Lower expectations

Honestly, this is going to sound lazy. But, a recent epiphany I had is why being relaxed and lowering expectations yields greater results. With grades, in sports, and with relationships, the way to bring success is to be prepared but also, and more importantly, just do it. Do it without giving setting the bar too high. Do it without making a plan on what has to happen. Yes, this goal-setting mama has witnessed firsthand the benefit in not worrying about the end result and just enjoying the race.

Anna miraculously completed her first 5k race last weekend. We had trained for months with the wonderful Girls on the Run program. And much like a good running program, the weeks of workouts prepare the young girls to have the endurance to complete 3.1 miles. But, Anna hasn’t been hardcore because this running group is just as much about friendships and self-discovery as it is running.

She surprised us by only stopping 3 times throughout the race. She finished in 33 minutes. This is not record-winning. However, she wasn’t winded. In fact, she seemed happy and finished with a smile on her face. We didn’t talk about it beforehand. There were no expectations so she certainly exceeded them!

Then there was Brody who half-heartedly decided to also run the race. He planned on not running with Anna and Bo as he assumed he’d run faster than them. However, we also didn’t talk about it or make a plan except that maybe he could start by running with me. Well, that didn’t last long and he broke away from the group. He won the race. Yes, won first place in the race.

I was equally surprised with both accomplishments. But when I think about my children’s accomplishments, they tend to be most successful in the areas that we don’t harp on. Grades. Test scores. Sports. The less we stress about it, the better they naturally do.

There is preparation along the way. Discipline, practice,  and focus on daily tasks are important. We expect for them to do their homework, finish their chores, and have good behavior. But with most performance-based activities, I believe that we can sabotage our children’s efforts, despite the best intentions, when we expect them to perform. The pressure to succeed can make children and adults cave under pressure.

And, as parent, we can be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed when we don’t have concrete expectations. Valuing best effort, a good attitude, and hard work will result in a good outcome without the stress of pleasing. Do I want to abandon goal-setting? No because it provides growth in self-awareness. But, I do think with our children, we should let them guide their goal-setting. Studies show time and again that intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic anyway.

And, I’m now seeing that we can even encourage our children to be easy on themselves too. This week at school, I met with a super, engaged student about test anxiety. Digging deeper into the topic, I discovered that she currently has a ‘B’ in math. But as a type ‘A’ personality, this isn’t good enough (or so she thinks). So after going through some concrete test-taking strategies, we ended with me having her speak to me as if I were a close friend in the same situation. I asked if she’d put her friend down for not finishing first and getting a ‘B’. Of course not so why would be that demanding of ourselves? She coached herself in this activity, practicing kindness and grace.

When parents or teachers berate a child, the child feels small and incapable.  That’s not motivating and inspiring. I know of an adult who once told a 7-year old girl  that didn’t read fast enough on the silly, mandated reading assessment; she needed to do better.  She is  an ESL student who speaks Spanish at home.  Needless to say, the next time she read to her teacher, she was in tears. The pressure doesn’t motivate. Pressure only sets unnecessary stress. And, we know stressed out kids don’t do as well.

It’s ok not to shoot to be first or get straight A’s. We don’t have to win every game. We don’t need to be first. We actually only need to win being a good person. That’s not performance-based. By removing expectations, talking less about the end result, and allowing things to naturally play out, kids just do better. We can allow natural talents and gift to shine.

Just do it.

(And, if you do your best, be happy with the results!)

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Get your beauty rest!

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It amazes me how sleep deprived our young children are. With some years of experience under my belt as a School Counselor, I began to realize that many problems in elementary age children could be prevented if children were simply getting enough rest. I-pads, phones, gaming systems, and t.v.’s are robbing our children of the recommended amount of shut-eye and we are seeing the effects in schools.

Anyone have a child who emotional, overly sensitive, irritable, or irrational when they get sleepy or hungry? They all are but they never realize it, of course! It’s true that some kids are more sensitive than others (and I know I must have my beauty rest and food or I’m a mess!). But, most children need the recommended 9-12 hours of sleep that they aren’t getting.

Yesterday, a school ‘friend’ who is actually a bit younger than my son was having a rough day. He’s 10 but has a teenage sister. He’s way more exposed to adult things than my son but also way more immature than him. He gets easily frustrated and makes foolish mistakes both in his academics and behavior. So, he asked to see me yesterday when he was needing a break and in “recovery”.

It was wise to ask for what he needs, rather than get in trouble, but I could tell he was on edge and struggling. And, I know him well so one of the first things I asked him was what time he went to sleep last night. -12 a.m.- He gets up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the bus. Now, I’m here to tell you that I’d be sleepy and angry with 6 hours of sleep, and I’m not 10. 6 hours of sleep!? He knew that 12 a.m. was late but he had NO idea that he only got 6 hours of sleep.

He laughed when I told him how much his body and brain needed to function at an optimal level (9-12 hours). No way was he going to sleep at 9 like my children because that’s when he comes inside, he said! Like many kids with older siblings, it’s hard to enforce different bed-times. But, this 10- year old is getting 5-8 hours of sleep a night. He plays on his phone after his dad has told him good night because he’s one of many kids I know who sleep with their devices.

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Sure, parents like his can say goodnight but that’s not stopping kids. Most children don’t have enough self-control to want to choose sleep over devices so we have to remove this temptation. It’s hard enough with the homework and practices in the evening. The older they get, the later they start practices (and I hate that)! So on the evenings when we are home, we have to enforce what’s best for them even if it’s not what they like. Just look online and you can find an abundance of research to support this theory that kids with devices aren’t getting as much sleep as their peers!

We need our sleep! Weight gain, attention, memory, self-regulation, and irritability can all be linked to sleep, and kids aren’t getting enough. So when in doubt, try giving your kid some healthy, real food and getting them to sleep a little earlier. Make it even easier by just not allowing devices and gaming during the week. Their brains have enough to think about as is! And, make sleep a priority.

 

“It is ok to say you’re welcome…”

 

Every year, I have an attention-grabber for school. Sometimes, I’ve found them online. And more often, I think of the most recent children’s movie hit and boom! I’ve got my attention-grabber for ‘guidance’ or leadership class!

Ready to rock? …….Ready to roll!

Who’s the one who likes to play?……….. Bing Bong! Bing Bong!

Just keep swimming…….just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

And now, (drumroll!): It is ok to say……YOU’RE WELCOME!! Click here for the full, fun version from the movie, Moana! Better than yelling at them to be quiet, right!?

It’s even cooler when it also ties into the school theme like this year. PBIS is where it’s at across Knox County. This stands for “positive behavior interventions and support”. All schools in Knox county are moving towards implementing this. With tons of trainings, principals, teachers, and support staff have 4 fundamental standards or rules that are universal. Sounds fancy and important, right!? Well, it is….mostly.

  • Be safe.
  • Be kind.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be responsible.

Who can argue that these aren’t important principles to live by and expect out of our children? These are basically what we used to consider good manners. So, it’s good to know that these will be consistent throughout any class and area if implemented correctly, right!? Sure.

But, what I just find sad or strange about this rubric is that people, children and adults, should already be doing these things! Have people forgotten that nothing else works in the world, including school, if we don’t follow these tenants!?  We have to get the basics for societies to work. And, these character traits and manners are something that School Counselors have always taught anyway! Many of our comprehensive programs are centered around similar character traits so that’s another weird piece too! And, it’s what many, many teachers have always expected and led their students in doing.

We are now training lots and lots of principals, teachers, and support staff to have good manners and be nice. Honestly, that’s what it boils down to. Focus on reinforcing more positives than negatives. Use affective statements and point out how one’s behavior impacts others. And, reward good choices. That’s it in a nutshell as I see it. Now, there are some fancy bells and whistles but PBIS is genius because they are making money off of a program that’s really quite simple. 

So, parents, this isn’t something new. Like many concepts, programs, and curriculum, it’s rebranding. That’s ok , but it’s good to know that this alone cannot transform a school.  Now, the people who work in the school can. But, more importantly, our parents and society as a whole can and do impact the belief systems of our children. Children have to feel loved and they have to trust and respect in order to want comply and act nice. In order for PBIS to work, we have to also have adults living these same rules, and there in lies the problem!

We have been so busy rushing to cram new curriculum down their throats that we have lost time for the most simple and most important values and lessons in life. There’s no downtime in school and even many teachers resist scheduling a ‘guidance’ (leadership) class or taking a brain-break because they’re rushing to stay on track. What happened to the good ole-days when your teacher turned off the lights and everyone put heads down to take a break and calm people down!? We don’t have time.

Or, do we? We have to take time for kindness. Having a black and white matrix posted is all fine and good. It does serve as a good reminder on expectations. But, we also have to lead by example. 

For example, there’s a busy and thoughtful mom who, for years, has taken the time to write and mail thank you cards for the smallest things. She also has mailed many cards to my children recognizing them for their accomplishments. Her son is now starting middle school and she told me yesterday, that she has her cards ready!

And, then one of my daughter’s new teacher (that she was actually scared to get) came out to the walker line Friday to say hi. He snuck up behind her and told me in his deep voice that he needed to talk to me about my daughter. She started grinning, knowing he’s a jokester. He said she has been raising her hand and answering questions this week!

Taking a moment to just be nice is the best PBIS model that we can provide. Maybe, we all just need a reminder that it’s not that hard! Being nice, positive, and respectful makes people like you and want to listen and learn! So, my attention-grabber this year is to also say, “You’re welcome!”. It’s time for a refresher course!….

“And, thank you!” 😉

Summer Sarah

If you are a parent or especially if you are an educator, I know you’re loving summer! Summer time brings flexible sleep schedules, maybe even a nap or two if you’re lucky, friends and bbq’s, books and movies, and just the freedom to have a little bit more fun and flexibility. It’s a well-needed break!

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Here’s the thing, it’s almost over friends! So, whatever you had hoped to do or complete, DO IT NOW! As you teacher-friends know, when school starts, forget it! You don’t have the time or energy to exercise after school or go to a casual dinner with friends. Shoot, we are lucky to still be awake at 9 for our favorite show! The first month of school (or the whole year!) sucks the life out of you.

What non-educators don’t realize is that no one would do the job if we didn’t get time off! Working with children is exhausting. Being on your game everyday and giving 100% is demanding. There are no business lunches out or long boardroom meetings. No, that would be an exciting rest. When you work in a school, you are ON all the time. We do it because we want to give our kids our undivided attention igniting their love of learning while also making sure their basic needs are met. And then they are the parents…our plates are full!

So while we have these last couple weeks of freedom, seize the day. Make sure you’re checking all those bucket-list activities off your list. Rest, rest, and rest! And make sure you’re practicing your self–care.

In the summer, I’ve nicknamed myself ‘Summer Sarah’. My husband knows better than anyone that Summer Sarah is more fun, energetic, happy, and exciting. Why? Because I’m not dog-tired. Self-care restores and I make it a mission to do what makes me happy during the summer.

Nurses, counselors, teachers, therapists, mothers, fathers, grandparents- we are the caretakers and it’s tough. Caretakers often feel exhausted because we put our own personal wants and needs second making sure the needs of others are met first. We make it our mission to keep others comfortable and happy while often times neglecting to do the same for ourselves. Over time, this makes us tired, irritable, or even resentful. This doesn’t make for good caretakers! We have to make time for ourselves too.

Self care:

  • a good diet

  • healthy habits

  • exercise

  • hobbies

  • rest

  • taking time for oneself

  • balance

We have to stop feeling guilty for taking care of ourselves because it just doesn’t make sense not to! How can our children get the best teaching, guidance, love, and understanding if their caretakers are unhappy and overspent? If you’re already spent, then make a decision to do something that rejuvenates you this week. We have to recharge.

If you’re well-rested and about to start something hard, then make a plan to keep yourself healthy. Be of healthy body AND mind by doing things that keep your spirit lifted. Sometimes there’s just time for reading a chapter of a good book at night or going for a quick walk around the block. It’s better than nothing. To prevent burnout, we have to take time for caring for the most important person, the caretaker!

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R-E-S-T

Realize that life isn’t a race.

Exonerate yourself from always doing. 

Set aside time for nothing.

Take time for reflections, prayers, silence, and each other. 

This past Sunday at church, the sermon was about rest. It’s a idea that you don’t have to talk me into! Yet, the idea resonated with me especially right now as we make some decisions about schedules and brace ourselves for the fall. Get ready for the whirlwind of open houses, new teachers, new coaches, and new friends. Back-to-school brings lots of change and excitement that it can really make time fly by. Before you know it, it’s football season! So it’s at this time of the year that I encourage you (and I remind myself) to set some priorities and limits for your children and family.

 
It’s become the norm in this country to be busy and overscheduled, as if life is a contest and the busiest wins. All summer long, families are filling up their summer ‘free’ time with organized activities. Camps during the day, more camps at night, sleep-away camps, practices, lessons, swim meets, and filling time….Go, go, go! And when school starts, it gets even crazier. GO, GO, GO, GO!

 
The only reason I am taking the time to reflect on this phenomenon is that I don’t think that everyone choosing this lifestyle is enjoying this hurried life. I often times hear the deep sighs of rushing mothers or the complaints of frantic parents about where they have to be next. Is there a reward in choosing to live like this?

BUSY IS A CHOICE.

 
Whether it be sports, music, dance, or even tutoring, we sometimes rush our kids through life, teaching them that busier is better with too many after-school activities. We should know as adults that this mentality and lifestyle isn’t benefitting our mental and physical health, or overall wellbeing. Lack of focus, irritability, and lack of self-control can all be linked to children who are overtired. As adults, we have to set limits and model having some down time too.

 
Remember, it’s a choice how you want to spend your free time. If you find yourself dreading or complaining that you have to do something, you shouldn’t be doing it. Set boundaries for yourself and your children. If it’s your child’s joy to play that sport, play that piano, dance or sing, or whatever it might be, then by all means, rush to get them there. However, many kids don’t want to be taking those 3 dance classes, and piano, and tutoring, and church…. Parents can overdo it.

 
Childhood is fast and it should be fun. We don’t have to rush to be good at everything or stay busy for the sake of being busy, telling people what our kids do. Time is valuable. Choose what you want to do with your time, and don’t automatically fill it up. It’s ok to leave time to pause.

 

Rest provides others the best versions of ourselves. Rest helps us remain true to ourselves. Rest connects us to God. If we don’t rest, we don’t pause to reflect on the choices we are making. As this school year begins, choose time for what’s most important, each other.

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Room to grow

Time to reflect and examine what’s going on with our kids. Another school year has come to a close, riddled with unexpected twists and turns. Growing pains are always to be expected. So, is this year any different?

  • Stressed, overworked teachers
  • Negligent caregivers, and over-involved parents
  • Excess extracurriculars and lack of quality time
  • Suicide
  • Social media

These are just a few persistent, troubling themes in American schools. As usual, there have been friendship problems, tragedies, and too much information in too little time. But, what sticks out in 2017 as impacting our young children most? When I think back on this fast school year, many issues are avoidable.

More and more continues to be demanded of our public school teachers and this stress does trickle down to students. Yet, many teachers have accepted that the list requirements will always be growing and changing. Teachers seem less stressed than they were a couple years ago when the new evaluation system was first implemented. Yet, teachers seem no more happy. It’s hard work and more work with no more money! Yet, there are so many great teachers willing to persevere because they believe in children and shaping their future.

Sometimes these are the only consistently positive role models our children have. More and more, children are not experiencing the 2-parent, traditional home. The model of a family continues to shift, whether it be living with a family friend, to having multiple homes, or being raised by a grandparent. This is impacting our children’s resiliency and confidence. Some children expect the unexpected at an early age making it difficult to concentrate on being a student and stress-free kid.

Divorce continues to be an issue that many young children face. And, it’s not easy. Sometimes it takes years for children to accept, if they ever do. Changes in schedules and bouncing from different homes is challenging even if it’s the best decision for the parents. Kids miss their mom or dad when they aren’t with them. Going for months on end without seeing a parents hurts.

Grandparents as caregivers present another set of challenges, as their role as a guardian is not the same dynamic as a parent. Many times, they are juggling working and raising their grandchildren, while also dealing with whatever factors got the children there to begin with. It’s a lot of pressure and these children don’t always get the discipline and consistency they need. They may get away with more and less is expected from them as many times the grandparents feel sorry for them. Or, the grandparent is too tired to fight the fight. Many children aren’t held to same expectations as their peers when it comes to household or school responsibilities. And, they aren’t getting the help they need with their school work at home either. Academics have changed and become more rigorous. And, many times parents and grandparents don’t know how to help them. They weren’t taught the same way, or they don’t remember. So, many kids don’t do their homework. They’d rather stick them on a device to pacify.

On the other hand, there continue to be the parents who micromanage every move their child makes. Every little quiz must be an A and the teacher is contacted if their child’s grade drops to a B. Teachers find this type of parent just as frustrating. The entitled parent expects ongoing communication if their child has a bad day; this parent wants to monitor every move. This child is not allowed to have a bad day, and if they do, there has to be a reason that must be fixed immediately. This kid deserves to be the best because they are the smartest, of course.

For all kids, of all races and socioeconomic status, electronic devices seemed to cause the most trouble in 2016/17. We still haven’t figured out balance and how to regulate our kids. And, there are more and more opportunities for children of all socioeconomic levels to get online. Whether it be texting or messaging, being sucked into YouTube, or just the simple games like Roadblock, electronics are seriously impacting our children. Many times, parents are unaware or checked out from regulating these devices. This school year has been the year of hurt feelings over what started out as a simple message or text. Middle-class girls whose parents value education and are involved are NOT involved in monitoring this process. Many misunderstandings and cyberbullying could have been avoided.

Children in elementary (not to mention even middle and high school) are just too young to practice mindful online communication and react appropriately on their own. It’s complicating their lives and spilling into their school day too! It’s impacting their self-image and really causing damage to their outlook on whom they can trust, believing they aren’t good enough. Kids in elementary are too young to explore online without an adult. The world of electronics can be isolating and addictive.

Sadly, this has been the year of suicide. 13 Reasons Why sparked the conversation but kids were already hurting. Young kids are hurting. It’s surprising that so many elementary age children are already aware of what suicide is and some are even talking about doing it. That’s been the most difficult part of this school year, knowing that children the age of my own son are contemplating dying and living with feelings of hopelessness.

Most are not serious about completing the act, but many are already causing self-harm. There are many red flags. And when a child in elementary school is already considering this as their coping strategy, we should be alarmed. They don’t think they are smart. No one likes them. Their parents don’t care. I’ve heard it all. I’ve witnessed this myself after calling parents and encountering their lack of alarm or immediate attention. These kids are crying out and many parents aren’t taking them seriously.

Then, there were 3 high school students at Knoxville’s most affluent high school who did complete this act. We must take early warning signs seriously. It seriously disturbs me when parents don’t listen, take the next steps, or just don’t believe their children. Mental illness or instability, at the very least, is going undiagnosed and without care.

Parents aren’t taking the time. Parents are taking time buying them new stuff, micromanaging their school work, and running them to practices. But, parents aren’t really taking the time to connect, like truly connect. Parents need to ask questions and take time to listen, in the car, before meals, at bed. Many young children feel disconnected from their parents. Everyone is busy and many times, children are home alone or just feel alone. This has become way more acceptable in all circles. Working parents or just busy families are not taking the time to be with their kids.

There’s the 7-year-old who gets off the bus by himself and spends a couple hours alone while mom is still at work. And, there’s also the affluent parent who’s rushing off to a multiple practices and has their child involved in every possible extracurricular. Quality time is becoming scarce and parents don’t know their children as well. Instead of spending time together, more parents are signing their kids up for structured activities or sports where the family is apart.

There seems to be a push towards valuing education in America. We sure are raising the academic standards but why do we expect all children fit this mold? There’s pressure to achieve and watch those graphs go up. Maybe we are pressuring our children in developmentally inappropriate ways, however. With our youth, we should be spending the most time developing a sense of self, understanding and relating to others, and forming friendships. These are the life skills that lead to a fulfilling life.

Looking forward to this summer, we need to get outside more. We need to sit down and talk with (not to) our kids. We need to explore, adventure, read, play, and talk more. We need to stress less and laugh more. We need to slow down! We need to take time for friends and leave our devices alone. We need to have more fun!

Thanks for listening and being the kind of parent who already lives with perspective and love! Those of you who read this are the ones who are raising respectful, well-balanced, and creative kids! Keep on rocking in the free world! ego.jpg

The 3 A’s

Another memorable school year has come to a close. I’m still pinching myself when I see how much my children have grown this year, not only in inches but in character. Thanks to some amazing teachers who have really gotten to know and value who they are, they have excelled. Anna and Brody seem really comfortable in their own skin. They have lots of close friends. And, their grades couldn’t be better. I celebrate these milestones.

But when I reflect back on the most success that they’ve had, I really think it’s their maturity and sense of responsibility that’s made me most proud this year. I’m not saying there’s not more room for growing :), but I have most impressed as a mother by their acknowlegement of mistakes and gratitude for rewards.

Take, for example, Anna asking to bake another cake and promising to clean the kitchen. Six months ago that meant she threw all the stuff in the sink, ran some water, and left the batter and piles of measuring cups and bowls to soak. But most recently, the poor thing had a huge baking fail. Nothing worked, not even the cake mix. She spent an hour of time and resources working on this half-baked, tie dye cake only to spend even more even more time cleaning up the disaster of a mess. She wanted to do her old throw-in-the-sink-trick. But, I reminded her that wasn’t going to work. So, she proceeded to quietly cry while she unloaded, loaded, and cleaned the entire kitchen. She said she was “so disappointed”. There was no talking back or arguing. She did it and then moved on. (Success!!)

Then there’s Brody who thinks he’s never wrong; it’s always someone’s else’s fault! And being a 10, almost 11-year-old boy, he gets frustrated when he has to do something he doesn’t want to do too. But, I hold my kids to high but reasonable standards and will not accept disrespectful back-talk. Like in life, there are consequences for poor choices. But, he’s a good kid who is human.

So, when he most recently said something completely rude to Bo at dinner about “getting his soccer goal done already” when Bo had spent hours researching and building the thing, Bo was furious. Luckily, he contained his anger but told Brody how mad that made him when he was doing something nice for him. Instantly, Brody knew he shouldn’t have said it and looked ashamed.

He was sent upstairs to start the bedtime routine. When I went into his room to check on him, he was crying. He said that he “regretted saying that”, and I know he did. I told him that we all say things we don’t mean. Then, I simply said he needed to fix this and left. I didn’t tell him what to say or do next. I didn’t continue lecturing. He needed to feel bad and sort through things on his own.

After a few minutes, I overheard him go to Bo in our bedroom. He burst into tears and said he was sorry, and that he didn’t mean it. (Success.)

I really do not believe in making kids apologize if they are not sincerely sorry. But, I also really believe that feeling remorse for mistakes you’ve made and then fixing it is such a valuable life skill. It’s one that doesn’t come easily as our egos don’t want to lose. No one likes admitting that we are wrong.

What Anna and Brody are achieving this school year is humility and responsibility. Every time they have come to me within the past 6 months and told me that they are sorry on their own, I have felt proud. And, when they choose to tell me what they know they have done wrong, I know we are moving towards accepting our faults and becoming better people.

This year in my small group counseling sessions, I came up with 3 simple steps to resolve a problem.

Acknowledge– accept and acknowledge what you’ve done is wrong or hurtful. Say is out loud. Admit it!

Apologize– say you’re SORRY like you mean it. “I am sorry.”

Aim to please– then, decide what you can do to make that person happy. Stop making excuses and think about what will make it right! Take action; don’t just feel sorry. Do something to make it better.

These 3 A’s are just something many people don’t do. But if more people did, think about how much more quickly we could move on and grow. It works. When my children have made mistakes or just been ungrateful and then they realized they shouldn’t have acted that way, they have begun to repair. They have been moving away from the me-world and into the we-world.

As a mother, I appreciate this so much! A heartfelt “I’m sorry” can go a long way. Steps to show you care about your actions make others like, trust, and forgive you. Doing something that makes someone else happy builds closer relationships. We are not perfect and I know Brody and Anna will continue to test limits and make mistakes. But, I feel good about where they are heading, towards a healthy balance of personal wants and the needs and consideration of others.

They get an A from me for being super kids!

The Winning Loser

Last night was Knox County’s Elite track meet covering all of Knox county. Kids must first place in the top 4 in the first, smaller meet to qualify. Over 800 kids attended last night’s meet, including around 20 kids from our little, ole’ school, which is pretty impressive. Surprisingly, Brody was one of those!

Most wouldn’t guess that the boy with a less-than-athletic body and little, white legs would be a sprinter but he is, the 100. Last year, he placed first in the regional meet, which was shocking. So this year, he went into the first meet, a couple of weeks ago with too much confidence.

I wasn’t able to attend but I kept my phone close and had Bo to give me updates and even a video of the race. Going into the first race, my husband said he was cocky, saying he’d beat these kids last year and he felt certain he would again. Much to his surprise, he placed 3rd in the first race. Apparently, he spent the next couple hours waiting for the final race sulking. He sat without hanging out with his friends or talking, as he was just sure he would win. His sweet PE coach even noticed and asked him if he was ok.

After placing 4th in the second race, he was less than enthused and made complaints later that night about why he should have had a faster time in the first race. Basically, he pouted that he placed 4th when I was celebrating. He still had qualified for the finals and he was (is) one of the fastest 4th grade boys in Knox county. But, he was seeing the glass as half-empty and didn’t even want to go to the Elite meet because “what’s the point?”.

Let me pause to note that this blog isn’t meant to brag about my kid, although I am proud. Wait for the lesson…….-

Like last year, we told him that it was his choice to compete BUT this was a privilege just to make the track team, and especially to advance on. Bo explained that he was robbing another boy’s opportunity and filling a slot that another boy may have wanted; the fifth place may have really wanted to go yet only the top 4 qualify. Plus, I added, even if he’s comes in the last, that’s still 16th of ALL KNOX county’s 10-year-old boys. That alone is something to celebrate. So, after some debate and convincing, he flatly said, “I’ll do it”.

He didn’t want to practice. He didn’t talk or think a lot about it, as he had prior to the first meet when he cried when it was postponed. He was doing it and not super excited because he knew he wouldn’t win. So, last night with a packed stadium and over 800 kids, he went to that track again. He didn’t seem super nervous nor excited.

Drumroll…… (No, he did not win! 🙂 ) But, he placed 4th in his heat, out of 8. It was a good race with his best time of 15.28. He seemed happy, but quiet. No complaining or arguing why he should have placed higher. No tears. No boasting as we waited another hour and half to hear the results for who made it to the finals. We knew it would be close, as only the top 8 times make it.

He placed 9th, with one hundredth of a second behind the next qualifying boy! We/ he thought he would have qualified so there was a twinge of disappointment when his name was not announced over the loud speaker. But, this time he briefly looked down and then looked right back up. No tears and even smiled back at me when I told him it was ok. That’s winning.

That’s proof that we can teach our children humility and good sportsmanship. And, I say this as a parent of a child that has NOT been a good sport lately. I say this because he yells, argues, or pouts when his sister scores a goal on him in a casual game of soccer or when his dad beats him in a friendly game of basketball. I say this because he couldn’t accept not being first a couple weeks ago.

I say this because kids can learn, and so can adults. I say this because we all (including me) are so caught up in being the best that we lose sight of the race and big picture. Humility is a hard lesson. So, we have to have these conversations. We have to explain what being a good sport looks like. Too many times, parents just accept their children’s bad attitude because they’re just competitive. Or, parents complain and whine along with them that the referee was wrong, or they deserved to win. It’s easy to do.

But, that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make for a humble, kind human when we only accept winning. Would I have liked for Brody to make the finals? Sure. Was he a little disappointed? Sure. But, am I more proud that he walked away without tears or complaints this time? Yes. That’s winning. That’s sportsmanship.

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sportsmanship

#chooseyourcharacter

#proudbecauseofprogress

#winningisyourattitude

 

Let me borrow your earbuds

Today, I had one of those moments as a counselor that comes back to you later in the day. While most problems I choose to leave behind at work, one followed me home today and just spoke to me. I’ve replayed a heartfelt statement made by a 10-year-old girl about her mother over in my mind on the way home and now again, and it’s made me reflect.

This student whom I don’t know well has recently experienced a big change in her living arrangements, so the father asked the counselor to check in on her, encouraging her to have someone to talk to. Mom used to have primary custody but due to some “bad choices”, she and sister are now living with dad.

For many girls this age, this would be devastating. Most girls who have grown up with their mom would remain loyal and true, no matter what the circumstances. So when I discovered this really wasn’t the case for her, I was surprised. She is relieved and happy to be living with dad now.

While I spent 30 minutes having her spill her family story and what’s led to this, I began to understand why. Her mom has drug and alcohol dependency issues. She leaves the girls at home at night with the front door unlocked so she can sneak in late at night after a trip to the bar. She doesn’t cook them dinner or always have real food in the house, yet she spends her money on cigarettes and liquor. She acts like she’s doing a great favor to take the girls to Wendy’s while also lecturing her on the chips she eats in the school lunch.

She’s yelling at her daughters one moment, while trying to convince them to hang out on the couch the next. She comes to her elementary-age daughter crying when she’s had a fight with her boyfriend. She takes this girl to her gymnastics class but drops her off. Or, she comes inside and asks to borrow her ear buds so she can watch Netflix instead of her daughter practice. One day she dropped her off and didn’t show back up.

And when she’s tries guilting them into feeling grateful for the stuff she’s bought them, this pretty girl shakes her head and says to me: “I just want her time”.

Mom’s not there for her, and dad is. He shows up, and pays attention. He’s not always on his phone and he stays home when she goes to bed. She trusts him. So, yes, she feels safe and grateful to be with him. This is what a good parent does, and she recognizes the difference.

I wonder what my kids would say sitting in a stranger’s office. Am I there? Do I show up? Do my actions show them that they are more important than my friends? Do  I recognize and care about how they feel? Is my time more important than theirs’? Am I showing and telling them I am proud of them?

I sure hope so because kids notice.

broken-heart

 

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