Running Wild

forest-386751_1280

I was talking to a friend today, and he was telling me that he met a man that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that he did this when he was twelve years old? With no adult supervision… just a bunch of Boy Scouts on their own, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It got me talking about my childhood. We all tend to romanticize about the “good old days”. And, maybe that’s just what I’m doing. We lived in a house in upstate New York. I lived there from age six to age eleven. We had a big tree with a tire swing and a big side yard that my parents made into an ice rink in the Winter. On the other side of the house was a hill that was perfect for sledding.

In the more temperate seasons, my friends and I would leave our houses in the morning, and go off on adventures. Sometimes we would come home for lunch, and sometimes not until dinner. If our parents ever worried about us, they never let on.

We would play in the apple orchard, climbing trees and throwing apples at each other. We might decide to go to the pond, and see what creatures we could find. When we got tired of that, we would go to the farmers field, up to the place where there was a bunch of old tires. Sometimes we saw snakes there. It was scary, alright. But worth the risk to climb on those tires.

Some days, we would stick closer to home and stomp down the field of high grass into a “fort”. This was a maze of rooms and we would sometimes accessorize them with treasures from home. We were always building forts and off on general explorations all summer long.

My husband grew up in Scotland. He was taking the tube (subway) around London when he was twelve. When he was seven, he would take the bus into Glasgow and go to the cinema… by himself. Can you imagine allowing something like that with your kids or grandchildren?

The point is, these days we have to watch kids like a hawk, it seems. I was strict about where my kids played when they were little, and wanted them to stick close to home. Now, people might say that they did not have proper supervision. I wouldn’t let them go off to a pond, or across a field out of view. It’s a different time.

 
Or is it? Do we have more danger and treachery in the world these days? Is it possible that the people that prey on children have expanded in number exponentially? Or do we just hear about it more? Does the internet that makes it easier for evil people to commit crimes against children? Or, does the internet just keep reporting these crimes so much that we become desensitized at some point?

When we recall these childhood days, are we longing for a place… or a time when catching a frog was the highlight of the day? If I had to pick the happiest time in my childhood, it was when we were running wild.

– Cat

Great Expectations

 

wp-1482194751279.jpg

So often in life, reality falls short of our expectations.  I think that some people marry because they are in love with the idea of marriage.  The idea of marriage, as it turns out, is a lot different from actually  being in a marriage.

I think that the biggest gap between reality and expectation comes when you have your first child.  When you are expecting… you are “expecting” something in particular.  There is the ideal of a two-way bond between mother and child.  You will know just what to do, and when to do it.  You and your child, in perfect partnership, will form a circle of unconditional love.

Then, you give birth.  It’s a little more uncomfortable than you were expecting.  Most babies cry a lot.  It’s a puzzle that you often can’t put together.  You think you will know just what the baby needs, and how to stop the tears.  Hmmm… not so much.  But, Oh!  Look at that little angel sleeping!  Nap time is indeed magical.

Will you ever sleep again?  Let’s say that your sleep habits are going to evolve for this point on.   Just as you muddle through the days feeling a bit overwhelmed, your baby smiles at you!  And so it goes, as you move through the phases of parenthood.  You are joyful, and tearful, at times.

When I started this blog, I wrote about my friend, Maryann.  She had children older than mine, and used to joke, saying, “It doesn’t get better, it just gets different”.  So true!  Every age brings it own unique challenges and moments of beauty.  It’s an amazing thing to watch your children grow.

Going into it, you think it’s an eighteen to twenty year commitment.  When do you stop worrying?  Well, my first baby is 38 now, and I haven’t stopped yet.  Even when your children are grown up, and have children of their own, you can’t help but think about them and their families.

Another thing that comes completely unexpected when you have your first child.  You finally “get” your own mother.  You understand a lot of her advice, and a lot of her worrying.  It’s definitely an “aha” moment.

I have four children.  With each one, I became a little more familiar with the process, and confident with my parenting skills.  Of course the more children you have, the more “crazy time” you have at your house.  If you have children, I don’t need to explain what that phrase means.

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter is “expecting”.  Since it’s her second child, she knows a little bit more about what to actually expect. She’s a wonderful mother to my grandson, Carl, and I know that her new son will be a blessing to our family!  I also know she will be tired and feel overwhelmed at times.

Some things remain the same, whether you have children or not.  You might be experiencing the ups and downs of marriage.  It doesn’t matter if you are single, divorced, widowed, in love, or lonely… you will have good days and bad days.  The trick is to remember the good days when you’re in the middle of a bad day.

Parenting is an adventure that I can recommend without reservation.  But watch out for those “great expectations”.

– Cat

 

 

Participation Trophies

wp-1481939937595.jpg

Things have changed in a lot of ways since I was a kid.  I’m not athletic.  I was always the last person picked for a team when we played kickball in gym class.  In high school, I managed to duck gym class altogether.  They required one credit, or two semesters, to get your high school diploma.  Because I was graduating early, I took a health class and a psychology class my junior year, and they counted it for gym.  Whew!  That was a close one!

I wanted my kids to take part in sports.  I thought is was important to have all the experiences that went along with competition. I wanted them all to feel comfortable, at ease with winning, losing, and participating.

These days, participation trophies are big.  They don’t even keep score during the games any more.  I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen, who says “eighty percent of life is showing up”.  I am a big fan of Yoda, who says “Do or do not.  There is no try”.  That’s harsh, Yoda.  Which camp are you in?

I think I’m somewhere in the middle here.  As traumatic as my sports career was, I do see the value in athletic competition.  In the traditional sense, I think that learning to lose important.  Learning to win graciously is also critical to success in life.  Participation trophies tend to take away both of those lessons.

If Mom or Dad pay the participation fees, you get a trophy.  It doesn’t matter if you try your best.  If you’re not keeping score, you wouldn’t even know if you won or lost.   If you don’t want to expose your kid to the lessons learned from competition, there are other options.  Teach them about stamp collecting. Pique their interest in astronomy.  Introduce them to meditation, or help them learn another language.  Don’t sign them up to play competitive sports and then insist that they earn a trophy just for being there.

In life, things don’t always go your way.  In fact, they don’t even often go your way.  If you reach adulthood without learning to deal with that, you’re in for a real slap in the face.  When life comes right at you, like it will, you want to have some inkling of how to handle that disappointment.  When you’ve made a mistake, or missed the mark, you need to know how to recognize that.  You need to learn to shake the hand of someone on the “other team”.  When you’ve played hard and won, you know you’re at the top of your game. You need to stay humble, and let other people sing your praises.

– Cat