What are We Supposed to Do About Charleston?

OceanMoon
It seems like every week I have trouble writing here on this blog because some catastrophic event has taken place that makes me feel irreverent writing about the topics usually covered here.

This week, a white man walked into an historical landmark and killed nine people all because he hated them and was afraid they had too much power.

I know, I know; we don’t know his motivation because we can’t be in his head. I know, I know; racism is a loaded word and people get very anxious when we start throwing it around. I know, I know; church is a sanctuary and it’s a tragedy that people can’t feel safe there. I know, I know; gun control. I know, I know; mental health.

You know what I think when I see all these arguments quickly jump up on traditional and social media? It’s not nice what I think.  I think, F*** THIS. I think, who the hell are we trying to kid that this is anything other than blatant, ugly, racial terrorism? We don’t need any more facts than we already have, jacket patches included.

Then I think, what a relief that we finally have something so, pardon the pun, black and white. I mean, when there are police involved, it always devolves into an us and them situation and no one wants to pick sides because maybe there shouldn’t even be sides to begin with. Not all police are evil (I’d argue most aren’t) and no person, no matter their color deserves to be shot in the back, or running away or choked to death by a crowd of men, no matter what their crime or previous record. We should all agree on those points and yet somehow we can’t.

When it’s a mass shooting in a place where people are supposed to feel protected, we focus on safety and gun control and the overall tragedy of innocent lives lost. These aren’t bad things, but they don’t really get us anywhere in the long run except maybe more suspicious of one another.

This time, this time it’s racist and obvious and we should all be shouting together about the horrific nature of the crime and asking about what we can do to make this shit finally stop.

But we can’t even seem to do that in a case that is So. Damn. Clear.

Here is my problem. I don’t know what to do. I am angry, really, really angry. But I’m also heartbroken. I watch movies about when terrorism happens in churches in this country and it breaks my heart that it ever had to happen and now it’s occurring in my every day. So, I’m angry and I’m deeply sad and I feel truly and utterly powerless because, I’m the one that’s supposed to have the power and I know I have a responsiblity to do something and I am up to owning that responsibility but I just don’t know what to do with it.

Sure, I raise my kids in a way that I think is helpful for the future and I share things on social media that I hope people see, but that can’t be all. I read and listen and mull it over in my mind again and again and again. I pray and I worry and I lose sleep over it.

And I still don’t know what to do. I am not sure what blocks me. Confusion? Feeling inadequate?  Is it because I’m always afraid to ask? Because how white and privileged is that? “Hey, friends of color, help a girl out with some 411. Help me help you.” I make my own self sick.

I wish I could end this post in my usual hopeful “here’s what’s next” fashion. But I can’t.

Because here I sit. Sad and angry and pretty freakin’ hopeless with the firm belief that I should be doing something but no earthly idea of what to do. All I knew was that I had to write, because I can’t have posts up here about anything else until I do. Charleston happened. A white kid shot and killed nine black citizens because of pure hate. I refuse to pretend it doesn’t affect us all. Now I just need to figure out my role in making it stop.

 

The Magic Classroom

IMG_4941There has been a lot of talk around here this year of our youngest and our oldest. And yet somehow, in the midst of the chaos swirling around him, The Middle One kicked this year’s butt.

I don’t want to take anything away from this kid. He is quietly determined to be the best version of himself he can be while somehow not sweating the small stuff. For every argument we have or sassy remark he makes to me (and there are many) he has an equal number of polite, intelligent, leader moments with his school peers and teachers. He is a great kid and he may not think his dad and I notice, but boy do we talk about him a lot before bed every night, our conversations usually in the “man, aren’t we the luckiest to be that kid’s parents?” theme. So, let me be clear, he gets most of the credit for his incredible year.

But (and this is a giant but) I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge The Middle One’s teachers. They are, quite simply, magic. We’ve been through the 4th grade twice now and the first time around we quickly learned the power of “Mr. Magic and his teaching partner Miss Magic”. Every single night at dinner our oldest would start with “today Mr. Magic did…”. Every. Single. Night.IMG_4787

As annoying as you’d think that would get, we never minded because she always told the stories with an inner glow that can only come when one is inspired, in this case, from excellent teachers, so we let her go on, and on, and on…

Needless to say, this year we were looking forward to another great experience with Miss and Mr. Magic because we already knew how incredible it would be.

Or so we thought.

Something different happened this year. While The Girl experienced the wonder and joy of a classroom with  enthusiastic and passionate teachers, The Middle One got something even more; he found his spirit.

My boy is a quiet fury. He’s dependable, honest, loyal and beautifully sensitive. I know everyone thinks these things about their kids but I have three of my own and this one’s different.  He’s hardest on himself but also holds the world up to the same impossibly high expectations he tries to meet. As you might imagine, the world disappoints him often. Despite all these great qualities, he’s the quiet middle child sandwiched between a girl who never met a microphone she didn’t like and a sweet-faced, blue-eyed boy with a hugging problem. This sometimes means The Middle One goes unnoticed (by everyone but me, kid).

It would be understandable if Mr. & Miss Magic Teachers treated our boy like he was just the next King in line. The Middle One would have been used to that. But they did not. Instead, in addition to the rock operas and  read alouds, the challenging math theorems and wax museum projects that will undoubtedly be indelibly etched on the kid’s brain, these teachers also took the time, from the first minute, to really SEE our boy and help him to share himself with the world.

MomTrendsDPThey did not treat The Middle One like the next King in line. Instead Mr. & Miss Magic treated him like the remarkable young man that he is, giving him opportunities to shine in his own light, not one he has to share with his siblings. They asked great things of him, proving they thought he could handle the job. They recognized the leader we’ve always seen and they nudged (and sometimes pushed) him into that role. They communicated with him the reasons for their high expectations and they made it very clear they were sure he could grow into the person they were telling him they saw him be.

The result? My boy, who has spent every year of school managing a new nervous tic, spent all year confident and calm. He loved every minute in his fourth grade class, even the uncomfortable challenging ones. He has smiled more than I’ve ever seen (except maybe when he was two and having all the fun). He is unafraid on stage, whether it is reciting or singing, he commands the mic like his sister came out of the womb doing.

He is still loyal and dependable and so, so very kind. He is intelligent and independent and will make a great leader someday. What I am grateful to his teachers for is that now, he knows it too.

There is magic in a classroom with great teachers at the helm. My kids are living proof.

SwimToday Reminded Me Why Swimming is the #FunnestSport

IMG_4822When I was four years old I had annoyed my mother so much with my constant begging to join my big sisters on the swim team that she gave in and, rumour has it, tossed me in the pool to figure it out as the youngest member of the team.

Much of that “first time in the pool” story is family folklore, but my memories of the 14 years I spent as a member of the Oakview swim team are indelibly marked in my brain and on my heart as fact. I gained more from my time as a swimmer than any other sport’s team, club or organization I have been part of my entire life. I learned about hard work, persistence and humility. I learned about loyalty and friendship. I learned about growth from competing against my own times every week, and team work tracking our total points every meet because that’s what really mattered in the end. I learned to never give up when you’re the last leg of a relay and to believe if you just hold your breath long enough, kick your feet fast enough, and stretch your arms as far as they can go,  miracles can happen.

3KidsatBeachWhen it came time for our own littles to swim, we tried hard not to push them into something they didn’t want. They were slow to learn specifics strokes and did not embrace the pool quite they way their father and I did as they had the ocean as an option too. Eventually, they all joined a team that is way less competitive than what I was used to, but no matter how laid back their meets are, they are all getting the same wonderful life lessons from their swim team and I am most happy about that. IMG_4825

Last week, I went to an event hosted by MomTrends highlighting the organization SwimToday. SwimToday works to promote swimming as a team sport. Not only did I get to meet my childhood (and adulthood, if I’m honest) hero Five-time Olympian Dara Torres, but I also heard some interesting things about swimming. Did you know that 80% of people who have their kids in swim lessons do not consider swimming as at team sport they’d sign their kids up for? What the heck?

Maybe it’s not convenient for all, or perhaps it’s not something mom and dad did so they don’t think of it for kids. These are valid reasons, but I would hate if people aren’t signing their kids up for swim team because they fear it’s not a good sport for kids. I’m here to tell you that it is. Yes, it can be competitive and consuming if you’re trying to get a college scholarship or make the Olympic team. But, for most of us, myself and my kids included, being on a swim team is an invaluable way to learn lessons about life and friendship and growth. Swimming is a skill you’ll never forget having. Being on a swim team is an experience that will shape you.

My youngest is proof of this. He struggles in school and has spent eight years as a square peg for life’s round holes. That is until he joined the swim team. Much to all our surprise, he did  not fight us for one second about practice or meets. He jumped in, with two feet so to speak, and never looked back. He is part of a team and he struts across the pool deck with the confident step that his father and I pray for every night. Like his mom, that boy joined the swim team and found his wings. I wish every kid could get that same chance. Check out SwimToday’s website to find a team near your kid.

 

 

This Kid, man.

InAnnieA million years ago I used to dream of being on stage. I didn’t want to be famous. I didn’t even want to be known. I just wanted to grow up and sing and dance and act on stage in front of a live audience who felt moved in some way.

But I was chicken.

Not at first. At first I was brave.

First time in NY. Bitten by the bug.

First time in NYC. Clearly I passed on that love.

In Junior High,  I had the supporting role in The Little Princess and then at the last minute the friend with the lead didn’t want to be the lead so I stepped in because of course I had memorized everyone’s role. I wasn’t chicken then. I was Sarah Crewe, The Little Princess, and I loved every damn second of it. I loved the auditions and the rehearsals and all the work behind, in and on the stage. I thought for sure that was what I would do for all of my life. I thought I was pretty ok at it, and did I mention I loved every damn minute of it? Because I did.

A few years later, when field hockey happened during fall plays and softball during spring musicals, I settled only for acting classes in high school, not real acting in school productions. Thank goodness our church youth minister was silly enough to try to put on a play. That year, I got to be Sally in Charlie Brown’s Christmas and I loved every second of it, even the parts everyone else hated, I loved because they meant being around theater and that was enough for me.

But it was only church, not a scary school performance where I had to go up against real actors. I was Sally to my best friend’s Lucy. She was the lead in Anything Goes at her high school and she killed it. Her voice was better. Her stage presence was better. I was afraid if I wasn’t like her I’d never make the cast. I was afraid I didn’t shine like she so I never even tried out. She was brave. GirlPlayRehearsal

Me? I was an athlete. Because that’s what Ritzs did. They played sports. Not acted. So I accepted my fate at 14 that I would need to find other dreams because even though I loved acting and singing,  Ritzs didn’t act or sing. I threw myself into every other aspect of live theater. I know shows. I know technique. I was the nerd in college who went to see the student lead performances and traveled out of town for theater performances. But I never acted beyond sorority skits. Ritzs don’t act.

But Kings? They do.

I married the male lead in Anything Goes (different high school) and thanked my lucky stars every day that he was A)straight  B)supremely confident and C)had strong genes to pass on to our kids.

She's got my face, but his sass.

She’s got his eyes and his chutzpah.

Flash forward a lot of years to tech week at The Girl’s first show outside the safety of her school. She came to us months ago and said she found an audition in New York City. She said can we go? We thought, is it too soon? Is she ready? Can she handle rejection or even acceptance on that large a scale? We’ve tried to be laid back for her. Keep it fun for her. Not foist any of our dreams undiscovered on her. So far, she has tried it all and loved every second of it.

In the end, we decided yes. We said ok. She tried out, without a head shot and with a resume we put together on my laptop the night before. She tried out, without dance shoes, but instead Chuck Taylor’s that she danced her heart out in. She felt totally prepared. I felt worried she wasn’t at all.

I made her dad take her. He is brave, like she.

She got in. Ensemble, but still very in. She knows everyone’s role.  She’s the young kid in the old kid cast. She’s in and she’s so very brave.

For weeks she has schlepped in and out of the city for hours on Sunday. She’s missed soccer games and school dances and birthday parties. She’s done homework on the train and been cranky every Monday morning since rehearsals started on Sunday many weeks ago.

rp_dance-recital-and-G-seedlingreview-143.JPGThis week, she will be here every night until dark when we will ride the train home for nearly two hours and go to sleep hours after she should. This week she is giddy with anticipation, almost as if noticing for the first time she is about to be in a play not far from where that picture above, of pure NYC glee, was taken not so many years ago.

This weekend, she will be on a stage in New York City performing in a cast of wildly talented kids, surrounded by her adoring fans. And, man does she have adoring fans.

For three shows, I will likely weep and weep with pride, like I’ve done at every performance since she was old enough to stand on stage. For all I ever dreamed about when I was a kid was being on stage in New York City, and all I’ve ever worried about since having kids is pushing my dreams on them.

It seems I couldn’t even dream about how much better it would be to watch my kid be on a stage in New York City than to do it myself. I couldn’t even conceive the joy that comes from seeing your kid be brave and chase her very own dreams. I may not have been brave enough to chase all of mine, but I did something right in teaching her to get the heck after hers.

I’m so proud of this kid. So, so proud.

She is brave. She is bold. She is my dream come true.

A dream come true.

A dream come true.