Friday, October 29, 2010

American Boyhood

Do you know that Wayne Gretzky's sons don't play hockey?

They don't.

Well, at least the oldest two don't. The first quit after riding the bench for a year. The second one chose baseball. The youngest two are just around my son's age

So the great one...the greatest hockey player of all time...his kids don't play hockey.

And he's okay with that.

That makes me feel so great! It totally puts into perspective that my son will never be an athlete.

Even before kids are conceived, I think every parent has a preconceived notion of what their kids will eventually be. Even those of us who try really hard not to, still do. It is so hard, no...impossible not to imagine them caring about the things we care about, excelling at the things we wish they would, and generally being happy about 99.7% of the time.

And then they're born. And they are nothing like you imagined. And as much as you love the heck out of them, and appreciate them for who they are, there is always this tiny, deeply covered part of your most inner self who mourns, just a bit, for the kids we thought they'd be.

Just one small comment by my son's teacher at our conference yesterday put it all into perspective for me.

She was telling me that third grade is a huge year of change for boys. Some of the them start caring about clothes. Some of them get serious about sports, and have the physiques to prove it. And some of them care about popularity and image for the first time. It's a time when boys assert their individuality.

And then she said, "Like your son...he's really found his direction in the fine arts. He's so amazing at music and art and drama."

She went on to tell me all these stories about how the other boys respect his talent (which is really just years of hard work) so much that they ask him to play violin for the class whenever he brings it to school. She told me how he read a script for the video the class is making, and the teaching fellow showed all the other teacher's his clip because it was so great.

I think if you've read this blog for any length of time, you have probably rolled your eyes at some point (over and over) and thought, there she goes, bragging about her kids again. And I do think they're pretty great. But what you don't read here is how sometimes I am disappointed that they don't care about what I cared about when I was a kid.

I worry all the time that they got all of my worst qualities and none of my good ones. I hate that they are not physically fit. I feel massive amounts of guilt and anxiety about it.

They drive me crazy when they are lazy. They make me nuts when they don't try things that are hard. They make me want to scream when they don't try hard.

I mean, heck. They're not perfect. I love them. But sometimes I am sad about they are not.

I'm sad that they are not passionate about sports like I was. That's not something most parents would probably admit. But what the heck.

But my son's teacher? She's taught hundreds of kids in an almost 20 year career. She greets 20 boys at her classroom door every morning. And because she is not their parent, she can love them for the unique individuals they are, without any of the regret for what they are not.

She looks at my son and sees an artist. A musician. An actor. And as she told me, the most polite, conscientious, agreeable, and happy boy she's ever taught.

Before I had kids, I pictured my son as this rough and tumble, athletic, captain of the baseball team type.

And what I got was this sensitive, empathetic actor, artist and musician. And he's happy 99.7% of the time.

How could I ever have any regrets?

It's time to let the preconceived notions of boyhood go.

I love this kid more than I could ever say.

I bet Wayne Gretzky's kids can't play the violin.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Please Welcome, Tuna Man!

I talked to my husband today. I haven't gotten to talk to him very much in the six weeks that he's been deployed, so it was very nice. Even though I spent most of the conversation acting incredulous about things that go on in our life. Like...

"I know!"

"She kills me!"

And, "I know!"

Recently, he found out that he was actually able to read my blog from the dry part of hell in which he currently resides. So now I feel like I need to rethink what I write.

Not that my writing has been so scintillating lately. But still.


Hi, Honey!

(Damn. There goes that post I had all written out complaining about my mother-in-law.)

Hey, Honey! Look over here!

(And there goes that post I had half written about my nutso father-in-law.)

Woo hoo, Honey! Check me out!

(And I can't even tell you about how my daughter has a "boyfriend" now.)

Breathe, Honey. Breathe. It will be okay.

But the rest of you, check back for stories of pre-teen love.

And, Honey, there is no reason to practice your marksmanship. Unless you need it to fight off bad guys. I got the whole boyfriend thing covered. I swear.

(I don't have a clue.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wearing Purple

My family will be wearing purple tomorrow, October 20, to show that we stand up to bullying.

Well, three of us will be. One of us will be wearing desert camo like he does everyday.

I talked to each of my kids about just what I felt we were wearing purple for. I told them:

1) We show that we support all kids, gay or straight who are being bullied, feeling left out, or having a hard time. We want those kids to know that we'll listen to them, and stand up for them no matter what.

2) We show that we'll never bully other kids. (I'm not so much worried about that one.)

3) We show that we will never accept anyone bullying us. We know that no one has the right to make us feel bad about ourselves. We will stand up for ourselves to the best of our ability.

And finally 4) We promise that if we are being bullied, we will get help from a trusted adult. We acknowledge that our school has a zero-tolerance for bullying and we will go to a teacher to support a friend or stand up for ourselves if we have to. The kids promise to come to me if they've tried to stand up for themselves and it hasn't worked, and I promise I will do my best to handle the situation without making it worse.

Having this talk with each kid yielded some interesting results.

My daughter was all gung ho about it. We shared some stories of how we've dealt with bullying in the past. And then she started to cry. She was sad for the kids who had killed themselves, but she was upset for her brother too (who had a small run in with a kid recently).

My son asked a bunch of questions. The first of which was, "What does gay mean?"

What? Huh? How did I miss out on that one? My kid with all his gay uncles and living in his gayborhood cul-de-sac? (I was going to call it the gay-de-sac but that sounds bad.)

So I gave him an answer and he said, "Like Matthew and Kevin."

And I said, "Exactly."

Then he wanted to know how those kids had killed themselves. And why.

So they are very on board with wearing purple tomorrow. And even if no one else in the world wears purple, it gave me the opportunity to have this dialog with my kids. And that is totally worth it.

You know, I don't exactly have an "It Gets Better" message. Life has always been pretty damn easy for me. I can't show my support that way. But I can let kids know that there are other kids out there being raised to be accepting and supportive. And I know lots of moms who are doing the same thing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let's Shake On It

This is where you learn about what a "weird" parent I am.

In our family we have a rule about sports. After every practice or game, our children shake their coaches' hands and thank them.

Our school has a culture built around handshaking and I love it. Every morning their teachers meet the kids at the doors to their classrooms, shake their hands and exchange a few words of greeting.

At the end of every violin practice or lesson my kids take a bow and say, "Thank you for teaching me," in both English and Japanese. It is a common practice among Suzuki trained kids and my kids have been doing it for years.

(I then answer them, "Thank you for working so hard," because it is the work that matters, not the talent or outcome. I don't say it in Japanese though.)

Why shouldn't the same courtesy reign in the world of sports?

After all, many, if not most of these coaches volunteer their time.

So, my son, the king of the handshake (you should have seen the General's face at my husband's promotion when my son introduced himself and stuck out his hand for a handshake) wholeheartedly believes in our sports rule.

In the locker room after every hockey game or practice, he goes up to his coach and shakes his hand, without any prompting from me.

His coach is used to it now, but was obviously confused the first couple of times. My son usually says, "Thanks for a great game," or something similar. And the coach always has trouble coming up with a reply.

I think that the other kids on his team think he is a freak. First he's got the weird teeth and braces thing going on right now. Then, he's not very good at hockey. And now he's shaking hands! They look at him weird.

But I'm okay with it. It might make him stick out. But I'd rather he stick our for good manners then anything else.

It's all about values, people.

So, last Monday my son had his very first rehearsal with the orchestra he auditioned for. He had been looking forward to it for months.

At the end of rehearsal, I was distracted by my daughter for a second as she headed to her own rehearsal. When I looked up to find the boy, he was up by the podium shaking the conductor's hand.

She laughed a bit so when my son made his way back to me, I asked what he had said.

"I said, 'Thank you for a good practice. I hope to see you in the future.'"

Never mind that we see her every Thursday when we go to group class and every Monday night for orchestra. He hopes to see her in the future.

Sometimes I don't know whether to be embarrassed by my little future politician or incredibly proud of him.

He is kind of weird. A lot like me. But he likes himself just fine, and I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mr. Swift

Totally out of the blue my daughter announced to me, "I think the boy who sings Billionaire is cute."

What? Whose child is this?

"How do you know what he looks like?" I asked her.

"Last week you were watching TV and I had to come downstairs and get something and a cute blond boy was singing that song before you hit pause. It was like a music video."

How does she even know what a music video is? MTV hasn't played music videos since I was her age.

I had to think for a minute and then I remembered. "That wasn't a music video, hon. That was Glee."

So I love learning about my kid. I'm so very glad she isn't pining for the bad boy type. She likes blonds though.

Lucky for her, about half of the boys in her class look like mini Chord Overstreets. Living in a city with the word beach right in the name means there are lots of surfer-types around.

Yesterday she asked me, "Can you believe that none of my friends know who John Williams is?"

Um, yes.

She went on, "When I told them, they shrugged and said, 'Never heard of him.' Then they asked me if I liked Taylor Swift and I said I had never heard of him."

Eleven is such a great age.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One Month In

So, for the record, I've been doing pretty well these last couple of weeks. I feel like I've been pulling myself together step-by-step and day-by-day.

I can't even believe that it has been one month since my husband left on his deployment. We're one fifth of the way there. And I just got around to picking up the half empty soda cans he left on his nightstand.

You know, I keep composing this blog post in my head where I say, "Contrary to the evidence at hand, my life isn't all kids' violin and kids' hockey and kids' theater." But the truth is that it is!

It sounds like it should be sad and depressing, but to me it's not. But it is probably pretty boring to read about though.

I don't really know how I used to do it. How did I take care of little kids 24/7, but still have adult things to talk about?

I guess I was having sex back then. That was one adult thing to talk about. And I occasionally went to the gym or spent time with blog friends. But I don't do that anymore.

Also, kids are funnier when they are little. I rarely have the opportunity to throw them in toilets or watch them strip at the playground now that they are older.

So for now, life is all kids' violin and kids' hockey and kids' theater. And I'm going to enjoy it while I can. Especially for the next five months. Boring or not.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

And the Oscar goes to...Boy #2

Today,the kids got their roles for the play they are performing with their theater group. They are putting on an original version of The Emperor's New Clothes. I hear it is very funny.

My son got a speaking role, which is very cool because he was the only third grader who did. They use the third graders as the chorus. But he is Boy #2 and he gets to say, "The Emperor isn't wearing any clothes!"

My daughter is Lady #2. *sigh* This is her third play with this group and they keep telling the kids that the bigger roles should go to sixth graders. Well, she's a sixth grader. But she seems happy enough.

The coolest thing is how happy they are for each other. Apparently when her name was called, my son cheered and hugged her. And when his name was called, she went nuts for him. They have each separately told me how proud they are of the other.

My daughter even said, "He has such an important line, I think he has an even bigger role than me. I'm so happy for him!"

This parenting gig is all about priorities, people. I've messed up plenty, but in this one way, we've gotten things right.

You know what, I take it back. The coolest thing is that all that speech therapy my son slogged though has paid off. His speech isn't perfect, but it's no longer holding him back.

Go Boy #2!

Monday, October 04, 2010


I know I have mentioned it before, but my son really, really wants to be an actor.

I thought it might be a phase. That makes me sound almost thespiaphobic doesn't it. (There's a word I just made up. I like it!) But you know how kids are. They all want to be firefighters, dolphin trainers, and the president at some point in life.

But my son doesn't want any of those things. Just yesterday my daughter said to him, "You're either going to be a billionaire or the president, buddy."

To which he replied, "I don't want to be the president. But my career might make me a billion dollars. Really famous actors sometimes make a lot of money."

I mean, the kid's not dropping it.

Except for a few weeks when he was four-years-old and wanted to be a plane driver, he has only ever wanted to be an actor.

So I put him in the Young People's Theater Program at school. And he loves it. It takes him a couple of hours to turn off the acting after his rehearsals. (The kids in the hockey locker room think he's a weirdo.)

But I wonder.

If he really, really wanted to be a professional baseball player, I'd go out and play catch with him. He'd be playing Little League, but he'd also be going to the batting cages, clinics and camps too. I'd probably get him a private coach.

Well, his chances of being a professional athlete are close to nil, but why do I take acting less seriously?

Am I doing a disservice to him by not letting him do the local players group? Am I letting him down by not putting him in acting classes with a professional?

Is acting like an instrument? If you want to be awesome and make a living at it, you should start when you're a little kid. Heck! He's been seriously studying the violin since he was four-years-old!

An old acquaintance (and professional actress with some pretty decent credits) opened an actors' studio this year. She does online teaching and coaching, plus has summer intensive training back in Louisiana.

Another old acquaintance has her kid in the young actors class.

Today she posted her kid's headshots on Facebook. And I felt...yucky looking at them.

It just seems...icky to promote your child. Head shots smack of marketing. Well, actually it is marketing. And that seems...distasteful to me.

So even though my son would love to go to those disgusting casting calls he hears about on the radio, I know in my heart that I could never let him do it.

Supporting your kid's passion is one thing. Marketing your kid is another.

He has years and years left to be a kid. And I'm doing my damn best to make him a well-rounded kid. He'll have plenty of time after college to pursue a career in acting.

If he still wants to.


What do you think? How seriously can you take the dreams of an eight-year-old?

Think about it while I go get the kids some head shots for their violin concert programs. Thanks.