Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Trying to Raise a Normal Child

These past few weeks have been filled with lots of new things, adjustments and changes. Munchkin has finished summer camp and started first grade. She also started soccer through our local YMCA rec league. My sister and her gang came to visit for several days.

Munchkin was invited to a birthday party for a friend who had been in her kindergarten class. It was to start at a pottery place and then the kids were going back to the girl's house for a sleepover. I initially said Munchkin could only go to the pottery place. She is 6 - no way is she old enough for a sleep over with parents I barely know. Between the invite and the party I had the chance to interact with the mom (divorced) a few times and get to know her a bit better. I decided to accompany Munchkin to the pottery party. Then I drove her to the party house and let her swim and get into her pajamas and stay until 9 pm, at which time I picked her up. I even left her there by herself and didn't stay. She was the only child not sleeping over, but I still wasn't ready to cross that line yet.

Last night was Munchkin's first soccer practice. I was not impressed. I've been around rec leagues a time or two. I know how disorganized things can be. I wasn't expecting a miracle. I did expect the coach and assistant to introduce themselves, at least to the kids, if not to the parents. I did expect them to teach some basic skills to the kid, rather than just line them up and tell them to kick the ball into the goal. I also expected all the kids, boys and girls, to be given equal chances. This is a 5-6 year old, co-ed, introductory league. The asst coach was full of himself. Also a "scream at his kid to do better" type. After awhile the line of kids got closer to the goal and he was yelling at them to "move back." But then he looked at Munchkin who was next in line and said, "oh here you can come closer. We'll let girls kick closer since they can't kick as far." He then turned to the coach and snidely, but loudly said, "guess that is politically incorrect." Me and my big mouth, as well as my big-mouth sister, said loudly, "Yes it is." The asst coach just rolled his eyes. Munchkin then kicked a great kick right into the goal. So we stood up and yelled, "yeah, you go GIRL!" I fumed all night long.

Today I called the rec director and told him what had happened. He told me that only two people had signed up to be coaches and both of them had never coached before. He said that might explain the disorganization and the lack of teaching. He was going to contact the coach and offer some tips. He also said that all players get to play equally and if there were further chauvinistic comments to contact him. So I'm giving it one more shot. Disorganization I can tolerate. A new coach who isn't the best at teaching kids, I can help with. Chauvinistic remarks are not tolerated and will force me to go "mama bear" on you.

Tonight is the "back to school - opening night" at the church we've been visiting. We're not quite ready to join. But I want Munchkin to get involved in a Bible study activity and this church has a great kids' group. I have talked with another parent whose children attend. I have found out that the teacher of Munchkin's age group is a teacher (and therefore background checked by our state). And Munchkin is at an age where I can ask, and she can answer, about how things are going. So I'm thinking about letting her join. What I'm not ready to do is leave Bugaboo there. He's not quite 2 and can't tell me what happens. He's also not tolerant of strangers right now and has quite a bit of stranger anxiety. It took him 3 days to warm up to my sister and he sees her pretty frequently.

So what does all this mean? It is an example of the constant struggle I have between over-protective Mama Bear mode and loosey-goosey, let my kids do whatever they want mode. I know I will always tend toward the over-protective side and I'm okay with that. But I also don't want my child to be too restricted. This is a tough balance to keep and I'm not sure I'm always making the right decision. I feel good about the stance with the sleep-over. I feel a bit uneasy about the soccer and wish I had pushed harder for her to be on a different team. I think me and this asst coach might be having some words in the future. But time will tell and lessons will be learned.
If you are an abuse survivor, or if you grew up with over-protective or under-protective children, how has that shaped how you raise your own children? Any tips or advice?


misssrobin said...

It's so tough to find the right balance. You want your kids to be cautious but not to go through life afraid.

You're doing great. Trust your gut. Teach them to trust their guts. Those instincts are powerful. Learning to respect your instincts, even if it seems impolite, is the best skill I think we can teach our kids.

Good luck with soccer. I'd be irritated, too.

beautifuldreamer said...

I too think you're doing great. You're cautious, but you allowed Munchkin the concession of staying at the party until 9.

I'm not sure what I did with my kids--so long ago, and such a blur! I do know I made an effort to give them lots of affection (remembering how it felt to have a mother who gave me none.) But at the same time I had definite rules, and tried to be consistent and fair.

Your willingness to stand up to people like the assistant coach speaks volumes to your daughter. She will soak it up like a sponge and your assertiveness on her behalf will definitely give her a feeling of security.

Anonymous said...

I too think six years old is a bit young for sleep overs. And I don't care if my child is 10, if I don't REALLY know the parents they are NOT sleeping over at anyone's house. And I don't mean "well daddy you met her parents" kind of know either.

I coached girls' youth fastpitch softball for several years. My team and parents always appredciated my style and attitude. I would always have a REQUIRED parent/player/coaches meeting the first night. I would tell everyone that it was my goal to teach their daughters some basic softball skills, to teach them good sportsmanship and if we win any games along the way that was just a bonus. Truthfully though, our eight year old daughter was a pretty dominant pitcher so it was pretty easy to have a good attitude.

I would encourage you to keep written notes on the who, what, when and where about the practices and the staff that you speak with.

Maybe even speak privately with the coaches to remind them that this is a recreational league and the age group they are coaching are very impressionable. "You, as their coach, will leave an impression on them. It's up to you to decide what you want their memory of you to be."

Stay on top of them though. And beware of those parents who (regularly) drop their children off and use youth sports as a means of "baby sitting." I believe those parents are more interested in something they are doing than what's going on with their children.

From Tracie said...

I think you found a really good balance for the birthday party. Making an effort to get to know the mom, and feeling okay with leaving her with the other kids for a few hours was was picking her up at 9. I agree that 6 is too young for a sleepover.

We've been visiting a new church too recently and letting my daughter (who just turned 7) go to a Bible study class by herself was a big step for me, but I knew the teacher was background checked, and like your daughter, mine is old enough to tell me if something happens. I still spent the whole hour in my class slightly freaking out, and left mine five minutes early so that I could show up before parents were expected. I guess I'm still trying to find that balance.

From Tracie said...

Oh...and the coach!?! Totally unacceptable! I don't blame you for being upset on that one. If there isn't a huge change next time, I hope they will change her team because she shouldn't have to put up with that.

Paul from Mind Parts said...

Hi Enola. I have a new blog reader and I'm back to reading your blog.

I totally relate to this. For me, and I do think being a Dad is different for a Mom, there's a constant struggle between over-protecting and letting them loose. I am constantly amazed at how NOT over-protective I am. I don't quite get that. But I think my kids are much better for it.

Thanks for your blog. I'll be back.

Marj aka Thriver said...

I know the struggle you are talking about. I'm really struggling with that with my own kid right now, as a matter of fact.

I would have done the exact same thing about the sleep-over. I think you did what you could for her to have an enjoyable time, but still stay safe. I think six is WAY to young to sleep over at somebody's house that you don't really know.