A Baby’s Head and Jumping to Conclusions

iStock_000000104406XSmallIt was a warm autumn afternoon.  I had dropped Meg off at her dance class, leaving me with about an hour to kill before she was done.  I didn’t quite have long enough time to drive home and come back again, so I decided to go on a walk in the neighborhood around the dance studio to enjoy the warm October sun.

I changed my shoes to the sneakers I had brought along in anticipation for this little jaunt, and I punched up my favorite music on my iPod as I began my walk.

The area around the dance studio, though safe, is not exactly quiet.  Being a mix of businesses, apartment complexes, and detached homes, there are a lot of cars whizzing by constantly.  I decided to walk the few city blocks in a big rectangle on the left side of the road, always facing traffic and, for the most part, on sidewalks.  The big loop usually takes me about 30 minutes to complete.

As I rounded one corner, I noticed some cars coming off of the tollway up ahead and waiting to turn right towards my direction.  I saw a dark blue sedan with a man in the passenger seat.  The car was still about 50 yards away, but I gasped at the sight of something I could clearly see on his lap.

A baby!

It was unmistakable.  A guy was holding a tiny baby on his lap!  I could see a small, delicate, but perfectly shaped back of a baby’s head and its wispy blond hair.  The infant was most certainly not in a car seat!  And in the front seat!

Oh my gosh — what if the air bag goes off?  What if they crash and the baby goes flying out of this guy’s hands and out the window?  This is child abuse!

I thought of calling 911 to report this crime.  My pace quickened as I raced toward the car before it could turn and take off.  I wanted to bang on his window and wag my finger at this terribly irresponsible act.

As I got closer, I could see this passenger laughing and talking with the driver, another male.  They both looked too young to be responsible dads.  In fact, they looked more like college-age surfer dudes.  Babysitting?  Kidnapping?  What could possibly be the situation under which a mother would entrust the life of her newborn to such reckless young men?  I was starting to feel indignant.  The only thought running through my mind was, “I have to rescue this little child!”

I began to run.  Too late — the light turned green, and the car proceeded to turn right. The car began to speed towards my direction.  When it was within a couple of yards, I was starting to flail my arms wildly to try to stop them and was almost ready to lurch onto the path of this car.  That’s when I got a much clearer view of this poor little blond kid. I did a double take.

It turned out not to be a baby at all.

It was the guy’s knee.

A hairy, perfectly round knee propped up against the side window.

As the car sped past me, I kept waving my arms, pretending to be saying hello to a non-existent person a block ahead.  The two guys were having a great time talking and laughing that they never even noticed me.  Good thing.  They wouldn’t understand mama bear instinct.

After my red face turned back to normal, I began to think that there must surely be a life lesson in what had just transpired.  Don’t jump to conclusions?  Wait to get the whole picture before judging someone? Things are often not as they appear? Some Californians still wear shorts in October? I’m not sure.

Meg finished her dance class and met me outside.  On the drive home, I told her about my goofy experience on my walk, and we had a good laugh.  I’m glad she has a sense of humor.

Have you ever jumped to conclusions like this, even with the best of intentions?  Let’s not completely waste a good life lesson, dear reader.  Let me know in the comments below!

4th Grade is Too Late To Start a Sport. Seriously?!

Young Boys In Baseball TeamMy son Josh signed up to play Pony League baseball in fourth grade.  His best friend from church, Sammy, talked him into it.  Sammy, a very athletic child, had already been playing baseball for a few seasons.  Josh, on the other hand, was brand new to the game.  It quickly became apparent that at age 9, it was much too late to start a new sport.

As immigrant children, neither David nor I were familiar with this all-American subculture of baseball.  We naively signed him up and showed up at the first practice at the nearby field, Josh dressed in his everyday shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers from Target.  We immediately realized that he was completely in the wrong attire.  All the kids were wearing baseball pants, jock straps (we presume), and cleats.

The coaches called for the practice to begin.  The kids all seemed to know what to do and where to go for each drill, whether it was catching, throwing, or batting.  Josh stood in the middle of the crowd looking bewildered.  If it wasn’t for his buddy Sammy, he would have been completely lost.

Josh kept getting singled out to go off to the side with an assistant coach to work on his basic skills, none of which he had developed prior to joining the team.  I think he even had to show Josh how to drink from the sports bottle and to spit.  Josh knew nothing.  Although some kids would be spurred on to work harder through such individual attention, Josh only felt embarrassed and discouraged.

As parents, we were also lacking in experience.  We realized quickly that we were as much of a novice as our son.  All the parents were sitting comfortably in their deluxe folding chairs outfitted with cup holders, umbrellas, magazine racks, and clip boards for keeping stats.  I think some models even came with a barbecue grill.  Meanwhile, David and I sat on the unforgiving bleacher bench, roasting in the sun, fanning ourselves with the rule book — rules, mind you, for parental behavior during games.

When I was 9 years old and living in New York, I walked to the nearby ice skating rink and fell in love with figure skating.  My parents signed me up and watched me for the first few lessons, but thereafter sent me and my sister off on our own.  I kept taking my classes, working hard and advancing to the next level every few months, and was just beginning to compete when we moved to California.  The nearest ice skating rink was then a 30-minute drive away, so when Mother got tired of that drive, I was done with my sport.  It was fun while it lasted, and it taught me valuable life lessons in setting goals and achieving results, but I was always aware that I was not Olympic material.  And that was totally okay.

Recently, my friends tried to sign up their two kids, ages 10 and 13, with a private tennis coach.  To their dismay, they were told that there was “nothing he could do” with the older child.  “But there is still a chance I could train your 10-year old at this point.” The coach was assuming that my friends were thinking Wimbledon, but they were only hoping that their kids would get some exercise outdoors instead of playing video games all day.

What kind of a society is this when we cannot start a new sport mid-childhood?

Whatever happened to playing a sport for fun, exercise, and camaraderie?

Josh finished off that baseball season and didn’t pursue that sport any further.  Some of the best players in the league continued on to the All-Stars then to the travel league, never taking a break year-round.  Some of them are probably playing on their high school teams now, hoping for college scholarships and perhaps even major league contracts.  Josh now takes casual tennis lessons and resists joining the competitive tennis league, perhaps due to his less-than-stellar experience with team baseball.  His dad and I wish that he were a little more competitive, but we are certain that tennis will serve him well throughout his life for good fun and exercise.

I just wish that society looked at organized sports that way.

The Show Must Go On

The previous day ended like this:

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“It hurts to pump the soap out of the dispenser,” cried Meg.  Although perhaps not as important as her feet in dance, her left arm is nonetheless crucial at certain points in the group routine.  “We’ve worked so hard on this dance.  I can’t let my team down tomorrow!”

When Meg turned 3, I became a dance mom.  I thought I was going to be a soccer mom, but my kids never warmed up to soccer.  “Soccer uniforms are ugly,” she declared.  Certainly true, compared to dance costumes.  We’ve been going to various dance competitions since she was 5.  If I were an outsider walking into these dance events, I’d think that I was observing one of those reality shows where little girls wear false lashes and gaudy makeup to live out their moms’ dreams.  The first time I caked on makeup on my 5-year old’s face, I prayed that the Lord would forgive me and that I wasn’t corrupting her character forever.

I’ve since learned that dance actually requires some major skills.  The girls don’t just stand there looking pretty.  It takes team work, determination, and quite a bit of athleticism.  I still wish we didn’t have to put such heavy makeup on little girls to dance, but at least Meg has picked up some wonderful makeup skills along the way.

Anyway, loaded up on Advil, Meg bravely faced The Day.

Time to get ready for the show

She was still in quite a bit of pain as she applied makeup, but she didn’t want to wear a brace nor her sling.  She got dressed and ran through the routine with the team several times.  On the second to the last time through, she used her left arm to push herself off the floor like normal and felt a sharp pain.  “I think I hurt it again, mom,” she stated while holding back tears.  She worked with the choreographer to modify the routine just a bit.

I took my seat in the audience a few minutes before their routine.  I held my breath as she bravely walked on stage and began dancing with the dozen other girls on the team.  I was just hoping that she wouldn’t break down in the middle of the routine, wincing in pain, and they’d have to call the ambulance to rescue my 11-year old off the stage.  They would have to stop the entire show as they placed her on the gurney, and in the morning the front page of the paper would say…

Sometimes mom’s imagination takes her to strange places.

For the most part, you couldn’t tell that there was anything amiss.  In the two or three instances where she normally would pushed herself off the floor with both arms, she only used her right arm and slipped out of time a tiny bit.  In another spot where she was supposed to really use both arms, she walked off very jazz-like to the wings as if it was planned all along.

Meg, right, with the rest of her dance team

When it was over, I could breathe again.  My heart almost burst with pride. No, it wasn’t her finest dance, but it was her best effort.  She wore her game face the whole time, and she never gave up.

I am glad that she understands when the show must go on.  You can’t just curl up into a ball, sulk in the corner, and give up.  I supposed this is what these extracurricular activities are supposed to teach you: perseverance.  Life lessons.  I don’t care if it’s ice skating, swimming, soccer, or dance — these activities help kids build character so they can someday be functioning adults.  Sometimes, it’s not easy on us mom’s hearts, however.

“First place!” announced the judges.  Never mind that they were the only entrants in this particularly category.  I thought they deserved the gold medal.

Can they give out medals to moms too, please?

Meg and her friend Ally after the show, relieved.

What activities do your kids do, and how have they helped them grow?  How have they helped you grow as a mom?

 

It’s Not Fair!

Siblings, in a moment of peace

Life was relatively peaceful when we only had one child.  It was when we had our second one that our firstborn began to notice something: life is not fair.  No longer could he always get his way (which, I guess, is most people’s definition of “fair”).  He had to ponder a new concept called sharing, and it wasn’t working out too well.

Don’t get me wrong — David and I try to be as fair to our kids as humanly possible.  We try to give both of them the same amount of attention, material goods, and love.  Yet, they cry foul each time.

“Dad, Meg got more than I did!”

“Mom, it’s not fair that Josh gets to go again!”

When it comes to splitting drinks, foods, and treats, we let one of them do the splitting and the other the choosing.  You won’t believe the precision with which they accomplish this.  Not an ounce of extra falls on either side.

The amazing thing is that they both equally believe that I am far more fair with the other child.  “Who gets to have what they want more often?” I ask them.  They immediately point fingers at one another like pistols.  This seems like an utter incongruity, but since I am equally unfair to both of them, I must actually be very fair.  I feel pretty good about this.  My kids don’t really see it that way.

It dawned on me and David one day, though, that we were actually doing them a disservice by making things fair.  The harsh reality is that life is not fair.  The world doesn’t owe us anything, and we will not always get what we want.  No matter how much we try to protest it, someone is always going to be smarter, taller, skinnier, faster, better looking, more talented, or richer than you or me.  By creating a false universe where things are artificially fair, we are not preparing them for real life.

In fact, we should be downright outraged — not because we are getting the short end of the stick but because so many others around the globe are!  While we live in a very wealthy culture and have so much more materially, many people subsist on less than $2 a day.  We should be absolutely furious that kids in third world countries can’t go to school because they have to spend hours everyday transporting drinkable water from the river to their villages.  We ought to be righteously indignant that so many children are being orphaned because HIV and AIDS are wiping out an entire generation of young parents.  No, the world definitely is not fair.

In a few weeks, I am going to travel to the Dominican Republic with World Vision, a Christian humanitarian and relief organization with whom I’ve worked for over 15 years, to personally see World Vision’s work in that country.  And get this: I have chosen to pull Josh out of school for four days so he can travel with me.  Yes, I realize this could potentially damage his 8th grade transcripts and a Tiger Mom would never do this (thus, Panda Mom me), but on the other hand Josh will most likely learn some lessons which he could never learn inside a classroom.  I believe these lessons will last him a lifetime.

While we’re there, we are going to visit Francis, our sponsored 13-year old boy who lives in the Dominican Republic.  He lives with his grandparents and four siblings, which makes me believe that his parents are deceased.  Francis enjoys mathematics and baseball.  We plan to bring some mitts and balls as gifts so Josh and Francis can play catch together.

Is life fair? No. I hope Josh never forgets it.

Josh with our sponsored child Francis whom we will meet soon!

What do you do to nurture fairness in your home?  How do you teach your kids about world poverty?  Share with us below, and click here if you’d like to sponsor other World Vision kids like Francis!