Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Responsible One

More often than not, she's asked (or expected) to set the tone & boundaries when she's with her friends.

Maybe it's the only child thing. Maybe it's that she spends more time in the presence of adults than children. Maybe she's had enough of the right influences. Maybe it's just a phase. But it's good to think of her as the responsible one.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Change is drama. Movie directors know this. So do parents.

Each year she has changed schools has been a year of drama. Unsettled social relationships. Volatile grades. Personality changes.

The drama only lasts through the transition year. She gets used to the new routines. Study habits catch up with classroom demands. She makes new friends. Reluctantly or otherwise, she adjusts.

And so do we. We have to figure out how to engage her during transition. It's stressful, while it lasts.

Fortunately, transition is temporary. But as with the movies, there's always a sequel.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Volunteering is Optional, Commitments are Not

A lot of the things we sign our kids up for, from scouting to sports, require volunteers to make them work. No volunteers, no youth programs.

Making time commitments is no small favor to ask from people. Volunteers have to sign up for things weeks and even months in advance, and sometimes make major time commitments. Parents have all kinds of things competing for their time, tend to be overly optimistic about how much time things will take (travel & transportation included), and take routine household things like laundry and dinner for granted. Any parent who volunteers makes no small sacrifice.

As much as it's a commitment because of invasiveness and inconvenience factors to the individual volunteer, a volunteer organization is dependent on its volunteers to honor their commitment. Events and activities don't happen without the volunteers to make it so.

We remember those who have a gift for it - the brilliant coaches, the organized administrators - and these are the people who remind us that volunteer organizations are capable of amazing things. There are volunteers who do a crap job of it: they show up but make a hash of things. Still, there is a lot to be said for any volunteer who follows through on the commitments they made. In a lot of youth organizations, that's all that's being asked. Just show up like you said you would. And if you can't - hey, things come up - let those who are depending on you know that you can't. Withdraw if you must, but withdraw responsibly.

Your commitment is your obligation. Volunteering is optional. Commitments are not.

Monday, September 30, 2013


She scored a podium finish at her first short course swim meet. I'm proud of her. Not for her performance in the event itself, but to see her rewarded for persistence and training. She spent many years in swim lessons working on stroke mechanics. She swam long course over the summer, building up her endurance and perfecting her technique to avoid disqualification. Since starting short course earlier this month, she's spent more time in the pool doing both sprint and endurance training. There's no doubt that running cross country, playing soccer and taking dance lessons have helped with her athleticism (I'll not call it physicality or explosiveness) in the pool. But in 6 months training, she's gone from never having swum competitively to a podium finish. The pride I feel in her isn't in her finish, as much as it is in the strong start to her journey.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

She's developed an eye for vintage, quirky signs from watching American Pickers.

And, in the process, she's found a way to clutter her bedroom walls as she has the floor.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

11 Is Not the New 8

She's a much different person today than she was just 3 years ago.

I can't pick her up as easily. I certainly can't throw her as far in the lake, or flip her while holding her by her arms.

Clothing holds her attention now. American Girl dolls don't.

She's less interested in Bugs Bunny and more interested in The Simpsons.

In her extra-curriculars, the gap between kids who are "casual" versus "committed" participants is blatant.

Interaction ("help me do this, daddy") gave way to observation ("watch me do this, daddy"), which has given way to awareness ("I'll be with my friends, dad").

Of course, I should expect nothing less. She's much closer to being a teenager than she was last an infant. It wasn't dramatic or sudden, and not everything about her has changed. Nor am I the same person I was just a few years ago. Plus, our relationship has to change if we're to stay interesting to each other, and not merely dependent and obliged to one another. And I'm looking forward to the next voyage of discovery, and curious to know who she'll become.

Still, I can't help but miss that little person I got to know.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Location, location, location

As a newborn, I carried her in my arms.

As an infant, I held her hand.

As a child, we walked side-by-side.

As a pre-teen, I have no idea where she is at any given moment.

Friday, May 31, 2013


In a few years, "redshirt" will apply to freshman athletes at the school she goes to.

But for now, after watching enough Star Trek TOS reruns, "redshirt" means a person for whom tomorrow may not come.

...and another generational bridge is built.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Unintended Lessons

I expected her first swim meet would be a learning experience for her: how it all works, where to find your results, getting a taste for competition, and above all else making sure not to miss an event.

But her biggest learning experience? How to function at a swim meet at 8a after staying up until 2a at a friend's slumber party. That will come in handy throughout her life.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

All For One

Her final swim lesson was the same as all of her other lessons. Streamlined kicks. Freestyle laps. One-armed backstroke. An IM. And dad on the sidelines giving her signals (kick! big arms! reach!) and smiles (jazz hands! thumbs up!)

It was like all the other lessons, but for the fact that it was her final swim lesson. She needs to move on to a team - endurance and meets - to develop further.

It is time. For both of us.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Going Solo

Music competitions haven't changed much over the years. If you're performing in a single event, you get there an hour or so before your scheduled performance time, find the rehearsal room and loosen up. You run through your solo a few times, not because you're going to get any better, but to get into the rhythm of the piece. You watch the clock and look out for people you know. Then you head up to the performance room. Compared to the chaos in the hallways and the practice room, the performance room is nearly deserted and quiet. It's running a little bit behind schedule. Your performance lasts only a few minutes. The judge doesn't interact with you beyond a few statements and gives no immediate feedback. You say your "thank yous" and you nervously wait for the results to be posted (always twice longer than expected).

The written feedback is more verbose these days, and there are more volunteers providing logistical support to get the right kids in the right rooms at the right time, as there seem to be a lot more children playing solos than before. But otherwise, it's the same as it always was. And the important stuff hasn't changed: a good accompanist follows the soloist, a good judge recognizes technique even through the nervousness of the performer.

Once you get your result, you go home, with the rest of the weekend to bask in the glory of a few minutes good work, or stew in the disappointment of a few minutes bad work. Assuming you're not eligible for a state-wide competition, you're left only to speculate on the music you might play the following year: the disdain at having to play the same class of difficulty if you didn't score a top mark this time round, or the excitement of moving to a higher class if you did.

The award you get for your performance is only a small medal indicating the class of difficulty and the score achieved (I, II or III). It is small, but it is meaningful. Unlike all those participation awards, this one is truly earned, and reflective of how you did on the day. No matter how you scored, that "few minutes of work" is a reflection of you, your skill, and how well prepared you were on the day.

It's common practice to pin your music awards inside your instrument case. The more performances you give, the more hardware you'll have to pinned in the case. After a few years, it can look pretty impressive. While there's something to be said for pride in achievement, it's best if those sit on a shelf somewhere. In music, as in a lot of life, you're only as good as your next performance, not your last.

She did well on the day, earning a I in her first solo competition. Hopefully, not her last.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

21st Century Problems

The problems kids face with school and friends have been around for generations. Some are so well established - first breakup, first all-night study cram-jam - they're rights of passage. Tech changes so quickly, she'll experience setbacks that only her generation will ever know. And I don't think we'll wax nostalgic on the first computer virus that wrecked her computer. But I do know this is the first of what will be many technology related incidents in her life. I just hope this is a learning moment, and that she learns fast.