saw the cross-check to the back and Kaner’s crash into the boards. You could tell when he got up that it was bad.
This morning we found out that Patrick would be off the ice with a broken collarbone. I just sighed. It’s not that I don’t feel badly about his injury. It’s just that this is the way so many Chicago sports stories end up.
There is a strange mentality to being a Chicago sports fan. We want success, but we don’t expect it. We know there are so many crazy ways for things to go wrong. This feeling is ingrained in us because we’ve lived it.
Oh there have been moments when we broke the spell. The Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox each won a championship. The Chicago Bulls won six titles. The Chicago Blackhawks won two. Still, Chicago fans never really expect our teams to win.
To some extent you have to sell the idea that we might win it all. Chicago sports fans always have one foot off the bandwagon when a team achieves success. We want to commit, but don't want to get hurt when the big win doesn't come.
After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion against the Philadelphia Flyers, Patrick Kane said something about he had to “sell it.” I thought that pretty much summed up the Chicago sports mentality. He scored the winning goal. The refs didn’t call it right away because they didn’t see the goal clearly. Rather than celebrate with Patrick, the team – and fans – waited for official confirmation. Kaner was celebrating on the ice all by himself. Eventually his teammates joined him. It wasn’t that fans didn’t believe he knew he scored the winning goal. It was that we were sure something was going to go wrong and the refs would call back the goal. It’s the Chicago way when it comes to sports.
This morning I told our girls that the Hawks won, but Kane broke his collarbone. Grammie just broke her collarbone, so they knew exactly what it meant that Kaner broke his collarbone. The girls looked at each other and tears started rolling down their cheeks. They started asking a lot of questions about his future hockey skills, which I couldn’t answer.
They were upset that I wasn’t more upset. I didn’t want to tell them that I’ve had my hoped dashed so many times that these things didn’t even surprise me anymore. There will be plenty of time for them to learn that lesson later. For now, it’s better for them to keep the faith for as long as possible. Once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Driving by our family history

Our niece Samantha recently passed her occupational therapy licensing exam. To celebrate, the girls and I arranged to meet her after school last week. As I was driving to our destination, I took a short detour down a street I had travelled thousands of times before.
Gramma and Grampa Latimer lived a few minutes away from us when we were growing up. My Grampa and his extended family built their three bedroom, one bathroom Cape Cod house. It was tiny but today’s standards, but it was their castle. Grampa came from a family with 13 children. Several lived within shouting distance. At one point we could run out the back gate to see Aunt Mary and Aunt Delores. Their families built houses close to Gramma and Grampa.
When we were younger, Gramma and Grampa’s house was the place we celebrated holidays, visited with family and made wonderful memories. It has been a long time since Gramma and Grampa lived there, but I still smile when I drive by.
Our girls were amazed when they saw the house. Given that Gramma had four brothers and sisters, they thought the house would be larger. I explained that Gramma, Aunt Dar and Aunt Bonnie shared a single, small bedroom. The girls were amazed that there was one bathroom in the house – and they all had to share it.  
For the rest of the trip we talked about my memories and how different it was “way back then” as the brunette twin said. Someday our girls will drive their children by our home. I hope they have as many happy memories as I did when we drove by my Gramma’s house.