Monday, 19 September 2011

Why I Blame Tiger Woods

This past weekend my “one and only” competed in his very first kids triathlon and if there was a prouder mama there, you would have been hard pressed to find her! He swam, biked and ran his little heart out and at the end of it he was thrilled to run into the waiting arms of his cheering section! (Well, that may have just been a momentary diversion on his direct path to the snack table, but I digress…) He didn’t finish first, he didn’t finish last… he finished. And for a little guy who has a “slight” (read: MASSIVE) tendency to lean towards perfectionism, his pride (and relief!) was a thing of beauty.

You would think that a high five and a few mama tears of joy might have been the end of the story, but unfortunately the overall experience was somewhat tarnished by some of the things we witnessed while we were there. Dads yelling at their kids to “Stop breathing like that… breathe properly!!”… moms shouting in the not-so-distant distance “ What are you doing?? You’re not even trying!”… parents shaking their heads in disbelief and bemoaning the “certainty” that “there’s no way he/she is going to win doing it like that…!”.

Seriously? Perhaps I have low expectations but if my son is breathing at all, I’m a happy mama. Not trying? How do I know? Maybe he’s thinking I could be cheering harder! Not going to win? Couldn’t care less… My only hope was that he finished… in one piece… and didn’t turn into a popsicle in the process (It was crazy cold out there!!).

When did “being the best” become the ONLY option? I remember playing softball, ringette, hockey, etc. growing up – sometimes I had a great game, sometimes not so much. Sometimes we won, sometimes it was a disaster. People won, people lost… but at the end of the day everyone seemed to understand that it was mainly for fun and 90% of us were never going to make it to the ‘big leagues’. And that was okay.

Why is it that these days, all kids need to be the “Tiger Woods” of their chosen sport almost immediately upon exiting the womb? Whether you’re smacking golf balls, swimming laps, shooting baskets or even ‘tickling the ivories”… did I miss the memo stating that everyone needs to be a superstar??

My question is this – if my son has to be “the best” at something, and we all need to get him immersed in whatever that may be ASAP, aren’t I picking what I want him to be good at? There are the few rare “phenoms”, like Tiger Woods, who seemed to destined for certain things (although perhaps we won’t pay too much attention to where that eventually got him!) but they are most certainly the exception rather than the rule. A phenomenon is, by definition, a “singularity” or “unusual occurrence” – not the norm. So why do we all expect that everyone needs to conquer the competition?

My 7 year old is a smart kid, who is kind, caring, empathetic, inquisitive and makes me laugh until my sides hurt. He swims, is a red belt in taekwondo, has played soccer, enjoys rock climbing and may even check out snowboarding this Winter. Is he the ‘best’ at any of these things? Nope. Will he be at some point? Probably not. But if he decides that one of these things – or even something else – is his true passion I will be there to support him 110%, whether he’s 1st or 101st.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my son dearly and obviously want nothing but the best for him. The difference is that I’m completely okay with letting him decide what that might be. And until then, I will continue to be his biggest fan, supporter and champion.

He’s already talking about the possibility of another triathlon next year. Maybe he’ll do better… maybe he won’t. (Maybe it will be warmer!) And that’s completely okay with me.

Will You Be My Friend?

At a recent birthday celebration (we won’t mention the age!), I took a second to appreciate the room full of not only amazing family members, but also fantastic friends who have been in my life for years. Many of these friends have been with me through highs, lows, and everything in between – and besides, they know where the bodies are buried so it’s good to keep them close by!

That being said, the majority of these friends are people who I’ve known from high school or even earlier. It got me thinking – is it really that much harder to develop long-lasting friendships as you get older? Not just the “grab-a-coffee” friends or “let’s-chat-about-last-night’s-Big-Brother” friends or the “hey-you’ve-got-toilet-paper-tucked-into-your-skirt” friends… I’m talking about the honest-to-goodness “I-would-share-my-last-glass-of-wine-with-you” connection. A real true friend!

When my son makes new friends, it’s often a simple “Wanna be my friend?” that creates a potential lifelong buddy. Since my life doesn’t necessarily revolve around playgrounds and Pokemon, it definitely seems a bit tougher.

When I was on mat leave, there weren’t many friends off at the same time, so I threw myself into whatever local ‘mommy events’ & Early Years Centre groups I could find. To say it wasn’t exactly a raging success is an understatement. I went in desperate for adult conversation and some touch of the “mommy bonding” – and came out desperate to jam a fork in my eye! It was the same group of people each time, and it felt more like a walking “brag book” then an actual support group. (Seriously, if your kid slept through the night from Day 1, nursed like a champ at all times, napped 20 hours a day, was reading by 6 months of age, and painlessly grew a full set of teeth at the same time – just assume we can’t be friends!)

What I learned is not to give up. I have been so fortunate to stumble upon so many amazing people who make me feel like less of a basket case mom - people who just "get it". And I'm sure it's made me a better mom - and a better person - to have those outlets and such support. Never try to do it alone.

End of story, right? Not quite…  As I looked around that room at that infamous birthday event not so long ago, I was so grateful to be able to see “news friend” amongst my “true friends”. Seeing people who not only "knew me when" but also people who know me now - and like what they see - has been incredibly gratifying. I'm so glad that their answer to my “Will you be my friend” has been a resounding “yes”!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

How I Survived My Family This Summer

How I survived my family this summer

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. I really do. And I love hanging out with them. However, when a recent opportunity came our way to take a family road trip to Florida, my first reaction was “Wow, how long do we have to be in a car together??” After all, I have the kid who breaks into the never-ending “Are-We-There-Yet” chorus when our travels exceed the 15 minute mark!

As part of a recent media fleet excursion to test the new Chevrolet Orlando, we packed up our bags and headed on a fantastic whirlwind adventure that included stops in West Virginia, Georgia and finally, Orlando (Get it? An Orlando to Orlando??) I was thrilled about the opportunity, excited about the events planned along the way… and terrified about the 23 hours of fighting & fidgeting – and that’s just from me!

Now, I’m not usually the type to flip ahead to the end of the book, but let me just say… we not only survived but actually had an amazing time. In fact, we’re even talking about planning our next road trip – which would only be possible because of the tips & tricks we learned on this trip.

1.    Never underestimate the power of the electronic babysitter! My son’s favourite part of the vehicle? The iPad propped up on the back seat! Sure, I’m all about limiting screentime in the comfort of my own home, but on a 23 hour road trip? Bring on those Angry Birds!

Happy kid? Check!

2.    Keeping connected! I admit it – my first car didn’t even have a tape deck. So imagine my surprise when this car actually came equipped with a USB port! While I was happily debating whether my phone or my iPod should be the first to benefit, Dear Hubby already had his laptop up & running and was halfway through his first report. Hmm… not exactly as I saw it playing out, but we were well on our way!

Happy husband? Check!

3.    Sing out loud, Sing out strong! The way I see it, if I can’t knock off a few Angry Birds, or surf the web to find the nearest Starbucks, then the radio stations are all mine. And, of course, the luxury of controlling the XM Satellite Radio means hours and hours of pure ‘80s bliss (much to Hubby's chagrin!). Time to channel my inner Cyndi Lauper!

Happy me? Check!

So, could we have survived this experience without the help from our electronic travelmates? Of course – driving through mountains, historic towns, and other major attractions was an amazing experience we’ll always appreciate. The gift of enjoying this experience as a family? Unmistakeable. Seeing the joy on my son’s face as we pulled in to Disney or my husband’s face as we explored historic downtown Savannah? Priceless. And if you ask my son, one of his favourite memories of the trip was falling in love with Maggie, his new 'furry friend' at the Bed & Breakfast in West Virginia! (Hey, beats the hamster!)

And for that I will always be grateful – to GM and to my family, for an experience I will never forget. And for reminding me how cool my family really is.

Is technology necessary to surviving family time? Of course not – but that Starbucks app was definitely appreciated!

Does technology get the invite on your road trips?
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