Archive | growing up

Why Didn’t I Get A Trophy? We ALWAYS Get a Trophy…


This past week both boys have been in a soccer camp, 9-4, every day. Yes, it’s 90 degrees in the shade here in sub-Saharan Manhattan, and as humid as a wet gym sock, but the kids  play on. I learned a new way to tell the difference between kids and adults this week: after dragging themselves cross-town to pick up their kids at camp, grown-ups want a nice shady bench and maybe an adult beverage. The kids, however, after a Pizza Infusion, will happily play tag in the sprinklers for another three hours.

Soccer camp started in just the nick of time. I start a new job next week and if the boys hadn’t had soccer camp to keep them busy, I probably would have had to do something highly illegal–lock them in closets, perhaps, or leave them in the park overnight–just so I could prepare for The Next Chapter of My Life.  Oh, and did I mention that Husband is traveling for two weeks?

So soccer camp, in this house, translates to “life saver.”

But I digress. Today was the last day of this soccer camp and so the entire group of kids, ranging in age from 14 to 6 (Caleb was the only 6 year old) divided into teams for a tournament.  The teams played against one another all day in the sweltering pre-hurricane heat and Caleb’s team came in 4th out of 10 teams.  A perfectly respectable finish, right?

Perfectly respectable, that is, except trophies were only awarded to the top three teams.  Now, Caleb has got a season of little league under his belt and he’s been watching his brother do all these sporty things, so he knows the drill: at the end of whatever it is everyone gets a trophy.

I don’t like the fact that trophies get handed out like breath mints and so was delighted that only the top 3 teams got doodads. But Caleb was inconsolable (and bruised, battered, and covered in a thin layer of sweaty grit).He moped and moaned all the way home, began to cry in the elevator, and when we got into the apartment, he flopped down on his bed and began to sob.  I figured he was down for the count.

And then the skies parted and little cherub heads rained down on me. Or something almost as miraculous: Liam began to comfort his little brother. Told him that the coaches had said great things about Caleb’s skills, that he’d done a really great job, that even really great soccer players don’t always win, on and on and on.  I slipped out of the room and Liam kept talking, reminding his brother of all that he’d learned this week, and even conceding that Caleb is a much better player at 6 than Liam was.

I swear to god it was as if he’d actually been listening to all my lectures this summer about how important it is for siblings to take care of one another.

Of course, another possibility is that because Liam’s team won the tournament (and there’s a big shiny trophy on his desk to prove it), he felt he could afford to be compassionate and my lectures had nothing to do with it.

But no. I’m not going to undercut their tender moment with cynicism.  I’m going to stick with cherubs and miracles…sort of my own soccer camp trophy.

Continue Reading · on September 3, 2010 in Children, growing up, Kids, sports

Count Your Milestones Where You Can Find Them

7:18 AM, Monday morning. Sleeping very soundly.

7:19AM, Caleb bounds in: MOMMY! I had to go poop!

Me: unh?

Caleb: I had to go poop and I called you and called you and you didn’t come help me!

Me: unh?

Caleb: And so I wiped all by myself! I did it! 

Me: unh…good for you.

Caleb: I don’t know if I got it all but I got most of it, I’m pretty sure!

Me: You washed your hands?

Caleb: Yes! Because tomorrow is my birthday and I’m going to be six.

And with that he dashed out of the room, filled with joy about his accomplishment.

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Continue Reading · on August 23, 2010 in growing up, Parenting

Period. Fact or Fantasy?


  Liam has been obsessed with books by Tamora Pierce, who writes fantasy-adventure books filled with magic, knights, quests, and feats of derring-do. The protagonists in most of these books, however, are girls, and I wondered, in a brief moment of gender stereotyping, why Liam found them so fascinating.

The first quartet, Song of the Lioness, is about a girl named Alanna, who switches places with her twin brother Thom. Thom goes off to study socerery and Alanna dresses up as “Alan” in order to take Thom’s place as an apprentice knight.  In Alanna, The First Adventure, “Alan” must struggle to compete against other apprentices who are all bigger and stronger than she is, so she studies and practices endlessly in order to triumph in her various endeavors.

I realized that in Alanna, Liam found a kindred spirit: he’s the smallest kid in fourth grade and despite being incredibly athletic, he has to work twice as hard to keep up with the other boys, many of whom are already half-a-foot taller than he is.

Unlike Alanna, however, Liam doesn’t have magical powers.  Alanna is also a Healer,  it seems, and when she helps to heal people, she glows with a violet light; she can also create an electric-blue force field between herself and her enemies. 

During her time as an apprentice, Alanna starts to grow up: first her breasts start to develop, but she figures out how to wrap her chest tightly so that her body doesn’t give away her secret (it is forbidden for women to become knights, in this world).  Alanna also experiences her first period, which is explained in vague terms as “bleeding from a secret place between her leg,” and later as her “monthly cycle.” She finds a woman who explains what the blood means–that she can now bear children if she “lies with a man,” but that’s the extent of the detail.

Curious about how Liam reacted to these descriptions of a girl coming of age, I brought it up the other night when I was helping wash his hair: “When Alanna has that ‘monthly cycle,’ you remember, I wondered if you had any questions about that, because that’s part of what happens when a girl starts to grow up…”

He stared at me, eyes wide open.

“You mean that stuff REALLY HAPPENS?”

I guess his reaction makes sense. I mean, what’s more fantastical: occasionally glowing purple or bleeding from some secret place once a month?

Continue Reading · on March 31, 2010 in growing up, Kids


Caleb, age 5, comes in to our bedroom almost every morning. He drops a kiss on my nose and then clambers into bed, nuzzling in close. Sometimes snuggle lasts only a few minutes, sometimes it’s a half-hour, depending on the day. I love feeling his sturdy body, still warm and smelling a bit like toast, love the egg-shaped curve of his skull under my chin and the steady rise and fall of his breathing.

Then, of course, he bullets out of bed, grinding his elbow into my solar plexus as he struggles out from under the covers to find his brother and start building new lego weapons of mass destruction.

How much longer, I wonder, will these morning snuggles continue? Liam occasionally graces us with our presence, usually on the weekend, and then we have about 4.5 minutes of family togetherness before the boys start wrestling, or someone pulls the covers off someone else, or the lure of legos proves too strong and both boys bolt out of bed to start building the morning project.

Even though he doesn’t snuggle much, Liam still sits on my lap or curls up next to me on the couch. But each time he does, I wonder if it’s the last time. He’s small for his age, so he still fits comfortably on my lap (mostly)–but he’s nine, and I know that the murky waters of pre-adolescence are about to close over his head. As it is, I have to give him his good-bye kiss on school mornings a good twenty feet from the door of the school.

Is it easier for the mothers of girls to stay physically close to their daughters? Probably not, although from my perspective, it certainly looks that way. It just seems easier for girls, as they grow up, to continue to hold mom’s hand, rest next to each other in bed and chat, curl up together on the couch, whereas there’s going to be a point at which it would be something out of a bad Faulkner novel for Liam or Caleb to climb into bed and snuggle with me.

I know it has to happen, that pulling away from mommy, but I hope it happens slowly. There’s a whole long life ahead of them to be on their own, to fall into line with a society that still equates “masculine” with “unemotional.”  So as long as they’re willing, I’m going to hug and cuddle and kiss, and wait for those morning wake-ups. 

It’s not really that I want to go back to dealing with babies; I’m delighted to have said good-bye to formula and diapers and spit-up. It’s just that they will always be my babies.  There’s no saying good-bye to that.

Continue Reading · on February 18, 2010 in growing up, Kids

Valentines, 4th Grade Style


Today, Feb 12, was the “Valentines” celebration in the fourth grade, because the 14th is a Sunday and next week is school vacation. After dinner, Liam showed me the valentines he got and the conversation turned to who has crushes on whom. Seems the fourth grade is a veritable Peyton Place of emotions…which I remembered, vaguely, from my own fourth grade memories–but I hadn’t realized that boys had crushes too.

Let’s see. I. wants to send a special valentine – in the mail – to L., but then again, I. also seems to like S. Liam’s not sure which person I. is going to choose. And L. might like R., actually, which would be hard for I., unless S. decides to like I. back. C. likes L. (a different L.) but it’s not clear that L. reciprocates. F. likes D. and T., but Liam doesn’t think that D. or T. likes anyone special at the moment, while A. likes C., even though C. switched schools last year.

Liam likes a girl, A., and wished that the valentine she’d given him hadn’t accidently gotten thrown away at lunch (isn’t that always the way?) He thinks that A. might like him back because a friend of his, at recess last week, asked her if she liked Liam. “She went to go talk to her friends, ” says my son Casanova, “I think to figure out if she should say yes or no.”  He is wise in the ways of women already, is my son.

What did she say, asks mommy, attempting with some success to avoid weeping with laughter.

Apparently A. played it cool and wouldn’t answer directly, so Liam’s friend told A. to say 9 for “no” and 10 for “yes.” 

“And her friends told her to say ten so she did!”

Hey. There are worse reasons to start a relationship. Look for the engagement announcement in the Sunday Vows section sometime next month.

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Continue Reading · on February 12, 2010 in growing up, Kids

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