I am not always a good sport.

I grew up in the South where college football reigns supreme. Your team’s colors adorned your onsies, your bibs, and you probably wore the favored team’s cheerleader outfit or football jersey before you could even sit up. When your team wins, you are ecstatic and so proud, and feel like you were on the field yourself with all of the cheering, fight-song singing, and yelling you have done throughout the game, and of course, while wearing your team’s colors. When your team does not come out on top, you are still so proud of your team, although deeply disappointed, and still feel like you were out on the field with the cheering, the feverishly hoping, and the draining disappointment that has descended upon you, in your team’s colors. I am not always gracious to the opposing team, but do have respect for a well-played football game.

On game days, I am filled with anticipation of the big game (each and every game is a big game), and my children and I are dressed in my team’s colors – blue and orange. All three of my children have grown accustomed to my cheering… or screaming… during the games. My youngest will happily chant, “go Auburn”, even when she catches a glimpse of hockey on the television… during the Winter Olympics, many a time I had to explain that this was not Auburn football, or even Viking football — I have added a NFL team to my list.

I want my children to be good winners, and good losers. I want them to experience the exhilaration of winning a hard fought game, and yes, even the agony of defeat (although not too many times). I want them to sincerely congratulate the other team’s players when on the losing side, and I want them to be proud of their successes, but not boastful. Although I cannot offer too much in athletic advice, I do want them to focus and practice at a sport that they enjoy. I want them to have team spirit, and I want them to put forth their best effort, and I genuinely want them to have a great time while playing the sport.

As my children grow and become more involved in organized sports, and compete to win, I realize I need to lead by example, and keep my team spirit in check. I need to watch how I respond to the end result, how I behave so that my children understand that while important, winning isn’t everything, and losing will not be the end of the world. I will support them and cheer for them, but I also need to make sure when they are defeated, which they will be, I need to honor their efforts and give no blame, but just hug them and let them know I am always in their corner.

Not to worry though, Auburn baby attire is safely put away for my grandchildren…


an old MOPS newsletter… from January 2010

Pushing the cart down the cereal aisle, I could hear the wailing. The wailing was faint as I picked my box of Berry Kix cereal, but it got a bit louder each aisle. Approaching the cheese, the wailing was losing some steam, and in my line of vision, I could see the little girl with the red, tear-stained cheeks, the runny nose, and chest heaving from all the effort.

I could imagine the mother’s white knuckles clutching the handle on the cart. I could imagine her lips pierced together in a tight line as she tried to get the remaining groceries on her list. I could imagine because I, too, have been frantically wishing that my child would settle down, would quit the wailing, but not wanting to give in to the demands. Hoping other shoppers would not glance our way when one of my children was complaining and fussing, as I desperately tried to coax them into a quiet compliance. I have pledged to not do the same to other parents, to not look with pity or even worse, judgment. Passing by to get a gallon of milk, I quickly glanced over and tried to offer a smile of “I understand”.

It can start simple enough, the request for just something small, the perfectly pink, sparkling purse that caught my daughters’ eyes, or the round, colorful Bakugan that costs just a few dollars for my son. Or merely, a delicious candy bar before we have eaten lunch. A polite please when asking, but then scrunched up faces and a dramatic sigh of disappointment when I state “not this time”. As the murmurs under their breath turn into louder, clear whining, I pick up the pace and push the cart faster. Attempts at redirection – do you want to hold the shopping list, do you want colored or regular goldfish – are thwarted. The kids’ patience levels with me are wavering, and in turn, my patience level with the kids has certainly wavered, and was left back at the bread aisle.

When in these situations of frustration, I try to remain patient, but firm. I parent like someone is watching me, I want to be perceived as loving, caring, and a good parent to those in the store that are watching me, and deep down, to myself. Again, I parent like someone is watching me…other parents, other shoppers could be watching me, judging me.

Yet, someone IS always watching me even when not in a store, three some ones.

My children, aka human sponges, soak up everything. They are listening when I do not think they are listening. They are watching me when I am scolding them about not being tattle-tales, when I am reading a book to them, when I am talking to my friends on the phone, when I help in their classrooms, when I am giving their dad a kiss goodbye in the morning, and when I am tired and snap at them too quickly. They are watching me when I bring a meal to a friend who had a baby, when I am folding my umpteenth load of laundry, when I am venting about someone who has irritated me, when I am sending a thank you note, and when I am cooking their favorite dinners. They soak it all in, my good behaviors and my not-so-great behaviors. On this mothering journey, I am constantly parenting, and am constantly not parenting perfectly.

Parenting like someone is watching me is a gift I need to give my children, not just the other moms and dads in the stores. It might not make the shopping trips less frustrating. More than likely, there will be shopping trips that willl be cut extremely short, but I will get my milk and paper towels, and hopefully will also get some pride in knowing my children watched me parent them firmly, but tenderly even in the throes of whining and with white knuckles.

MOPS newsletter/March 2010

It has been described has a safe haven. Over time, it can create family spirit.

It is the family dinner.

I have read about the advantages of the family dinner. There are numerous rewards of gathering around the family table, sharing a meal, and discussing the day’s events. According to published studies, kids who have a family dinner a few times a week are less likely to smoke, to drink, to do drugs, get depressed, and to develop eating disorders. Studies have also shown that kids who regularly enjoy a family dinner do well in school, eat their vegetables, learn big words, and know which fork to use.

In my house, we have family dinners as often as we can. Our children are at ages where we can still have dinners on a frequent basis. As with most families, various activities and sports, and my husband’s profession, do not always allow for all five of us to be there each time, but we do try. I hope that our family dinners, sometimes family breakfasts, will play a part in my children’s moral compasses. However, we aren’t quite in the place to see all of the published advantages, as our kids are not often out of our supervision; they still depend on us for most things.

So, here are a few other points– in no particular order — I have learned from our family dinners, my own personal research.

Milk spills on red, cloth placemats just perfect so they have to be washed frequently. Water spills on the table so it can be easily, and quickly, wiped off.

It can take 25minutes to eat four green beans and two very small bites of meatloaf. A chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles can be eaten in two minutes, or less.

There absolutely cannot be a moment of silence at the dinner table. If a silent moment occurs, three children can immediately fill the silence, all at the same time. Or perhaps, some smacking or gulping of milk can fill the dreaded silence.

When praising one child for eating all of his or her carrots and red peppers, another child takes great offense that I did not comment that he or she ate all of her carrots and red peppers first, therefore, I must like the other child more.

The top questions asked during a family meal are: “can I be done?” and “how many bites do I have to eat?” The top answers are: “you can be done, but you do not get a treat, unless you eat your (multiple choice, take your pick) meat, carrots, peas, tomatoes, or rice” and “you have to eat ALL the bites on your plate, that is why I put them on your plate”.

Above all, the family dinner has taught me how valuable time is; how precious family moments are. I have learned how significant the family meal is to my family’s growth. We laugh, we talk, we listen, and a little eating is done by my girls… my son is growing to where he is eating more and more… and we connect with each other. Yes, our mealtimes can have some trying moments, but I still delight in seeing my family around the table, all together… for I know, the day will come soon enough where we are not all together as often, and I just might miss cleaning up spilled milk.