Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Which Vern Turns A Wee Bit Dramatic


I’m staging a revolution in my head.  The accumulation of thoughts and feelings has reached a boiling point – I’m at a crossroads, and I can’t decide if I simply need to lower the heat and simmer down or hit full blast, allowing the bubbles to roll over the edge and hit the burner to get someone’s attention.  I don’t entirely know my place but if I don’t find it quickly and secure a firm position, I’m going to be the one who ends up getting burned.

I already feel like I’m getting burned.

It started in the middle of July when Samantha informed me that her cross country practices were already commencing.  I hated this for many reasons.  One, it annoyed me that the school was infringing upon my summer, like showing up at a birthday party that advertised it would last for 4 hours and finding out it only lasted for 1.  Two, the practices were every day beginning at eight o’clock in the morning which is to say, the host of that 1 hour birthday party just announced there won’t be cake or presents.  Nevertheless, my daughter made a commitment to be part of the team, and as her mother don’t I want her to respect her responsibilities, be dependable, learn to work hard, and understand how to sacrifice for something you want?  Of course I do, so I dutifully drove her to practice every morning.

After school started I got this bombshell one Friday night.  “Oh Mom, by the way we have practice tomorrow morning at 8am at a park 70 miles from home because the coach wants to take away more of your happiness.”  Or something like that.  Maybe it wasn’t exactly 70 miles away, but it WAS at 8am and it WAS a 45 minute drive.  And if you’re going to drive 45 minutes for a two hour practice it doesn’t make sense to go home and come back, so this had me alone in the middle of an unfamiliar area trying to kill two hours on a Saturday morning.  Enter the silver lining:  Mimi’s Café and the Ciabatta Breakfast Sandwich with citrus remoulade.  I’m nothing if not resourceful.

My tension built last week when another practice went extra long because the coach decided they needed more time in the weight room – Samantha was due to babysit for some friends of ours, and I had to call and tell them she was going to be late.  Annoying for all parties involved except, of course, the school/coaches.  Ultimately, the final straw hit me last night.  Practice ran overtime, we were late for dinner with friends, and en route to our dinner (which was prepared and waiting for us – delightful) Samantha began to stress about the workload she still had that night.  I lost my patience – school and sports had already taken ELEVEN HOURS of my daughter’s day, and now that it was time for food and a little family time and a few minutes to, oh I don’t know, let’s get crazy and say “RELAX!” school was still in charge of my family.  And for the record, she was up until 11:45 pm doing homework.

I’m completely frustrated, and part of my frustration stems from feeling unsure about my role here.  Ultimately I believe I am the parent and I get final say.  Right?  Not right?  I don’t even know.  If I tell her to let something go am I holding her back?  If I tell her she can’t participate on a Saturday because we’ve made plans as a family and damn it all to hell THEY CAN’T HAVE HER, am I preventing her from learning commitment to a team?  Am I just mad because I feel like I’m losing my daughter when this is just the natural course?  This is brand new territory for me.  I feel like I’m not the one wearing the pants in my own family, and that All Things School has essentially opened the gate, let my daughter in, shut the gate behind her and told me I can peek if I want to from the other side.

What’s a mother to do? 

(Seriously.)

20 comments:

Lisa said...

Butthead party throwers. I'd take my present and go home. But seriously, I just got back from a parent meeting at my school that I thought was just going to be "going over the program" to "familiarize" those of us who are new. Nope. Turns out it was just one ENORMOUS SIGN UP SHEET, meant to coerce us into constant immersion in the program that I'm not all that excited about in the first place. And the guilt just ooooozed from the speakers, making me feel like they might call DCFS if I didn't check every box. So I get your pain. And I don't think Mimi's can cure it, unless there's a lot more whipped cream on the hot cocoa. Lucky for me, I'm not on Weight Watchers. Don't worry~I'll drink yours. :) GOOD LUCK and BOIL OVER!

[Stacia] said...

Here's the thing... almost every coach thinks their team is all that there is. And you as a parent, have every right to inform them that is not the case. :) And while it is important for a child to follow through on their commitments, family is THE FOUNDATION of that child. So you're probably not going to mess her up too much by insisting that family be a priority too. As far as commitments go, if the coach didn't inform you of something IN THE BEGINNING then technically Samantha didn't commit to it. Fair is fair.
Sorry about all the caps, I tend to get a little excited up here on my soapbox.

Stefani said...

Well bless you for having the right attitude about being part of a team and living up to your commitments. Having had High School students for 5 years now, I'm finally getting a handle on "my place". And I've figured out it... it's right where I've always been, and it's MOTHER. Of course your child needs to support the team and go to as many practices as possible blah, blah, blah but don't be afraid to call, text or email the coaches and kindly (albeit firmly) explain your predicament.

My daughter complains often that she HAS to be there, or she HAS to do certain things at a certain time because the coach said, or she'll be in trouble. I remind her that just because the coach is HER boss, does not mean the coach is MY boss.

Over the years, while waiting for kids, I have read a lot of books, missed cooking a lot of meals, played lots of games on my phone, visited lots of friends who live near the school (we live 20 minutes away) eaten at lots of "Mimi's Cafes" etc. etc. etc. But I also don't feel bad about telling the coaches this doesn't work for our family. USUALLY they are willing to work with me. (PS. It also helps if you can talk to some of the other parents who are in the same boat as you and you can all present your case together.)

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Would it be too weird to forward this post to the coach? Maybe? I think that sometimes they don't realize the effect it has unless someone says, "hey, we're struggling with this." It's possible he's a narcissistic control-freak who won't care, but maybe not.

Stefani said...

Oh ya, and don't be afraid to insist that the coach give you a printable detailed schedule.

Shoebox Princess said...

I have had a cc runner in the house for going on four years. I love to watch him run. It's been a good experience for my son and our family.

Address the issues with your coach. Practices going too long hasn't been a problem in our case, but when my son has needed to leave early from practice or from a meet, talking with the coach early on and letting him know really helps. As for summer practices, in our school they were called captain's practices and were less mandatory than when the official school practices started (two weeks before school started). Ask about that. They put the emphasis on being there because there are people out there who want to be on the team but don't really want to put in the work.

Good luck to your daughter as she runs!

Wendy said...

This happened to us, but with football. It got to the point that if I pulled my son out of a practice early, they would bench him for the next game. We've had to try and balance football with FHE, no-Sunday participation, and YM activities.

In the end that whole good-better-best talk from general conference is what got me. Family is the priority, not football. So he didn't play football again and instead enjoys some much-less-serious flag football with a city rec league.

She doesn't have to quit. But you have a great opportunity to teach her about priorities. That might mean she leaves practice early (or as scheduled) and misses practices every once in a while. That isn't about not being committed, it's about having balance.

Buffy said...

My life is a lot like yours...only with four more kids!
I actually have 8 alarms on my cell phone each day reminding me that I have to pick someone up or take someone somewhere. So it could be worse.
I have homework every weekend in the second grade...no she does not have homework...me, the parents have homework every weekend. I thought I graduated like 20 years ago, but no...
As the wife of a coach...let me tell ya, sometimes they just need a wake up call from a parent. I have to do this quite often with my husband and remind him that his players actually have a life beyond school and sports. They need things like, ya know... dinner, sleep, time to get homework done...
So if I were you I would politely remind them of that!
Good luck!

Rachel said...

Samantha is smart, strong, capable, and dedicated. She's proven that she makes good choices, and you raised her with good priorities. Way to go, successful parent!

By all means, raise your concerns. But it should be with Samantha, not the coach (at least initially.) Tell her where you're coming from honestly (having her read this would be a good start.) Discuss expectations you have that are not being met (family time, mental health, etc.) and talk with her about how she thinks she should balance it. She's a good kid - you guys will figure it out. And if figuring it out means talking to the coach, go for it.

And for goodness sake, if you don't want to drive her on Saturday morning, make her find a ride! :)

You're family is great. You're doing fine. This is small in the grand scheme of things.

Ria's Random Thoughts said...

This is why I encouraged Zac not to do swim team this year. They have to start realizing that they can't do it all. He had 3-4 practices or swim meets after school every week day. He realized that school is more important than sports. Even though he likes doing sports more than homework. It's really hard. I know. Just wait until they want to work and date too. That's what we're going through right now.

Ria's Random Thoughts said...

I meant 3-4 hours of practice every day.

the emily said...

There's always home school....

But seriously. I don't think there's anything you can do about the homework. Talk to her teachers, tell them how late she is doing her homework, but my guess is they'll say "tough noogies."

As for cross country, I don't think she should quit but I do think you should make it clear to the coach that her commitment, as a, what, 14 year old? should be a two-hour practice (or 1, or whatever it is) and beyond that is too much for a teenage girl. If practice runs late, go get her and leave. I think a calm, simple conversation with the coach isn't too much to ask. Just so you're both clear on expectations. I've been burned too many times by assuming something. Make an appointment, talk to him/her about what you were expecting, listen to what s/he was expecting, and find a common ground. Carpool with teammates to the far away practices, but don't let the coach take over your family time, beyond what you committed to in the beginning. It's not fair, and it's too much for someone so young.

Mom of Three said...

We do this except it is with theater. She is there until 11 pm every show night (including weekends), never mind the fact that she has been there after school into the evening every day for a month. I think it is a balancing act and is very tough. School is so stressful, but having an activity and a group of kids that makes her feel good about who she is, is priceless at this point in life. As far as family time goes, that is super important too. We have family time at weird times. We make sure that we are up when she gets home to help with whatever and help her decompress. It is really hard and we definitely don't have it all figured out. When you do, let me know.

Cynthia said...

Same problem here with high school soccer. The coach cancels a Wed afternoon practice, then throws in a Saturday noon practice -- regularly changing the schedule on a whim. I think families should encourage 100% full commitment and participation to the planned schedule (and the coach should be aware that the athlete and the parent is willing to commit to that), but not the crazy extra practices and overtime practices. If a coach plans a 2 hour practice, I have to expect my daughter back in our car at 2 hours and 10 minutes. Adults can't be at the beck and call of a coach changing things around.
And a practice 45 minutes away??? Crazy.
You've got to talk to the coach. But good luck. Some get it, some never do.

wjmom said...

As it turns out, our children are fabulous people, whether or not they excelled at schoolwork, sports, music, theatre, or anything else. I think I had to learn that it was OK to let our children choose what they wanted, while making it totally clear that we are a family, I like each of them, and I want them to have a little home (and down!) time. Maybe I'm wrong. Our children did not get scholarships. But they are still wonderful people who I hope will be part of our family FOREVER.

One thing our children have made abundantly clear, however, is that I need to let THEM do the talking at the beginning of any issue. When they are ready for me to jump in and be their champion, they will let me know. So my main advice is that you talk to Samantha. She won't have the answers right now, but it will prepare her for now and for the future when she has to choose and prioritize even more.

mormonhermitmom said...

If regular practices aren't too far away or in the middle of scary traffic, you show the kid a bike and say, "Get yourself there." A practice an hour away? You call the coach and say, "No way. Unless the coach is willing to hire a bus with his own money to get the kids there himself."

But hey. As long as she has the grades up, she probably ought to make the choice herself. She is going to learn sooner or later about how to manage time. IF the stress becomes too much, or the GPA falls below a certain level, then its time to put the parental foot down.

Heather said...

Here you! Football starts the week after school ends... at 6:30 am... The go all summer, once end of July hits they do two a day practices. WE live 20 minutes from the school, so I spend 1 - 2 hours a day driving...

Then my kid gets benched because he isn't the best, doesn't matter that he puts in 100% every practice all year, and never misses...

Sports suck, we should all just eat ice cream.

Stacey said...

Having been through Samantha's XC team with my children, I think it makes a difference how committed to cross country Samantha wants to be. If she's a good runner and has a shot at varsity, she probably needs to go to all the practices. Frankly, you have to practice A LOT to get better. However, when she has another commitment (like babysitting or dinner with family friends), it is perfectly legit for her to tell the coach she has a commitment and can't stay late. As for the practices that are far away, I totally agree with "get a ride" or carpooling - you drive a couple of kids this time and someone else's mom drives next time. If XC is something she enjoys and is making good friends through, I'd support it as much as is feasible. Plus, don't you love going to the meets? So much better than track in the spring! I do miss XC meets.

kateebee said...

Perhaps ii is a cultural difference but the "all holy sport" takes a second place to school work. Yes, school work since said sport is taking place at the school. We don't give sports scholarships to university.

I very much liked our rugby coach. There were 3 or 4 after school practices depending on other events in the school. The players were expected to attend a minimum of 2 a week or they would not start. If your grades fell you did not play.

This worked out fine. The kids went when they could. The were able to balance and managed the schedule without mum's intervention. If they could stay for 1/2 a practice one day and a full 2 for the week they were sailing.

Maybe it's because our coaches are teachers also. We don't have full time paid coaches for school sports.

Don't leave it up to your poor stressed daughter. Chances are the other parents as just as put upon and their kids are just as stressed. With a coach who's sole job is coaching they have no sense of work / life / play balance. So meet as a group and lay it out on the line and put this whole experience in its proper place.

momof8 said...

Welcome to high school. This is a hard one because the coaches who don't realize your kids have a family, homework, and other life are the ones who take it out on your kid if you complain. It is hard. It's also one of the reasons I hate school. Then in the music program etc. they start coming up with trips that take all of your spring break and up to $2000 per kid or more and if your kid doesn't go they are in the doghouse. I'm with ya, but I don't have any good answers. If you do complain, make sure you have other parents to back you up.