Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting to Here

At the onset of this pregnancy I joined a Mom's group for May 2017 Babies on Facebook. It's been a weird experience - there was nothing like it when I was pregnant with the older kids, and I have at times really appreciated being a part of it and at other times been very frustrated with it. One of the things I do truly enjoy is what we call our "Mom of the Day" posts, which is basically where we share our own personal stories about ourselves, our partners, our children, family and lives in general. It's actually been really fun learning about all these ladies across Canada who are sitting in the same pregnant boat (at roughly the same stage of things) even if we're all at different points in our lives otherwise. 

Recently it was my turn so I decided that I'd post here what I shared there. This blog is all about our family so I'm taking this chance to go right back to the beginning and sharing the basics of how we became the Corner Table Family. So... 

My husband (Heli Dad) and I met shortly after I turned 16 years old. He was just shy of his 17th birthday and both of us had been ‘hired’ as volunteer Jr Counsellors for a summer camp program run by the local YMCA in nearby national park. At the end of the camp we exchanged phone numbers and within a week had plans for our first date. Despite living in two different small towns and attending different high schools, we quickly became an exclusive couple and most everyone who knew us viewed us as high school sweethearts.

We stood beside one another as we both lost grandmothers to old age and disease, and Heli Dad was one of my key supports when one of my oldest, closest friends passed away unexpectedly. Through teen rebellions and acting out, high school drama and arguments, we stood firmly at each other’s back and counted on the other for constant support. It’s safe to say that we became one another’s best friend at the same the same time we were falling in love with each other. I’m not sure whether anyone expected that we would stick together for the long haul, but as with many high school romances it was a highly emotional, intense relationship during those days that was very often swamped with both high and low points, punctuated by periods of drama, depression and sometimes out of control hormones.

After our respective graduations from high school we both ended up living in the same city where he went to work full-time in construction, and I jumped right in to full-time studies at the University working towards my (BSc) Biochemistry degree. We moved in together shortly after I finished my first year of university and began to further meld our lives. Heli Dad began his training to become a commercial helicopter pilot about the same time I decided to take a year off of school to work full-time and to try to further pursue a career as a professional dancer through auditions and a more intense practice schedule. That year was busy and full of many wonderful and heartbreaking things. Both our older sisters got married, I suffered a major injury that effectively ended any chance of a professional dancing career, and my grandfather died from pancreatic cancer and liver failure. At the end of that year we decided that we needed a fresh start in a new place and decided to move away. We ended up in BC's lower mainland and there is where our life as we know it now basically began.

Not long after our arrival in BC we learned that I was pregnant and we both faced a number hard choices. We knew that any flight job he would be able to get at the completion of his training would have him away from home more then he would be there and in BC we were completely cut off from family support after the birth of our baby. Ultimately we made the decision to move home before the baby was born because at least that way I would have both our families around to help me if needed while he away for work. Our daughter Princess was born in May 2004 with all her grandparents, aunts, uncles and assorted other family members waiting anxiously in the waiting room.

Heli Dad and I became engaged on New Years Day 2005, after months of conversation, argument, joy in the form of our little Princess, and the extreme surprise that despite using both birth control and condoms I was pregnant again. We were ready and excited to be married by this point (we’d been together for more than 5 years already) but discovering that another baby was on the way certainly played in to the timing. Losing that baby just days after becoming engaged put a damper on our enthusiasm, temporarily, but we came accept the loss and moved as best we could. After our wedding in August 2005 we decided that we were ready and wanted to try another child.

Our son Gamer Boy was born in October 2006 and rounded out the family nicely. When we learned we were pregnant again in late 2007 we were surprised, but couldn’t think of anything more perfect than another baby in the family. Angel Face joined our ranks in August 2008 and made us a crew of 5. I was lucky through each of my pregnancies and deliveries not to have any serious problems or complications, however my doctors were concerned after Angel Face's birth about the toll 3 pregnancies in 4 years had had on my body and strongly suggested that Heli Dad and I not even consider more children for a few years. Which honestly at that point with a newborn, a 4-year old and a not-quite-2-year old, was a suggestion we were more than happy to comply with.

And life continued. Unable to find and maintain full-time flight work, Heli Dad turned again to working in construction and continues in that field to date. For myself the course has been somewhat more fluid - full of curves, u-turns, detours and even completely new roads. Through the years being home as much as possible with the kids has been the primary goal and objective, but I have worked outside of the house as: a dance and gymnastics instructor, cheerleading coach, waitress, a call-center customer service rep, receptionist and office manager. I’ve been an aspiring author for about a decade and have been blogging for almost the same length of time. These days I primarily work remotely from home for my family’s farm and my mother’s massage therapy business doing office and book work, marketing, and advertising. I’m an Avon Sales and Leadership Rep running my business from home, and I also continue to work diligently on my writing always with the goal of publishing my work (hopefully sooner rather than later).

Now here we sit: a couple of 30-somethings who’ve been together more than ½ their lives with a nearly 13-year old, a 10 1/2-year and an "almost"-9-year old, and we’re about to (re)embark on the incredible journey having a baby again. More than once we’ve been asked “Are you crazy?” or “You were more than ½ done with the parenting of kids gig, why are you starting all over again?” All we can say or do is smile, shrug and tell them that we enjoyed the first round so much we decided to give it another go around – at least one last time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Value of Keeping Your Promise

As I’ve mentioned multiple times over the past year or so, the Corner Table Kids are becoming increasingly busy with extracurricular sports and activities – both through school and through community organizations. Heli Dad and I support and encourage their interests. We want them to be interested, active, happy, and healthy. And yes, as a result, we are ever-increasingly busy. Some parts of the year we’ve got one Kid or another at practice, meetings, games or tournaments every day of the week, and some weekends too. 

Just this past Friday Angel Face and Princess both had games for their particular sports at the same exact time, but in two different towns… But you know what? We managed to get both of them where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, and though it required some extra communication and finagling of schedules with other family members, we did it. (Shout out and major thanks to Auntie Lil’ Sis and Uncle Mech Man!!)

We did it because when our children tell us that they want to try this sport, or that instrument, or join this group, we make sure they understand the commitment it will require of them. And we – Heli Dad and I – we make sure we understand the commitment it will require of us. Not just the financial aspects of it, and depending on the sport or activity that is sometimes daunting all on its own, but the time and energy commitment that we have to invest in their participation: driving to practices, games, tournaments, festivals, productions, etc. If there are times that neither of us are able to fulfil one of those duties, we do everything in our power to make alternate arrangements. We look to family, to friends, or to other parents from the team or group. One way or another we do everything we can to ensure that our kid(s) can fulfil their commitments to their team.

We do this because it’s what we were taught. If you join a club or team: you go to practice every day. You’re present at every game, every meeting, every tournament. There are reasonable reasons for your absence – you’re sick, you have a previously scheduled trip, you are injured, or sometimes even that you’ve got school work or school something that must be completed at that time (school comes first – no ifs, ands, or buts). But if you’re going to miss something to do with your chosen extracurricular, you better have a damn good reason for it.

This is what we were taught, Heli Dad and I.

This is what we’re teaching our kids.

Responsibility. Commitment. Keeping your word. Being dependable.

And this has become a reason for great frustration for us this year – last year it happened as well but we weren’t sure whether it was a misunderstanding on our part, or something more. Now we know.

I should clarify…

We’re not frustrated because of our inability to fulfil our responsibilities to our children and their teams. As I’ve already stated, we manage, whatever it takes.

We’re not angry with our children because they aren’t living up to the expectations of their programs. Because they are, exceptionally.

The source of our frustration comes from the other players, parents and even the coaches and administration of the programs we’re a part of.

At the onset of each of the programs that our kids participate in there is some kind of meeting, or info session or dissemination that explains and, in most cases, lays out very specifically the expectations, rules and etc. that the athlete AND parents are required to agree to. In my experience through the last two years, as parents we’re typically given the schedules, the codes of conduct for us and our children, contact information for the coaches, administration and in some cases even the parents of the entire team roster. We are required to sign something saying that we’ve read and understand our responsibilities as they pertain to our, and our child’s, participation in the program.

In some cases we’re specifically asked to check our schedules and confirm that we will be able to ensure our children be present at all games/tournaments – I’ve found that school programs especially tend to ask for this because their funds come not only from athletic fees paid at the onset of each sports season, but also from the school’s overall athletic programs budget. It’s an understandable request – why should the school (or any programs administration for that matter) pay for a team to go to a tournament or other event, and then have to pull out because not enough members of the team are able to get there. The administrators are very frankly putting the responsibility of our child’s transportation and participation in those events on us – the parents, and they’re also very frankly making it so that we (the parents) have no good excuse for not living up to those expectations.

This, to me at least, makes sense. Parents aren’t the only ones with expectations laid upon them. The children have their own expectations as well but as kids who are for the most part reliant on their parents for transportation, making schedule agreements with the parent’s mandatory at the beginning of the season simply makes sense. Ensuring that we have the schedule well in advance makes it so we can plan accordingly. There should be no reason, barring emergency or the previously mentioned excusable absence reasons, why a parent can’t ensure their child is present for practices, games or etc. And following that logic there’s no reason, barring the same exceptions mentioned, that the coach(es) of the team shouldn’t be present 100% of the time as well.

And right there, THERE is where Heli Dad and I are frustrated.

During volleyball season this year, Princess’s coach completely missed one weekend tournament – leaving a parent to act as their coach/adult supervisor one day, and student alums (girls who are currently only in Grade 10 themselves) to fulfill that role the other day. For a team of twelve Grade 7 girls. A few weeks later that coach simply stopped coming to morning practices (aka the ONLY practices the team had) explaining his absence by saying that he’d asked an older student at the school to run the practices – that “older student” was a grade 8 girl with a sister on the team. Within less than two weeks, practices were completely cancelled and the girls season abruptly ended (weeks earlier than expected) without their traditional end of season game against all the schools’ volleyball coaches.

At Angel Face’s soccer games and practices, it’s not uncommon for 4-5 of the players to be missing on any given day. For a schedule we were given in early October that laid out every single practice/game day and time through to the middle of March. One kid missing here or there is understandable, even two could be excused. But 4-5 (or more) nearly every day, and quite often it’s the same kids missing each time, is inexcusable.

Now we’re into basketball season and here again we’re attending tournaments, or having games, and not all the athletes are there. As with soccer, one or maybe two kids missing occasionally could be understood. But that’s not what we’re seeing.

For instance, Princess had a basketball tournament this past weekend (Friday and Saturday) at a school in a town approx. 20 minutes from our home, and therefore about 20 minutes from all the team members homes. Of a team that includes THIRTEEN grade 7 girls, there were FIVE girls from the team in attendance on Friday and ONLY FOUR on Saturday. To be competitive and be able to play in the tournament our school and coach had to make arrangements for players from our grade 8 girls team to come and play with the younger team.

Thankfully those older girls were able to come play. Thankfully their parents were able AT THE LAST MINUTE to get their daughters to all the games for the weekend. We, as parents of the grade 7 girls who did show up weren’t informed that the rest of the team couldn’t make it, we weren’t asked whether we’d be able to transport any of the other girls, and as far as I know neither their parents nor the coach (not that it’s his job to do so) made any attempt to find alternate transportation for them. 60-70% of Princess’s team couldn’t get to the games, and not one word was said to the rest of us. Even the girls who did and were able to attend weren’t informed until Friday morning at school – just hours before they were expected to play.

Not only that, but Princess has previously commented (during both basketball and volleyball season) that certain girls simply never even come to practices. Yet when they attend games, they’re given the same opportunities to play as the girls who are at every single practice. Our school and the league we’re a part of, do follow a “Fair Play” rule for their grades 5, 6, & 7 teams – which basically states that all players on the team will have a fair and equal chance to play during games. Which is good, it ensures that all the athletes are given equal opportunities and that coaches can’t simply play favorites with certain athletes. However, it’s not good and it’s not fair if the athletes who aren’t putting in their fair share of practice time are still being given a fair share of game time. That promise of fair play needs to go in both directions.

There has to be a line drawn somewhere and I’m not sure why there isn’t. Or why, if there is a line, it’s not being enforced.

When Heli Dad and I were in school and on teams, there was a rule that if you missed X-number of practices before a game, you didn’t play. Additionally, if you missed Z-number of practices over the course of the season, you were off the team. Obviously there were other rules as well – if you didn’t attend school on game day, you couldn’t play, if your grades dropped below certain levels, you couldn’t play… These honestly were just a few of them and I KNOW, not think but KNOW, that our local high schools and other various community/private sport organizations still institute the same kinds of rules today. There were exceptions, like those I’ve previously mentioned but they had to be approved by the school, administration and/or coach.

So why aren’t these types of rules being instituted and/or enforced in our junior/middle school programs, or when the programs are aimed at our younger kids? Why aren’t our younger children and pre-teens, and their parents(!), being made to accept and follow these same guidelines? Why are the kids who are at every practice, every game, every tournament, being forced to suffer for the others lack of effort, their lack of respect for the team and their teammates, and their irresponsibility?

I don’t understand that.

We’re all asked at the onset to make the same commitments, to accept the same responsibilities. I don’t understand why that kind behaviour is being accepted by our schools and various sports groups? Why are we teaching our kids that it’s okay to say you’ll do something and then fail to fulfill the commitment? Why aren’t parents being parents and ensuring that their child is doing what they are supposed to do? How am I supposed to teach my kids the value of following through on their promises (which at it’s root is what a commitment is) when 60-70% of their friends and peers aren’t expected to do the same? And more, when there are no apparent consequences for those kids when they don’t follow through and do the things they’ve committed to doing?