For the love of the game

People ask me what I do in the winter when there is no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby

There are 93 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. However, our Little League is way ahead of the game. We had our first team meeting and from what I understand other teams have actually had a practice. It may seem a bit ambitious. A touch over-the-top. But that’s how they roll and I guess we will roll with it.

I’ve always enjoyed baseball. I don’t understand every rule and I’ve been known to switch my allegiance to teams based on the city I am living in, but there is nothing better than sitting in the warm sunshine watching a ballgame. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat. I love the excitement of a great catch or play in the field. I love the sights and smells of a ballpark. How I love the boys of summer.

I bought the boys their first Spiderman bat and ball when they were about 2 1/2. I remember a colleague asking me what I had planned for the weekend and I said batting practice. “Too soon?” I joked.

Aiming for the fence since age 3

Aiming for the fence since age 3

Luckily, the boys have developed a love of baseball, too, as well as having natural talent (which they didn’t get from me or their father so that’s a genetic mystery). Watching them play has been a true joy for me. But here’s the thing…

There are actual politics in Little League baseball. And parents that take things WAY too seriously. And the need for signs like this on ball fields:

290We’ve been really lucky for the last few years. The boys have had teams filled with great kids and parents. Wonderful coaches who have been firm, but kind; who always seem to give a little extra to my boys, perhaps because I’m a single mom, but mostly I think because my boys are pretty great.

Last year, they had the chance to try out to “play up”. I declined that opportunity for them because they were only 8 and I really felt like they needed another year learning in their 7/8 division. Why go be a little fish in a big pond when you can be the big fish for a change? It was a good decision. They played on a great team, learned and honed their skills, and went on to win the championship.

But now it’s a whole new ballgame (see what I did there?). And I listen to the parents talking amongst themselves about the coaches and managers and administration and the drafts and how it all works. It seems to strongly favor those kids who have connections to the league and my kids are just never going to be those kids.

I’m a competitive person. My boys have inherited that trait. We play to win. But we also play to have fun. And at this age, it should mostly be about fun. We would also like to believe that when we play hard, we will be rewarded. Unfortunately, it sounds like regardless of how hard we may play, some players are just going to be rewarded for being the Coach’s son or for knowing the right people.

And as much as I hate to admit it–this is life, too. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. In fact, a lot of the time it’s like this. I guess it is a life lesson that is best not put off forever, but I wish I could shield my boys from it for a little while longer. Especially since they won’t ever be the Coach’s son.

On the other hand, my boys do have some pretty big advantages; talent, drive, spirit, and a mama who will make sure they are always supported. I will make sure that they continue to know that as long as they do their best, it is good enough. And regardless of winning or losing, regardless of which team they get picked for or if they get picked at all, that there is something to be said for playing for the sheer love of the game.

If they get that and nothing more out of the season, I will consider it a success.

One-liner Wednesday – On learning

If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room

– someone brilliant (I’ve seen it attributed to a few different people)

 


This one-liner brought to you as part of LindaGHill’s One-Liner Wednesday: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/one-line-wednesday-t-shirts-say-the-funniest-things/

 

New Year, Old Story, Better Ending

mom guiltEarlier this month on my way home from work I was stuck in traffic due to an accident and there was nothing that I could do about it. I had no backup to get my kids off the bus and take care of them until I got home. I was experiencing the ugly side of the reality of being a single working mom that I have been experiencing since the boys were infants. However, my personal growth was obvious to me when I realized that I wasn’t having an out-and-out panic attack or emotional meltdown because I was unable to be where I needed to be. Instead, I calmly called the school and asked them to make sure the boys didn’t get on the bus and requested that they have them wait in the office until I could get there. I took care of business. The situation was out of my control and getting upset wouldn’t change that. I took control of what I could–calling the school and making sure my kids stayed put–and then let the rest of it go. There was a time when I would have fretted and worried all the way home about what the boys would think and what the school would think and start beating myself up that I hadn’t left work early enough or start hating my situation as a single mom and on and on and on. I am happy to say that I have moved way past that self-loathing and anxiety-ridden stage.

Nevertheless, I would be lying if I said that the “mom guilt” was completely a thing of the past. Perhaps I am not as immersed in it as I once was. It is certainly not the number one most frequently felt emotion. I don’t dwell and wallow in it any longer. But it’s always there lurking in the shadows of a missed bus or a late meeting or a forgotten appointment or a home run that I didn’t see. And when I think about how often I do feel guilty about not being where I think I need to be instead of just being present to where I am, I start to feel…well, guilty.

I know that I am not alone in this and that many, if not all, working mothers feel this same way. Leaving my kids as infants was especially traumatic because it seemed the guilt was everywhere. I felt that I should be home with them and that even though I had found a very loving caregiver for them, I should be the one shaping their newborn lives. On the other hand, leaving the house to go to work was a break for me. Time to remember that I was still someone other than that lady with the milk who wakes up several times in the middle of the night to change diapers and give bottles and check if her kids are still breathing. And I felt incredibly guilty that I craved such a break. Of course, once at work, I would spent a good deal of my day thinking about the little guys and then I would feel guilty because I wasn’t as focused on my job as I should be. And then I would race out of the office at 5:00 so I could get home in time to relieve my sitter and feel guilty about that. Guilty if I was late because she had been there all day. Guilty because I never used to leave the office on time. Guilty because my children were spending 10 hours a day with someone else. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

When the boys were a little more than a year old and I realized I was essentially paying my salary to my babysitter, I knew I had to find a new job with better pay. I liked my job and my boss was super understanding of my “situation”, but there wasn’t any opportunity there. So I started searching. As luck would have it, I landed an amazing job! In New York City! With a New York City salary! (sort of). Which required me to move across the country and find new child care. And this time leave my toddler sons for 11 hours a day while I commuted to and from the city every day. And while I had enough money to pay for child care (barely), suddenly my stress level was through the roof.

I wanted to do a good job in my new position. I was working for one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. I love the energy and culture of NYC. I was making my way in the world. But…I was constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I felt like from the moment I woke up in the morning to the moment I laid my head down at night I was in a marathon. No, each day was a sprint in the epic marathon that had become my life. Getting up, taking care of my baby boys, getting them to day care, getting myself to work on time, trying to be awesome at work, dashing out the door at 5 p.m. to make it to daycare on time, loving on my boys so that they would not remember that I had just left them for ELEVEN HOURS and feeding them and ready-ing them for a new day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. How the hell did I do it? And what I just described was a good day. Now throw in one little monkey wrench: sick child, traffic, long meeting at work, perfectionist micro-managing boss (ok, so that was every day) and it was a recipe for mind-blowing guilt and anxiety.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve had, for the most part, extremely understanding employers and when that flexibility wasn’t there, I had the option to get another job. I have had financial help from my family when I couldn’t quite make everything add up. I’ve been able to find kind, loving, helpful and flexible caregivers for the boys that have assisted in guiding them into the exuberant, smart, caring, flexible little fellows they are today. Many working moms need to work more than one job and hardly get to see their kids at all or have to send their kids to a daycare they don’t particularly care for because it is one they can afford.

I also know there is a whole set of guilt that goes along with being a stay-at-home mom too and this post isn’t meant to stir up any working mom vs. stay-at-home mompetition. This is simply about mom guilt in general and my own personal journey down the rabbit hole.

My guilt definitely lessened when the boys went off to school. I don’t feel like I am “missing out” as much. Of course, when they have cute little parties or activities during the school day that I can’t attend, it all comes rushing back. Or if I have work to do in the evening that I choose to do before they go to bed so I am not up until all hours of the night or so that I can actually have an hour to myself AFTER they go to bed…guilt loves to keep me company. So, yeah, as much as think I’ve seen the worst of it, I’m not out yet. I am still down here. In the hole. Some days, I feel like I have the balancing act all worked out. Other times I have these terrible thoughts like, “If only I had done something about my work situation sooner, I could spend more time with my kids and not have to worry about any of this” or worse, “It’s too late. By the time I make a change to be able to support myself out of my home or doing something that wouldn’t preclude me being an active part of my sons’ lives, they will be grown.”

I’ve recently experienced another change where I again need to find after-school care for my kids. I could put them in an after-school program and call it a day, but then they wouldn’t be able to participate in all the activities that help make them happy, well-rounded little boys. Talk about guilt-inducing! So, I’m looking to luck out like I have in the past and find a responsible, reliable, fun, patient, nice person who will look after the boys and cart them around until I can get home from work. And again I’m realizing that finding someone to care for my kids is the most stressful part of my life. Even though I’ve found a job I really love, for an organization that does amazing work for the world, with supervisors that appreciate and respect my work, and who are also amazingly flexible and understanding about my schedule and my family–it is still stressful to think about leaving my kids in the hands of just anyone and I still feel guilty that I can’t just stay home and do it myself.

Why do we working moms have so much guilt? Do working dads have that guilt too? Or is this leftover from some antiquated idea that moms should be home with their kids? Or is it not really antiquated at all and moms and dads have always wanted to be with their little people but knew that life required someone to bring home the bacon? I’m doing my best to just accept my reality for what it is and let the guilt go. I’m thankful to have been able to leave behind a lot of the anxiety which accompanied me through the early years of being a mom. That’s major progress as far as I am concerned. Guilt, you are being put on notice. You’re the next to go.

Go ahead and get what you like

Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. I usually am able to choke it all down, but it isn’t always pleasant. Today was election day and the schools had off and I am so very blessed that my employer will allow me to work from home in these situations. Of course, this means that the boys must basically amuse themselves and it means I just have to accept that they will be watching lots of TV and playing lots of video games and that it’s fine because I’m getting my work done and they aren’t in any danger. I was really looking forward to having “extra” time today to write both this blog post and some of the novel, figuring that without my commuting time I was gaining 2 hours or so. But somehow between going to vote and making dinner and inexplicably getting involved in re-organizing both of the boys’ dressers, time got away from me. So, while C was writing his homework assignment, I decided I would go back to some old emails and find a funny pre-blog baby story to tell along with some astounding insight I had into parenting. Yes, I was (am) going to phone it in a little.

Of course, this idea led to more than 45 minutes of reading through old emails with some very witty and perceptive people and remembering where I was in life at that time and the things that I was thinking and wishing for. Sadly, some of the lessons I was struggling to learn and make sense of then are still ones I find tricky. I had even made a comment a little more than 6 years ago about lost opportunities and how I sure don’t want to be staring down the barrel of 40 and thinking about how time has marched all over me and find I’ve missed golden opportunities because I had my head up my arse. And yet, here I am. Although, I will say in my defense that I have taken some huge risks and opened the door to many opportunities when they came a knockin’ which has led me to a pretty incredible place I probably couldn’t even have pictured in my mind’s eye 6 years ago. I’ve missed some, too; some which have come disguised as something else. I haven’t quite mastered that yet…seeing an opportunity is what I really want or need even though it doesn’t come in the form I am expecting.

So, yeah, I didn’t choose one of the funny kid stories or enlightening parenting moments. Instead I chose this little gem I wrote which was inspired by the Yahoo! subject selector. Now, I don’t know how many people know or knew or remember that this functionality ever existed because I stumbled upon it quite accidentally and Yahoo! has changed its format many times, but it used to be that if you went into the subject line of the email and clicked on the end of the input box, it would give you a random subject. It could be like “pigs wear boxers, but cows prefer briefs”. Some were funny, some were stupid, some were even thought provoking and my one friend and I would amuse ourselves to no end with them:


From: Me

Subject: It turns out Harold’s not a Jedi.

The problem with the yahoo subject selector is that you can’t “go back”. If you keep clicking to see what the next one is going to be, it might not be as good but you can’t return to what you had before. It is a kind of metaphor for life in a lot of ways. If you keep searching for something better than what you’ve got, you might end up with crap. Or you might find gold. I guess the idea is that when you are content with what you have, it is best not to look elsewhere for something even better…greed. On the other hand, if you settle for what you have, you deserve what you get. That’s why if you are NOT content, you shouldn’t settle for the shit sandwich you’re eating if your heart was set on pastrami.

Anyway, Harold isn’t a Jedi and I suspected as much all along.


pastrami

True story…thank you yahoo subject selector and younger version of me. I’m off to make a pastrami on rye and for all the same reasons, I hope you went out to vote today so the sandwich you are eating tomorrow is just the way you like it.

Performance review time

It is time to do performance reviews at work. My new supervisor and I got into a fairly philosophical conversation about goal setting and why it is important. He likened it to New Year’s resolutions. He mentioned that each year he writes a list and keeps it handy to remind him of the things he is trying to accomplish throughout the year. He good-naturedly admitted that some things have been on the list year after year, but that he still keeps striving toward that goal. I was about to say that I didn’t really buy into setting resolutions when I realized that I do. Of course I do. I do it all the time. I did it last year on this blog and vowed not to obsess over it by checking my progress. And I certainly kept that vow nearly forgetting all about them until now.

So I thought that I would give myself an evaluation on how I did and I’ll use a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest. Here goes:

First was: Improve my health and the boys’ health.

  • some form of exercise daily, even if it is just a walk
  • learn more about nutrition
  • train for and participate in the jersey girl triathlon
  • eating out/taking out less than once a week
  • go to the dentist–all of us!
  • go to the doctor for necessary checkup/physical/tests for someone of my age :)
  • finally quit smoking. for real. not even “every once and a while”

I made some progress but I have a long way to go. I’ve been good about the nutrition part and was good with the exercise too until the second half of the year. I did train for the triathlon, but felt I wasn’t ready when the time came (scaredy-cat). I managed to get one of us to the dentist after an infection scare and another one of us has an appointment this weekend which is good. Guess which of the three of us has yet to have an appointment scheduled? Curbing the eating out has been fairly successful, but I would like to cut it down even further. Going to the doctor for a checkup didn’t happen until I ended up in the hospital with a new heart problem, so I’d say that one was a pretty big fail. Same goes for quitting smoking altogether. All in all, I’d say there is room for big improvement.

Overall Grade: 4 Needs Improvement

2. Save Money

  • attempt to put enough money away out of my paycheck to fund “Operation Disney Christmas” (to be discussed in a later post)
  • additionally save some money for an emergency

Well, this didn’t happen at all. I did get us to Disney through a small miracle provided by my employer, but I didn’t save any money this year and I think all in all I am in more debt.

Overall Grade: 1 (I’d give myself a zero, but that’s a little harsh don’t you think?) I did manage to spend all of my money and do some pretty cool things so I would like to think I saved some money somewhere and just applied it elsewhere. However, the net result is I’ve got negative cash flow.

3. Be a Better Mom

  • cut out the yelling
  • let go of all the stuff i feel has to “get done” and spend more time just hanging out with the boys
  • write down all important dates, invitations, times, events, etc. so that I don’t MISS anything like I did last year
  • refuse to argue with 6-year-olds even if my decision/statement/action is unpopular
  • never skip bedtime reading because i’m too tired or they’re too naughty
  • put the “martyr” to rest
  • go after the child support that they deserve

So, this one isn’t so cut and dried. I do think I made some good progress. I still need to work on the yelling. I have been very cognizant of spending quality time with the boys and not being so crazed about everything else. This has resulted in a messy house that I bitch about a little too often, but there has been improvement. I have done well with writing everything down and we haven’t missed a single important event. We read more often than not and I have managed to get the child support ball rolling again. I still need to work on arguing with the boys and not being such a martyr.

Overall Grade: 6 Meh.

4. Write. A little every day. Even if it is just in a journal. And dedicate finishing NaNoWriMo to my dear angel friend Joel. (RIP)

Well, I didn’t do NaNoWriMo and do have an excuse reason, but it isn’t good enough. As for writing every day, I do write a lot for work and I come up with an excellent FB post from time to time, but that isn’t really in the spirit of this.

Overall Grade: 3 Needs Improvement

5. Be a better friend

  • make more phone calls to long distance friends
  • send more cards/letters/emails to keep in touch
  • make time for coffee, lunch, dinner, wine, movies, whatever…a couple of hours, every couple of weeks to keep friendships alive

So, this is an area where I feel I have really shined. I have been slacking off in the last couple of months but I am ready to renew the efforts. All in all, a solid effort!

Overall Grade: 8 Nice Work!

6. Be happy

  • avoid referring to the above list for the whole year and judging my progress
  • make mistakes and move on
  • laugh more
  • say “oh well!” and “who cares?!”  more
  • go to church
  • read the Desiderata & the prayer of St. Francis regularly

Ouch. well, I certainly avoided judging myself against this list but unfortunately it didn’t contribute to my overall happiness. I’ve been pretty good about the “making mistakes” part but need work on the “moving on”. I do not feel that my laughter has increased which is a real shame. It may have something to do with not saying “oh well” or “who cares?!” enough. I have been good about going to church and reading inspiring things and I have felt moments of pure happiness, but I would not say that 2012 was one of my happier years.

Overall grade: 5 I know I can do better than this.

I did accomplish one of my “bonuses” which was to furnish my living room. It made me feel very happy and accomplished until the cats chose the new couch for a litter box when I accidentally put the top on their box backward so they couldn’t get in. This created a whole other complexity to my life which I can’t even begin to get into in this post.

SO- the end result is not so great. About a 45%. I’ve NEVER had a grade like that. Except when I didn’t try. Ouch again. At work, my “grades” were all exceptional. How can the same person try so hard to excel at work and not be able to excel at herself. Guess I just need to work harder. And maybe I will need to “manage” myself like I would an employee who was churning out 45%. I would not give up on that person. I would help them, train them, and give them the tools to succeed. I would believe in that person. And I believe in me.