Hockey teaches some other lessons, too, lessons I’m not quite ready for

July 6th, 2011

The hockey, it’s good. It’s also good that we have a break from now until the 25th (at which point they go onto the ice in the professional arena and the trainings move to a more reasonable afternoon time slot), because the schlepping back and forth and the Small Boy eating dinner in the car twice a week is suboptimal. It’s a price I’m ready to pay, but it’s suboptimal.

It’s also good to have break until the 25th to give the Small Boy time to get over his outrage at his trainer, who handed out perfect attendance awards after the final training tonight. An award which the Small Boy did not get (five kids out of 39 did) because he missed one training because it conflicted with a school play, and he’s pretty outraged about it. Not, exactly, about not getting the award, which was an SCB cap and scarf, but about the perceived injustice of it. He only missed the training because he was in a school play that he had to go to on the evening of the second training of the summer. The kindergarten had started practicing the play before we ever had a summer training schedule. It was a school thing. He had the lead role. It wasn’t his fault that he missed a training. It’s not as if he missed one because he didn’t feel like going, or was lazy, or we forgot, or just didn’t feel like it. It was a school thing. It’s not fair. (And it’ll likely happen again at some point, because in this house when there is a direct conflict between hockey and school, school will win. Until he’s 16 and can decide for himself, the rule is that school will win.)

I can see the Small Boy’s point that it wasn’t fair, especially when I see through the eyes of a Kindergartener, and I don’t entirely disagree with him, but it’s one of those tricky parenting moments when I’m supposed to be on his side, and agree that it’s not fair, and still teach him that coaches get to make their own rules and if you want to play on the team, you play by the coach’s rules and, by the way, life is unfair and you have to figure out how to roll with that. All while not undermining the coach’s authority along the way. Any tips?

I feel for him. He did everything right. He even, last week, chose to leave a birthday party – a swimming pool birthday party – 30 minutes early so that he would get to training on time. What kind of six year old kid decides that, on his own? I gave him the choice between staying at the party to the end and getting to training late; staying to the party to the end and skipping the training altogether (my preferred option, frankly); or leaving the party early to get to training on time and he said “Klar!” (because he speaks to me in German entirely too often these days) “doch logisch gehe ich ins Training. Hol mir einfach fruh ab.” (“That’s easy! Of course I’m going to training. Just pick me up early.”) Again, I ask you, what kind of six year old kid makes that kind of a choice? A really enthusiastic and committed one, and I’m hurt on his behalf that his commitment wasn’t recognized and honored. Of course he thinks it’s unfair. He’s not wrong.

He’ll get recognition from me (I’ve got plans, and they involve cake), but it’s not what he really wants. What he really wants is recognition from his coaches; he always has. These men who play such a role in his life. They’re going to teach him, and sometimes praise him, and sometimes break his heart, and I’m reminded again of what the head of the hockey school said to us parents once, thanking us for trusting the trainers with our children. The Small Boy’s puck control improved by leaps and bounds this summer and for that I’m grateful, but he got his heart broken just a little bit too and for that, well for that I’m sad even as I recognize that it’s part of sports and part of life.

He’s asleep now, the teary sleep of a six year old who didn’t get the reward that he genuinely believes he earned. And I’m typing this, the teary typing of a mother who agrees with him. Oh life in all your complicated unfairness, must you come knocking on his door so early?

Of Mice and Boys

May 23rd, 2011

“Mama, look what I found!”

It’s often the first thing the Small Boy says when he comes home at lunch-time, holding out a hand to share whatever treasure he found on the way home from Kindergarten that day. Usually it’s a rock that struck him as special; it’s all white, or it’s got a stripe through it, or it glitters a bit in the sun. Sometimes he’ll bring home a flower that he picked from the side of the road that runs between his Uncle J’s fields; the poppies are coming up and the other day he gave me his first poppy. Rarely, it’s a snail shell. He’s got a big glass vase for his special stones and snail shells and the occasional feather, his treasure chest.

So today, when he came home for lunch, calling out for somebody  to open the door, saying “Mama, look what I found!” I was expecting a rock. I was not expecting him to stick out his hand and show me the dead mouse he’d been carrying for the past quarter mile.

“Oh! Okay, you need to put that down. You can’t be holding that.”

“I just want to make it a grave.”

“Okay. Okay. Just put it down, we can make it a grave but now you need to go wash your hands with soap and water and when you’re done,” I add, taking a pump of anti-bacterial hand gel down off the counter, “you need a spritz of  this. There can be a lot of germs on dead things, just go wash your hands.”

“I’m sorry, Mama, I just wanted to give it a grave.” In his other hand, he’s carrying a flower he picked to put on the grave site.

“It’s okay. It’s okay, we’ll make it a grave. You didn’t know about the germs. Now you do. And I love that you want to give it a grave. Go wash up now.”

I leave the mouse on our doorstep, cover it with a box weighed down with a pair of R’s shoes so that one of the farm cats doesn’t snatch it before we can dig it a grave. I wish I could go back, take away my startled and slightly disgusted first reaction, give him the time to tell me about the grave so that the first thing I say can be “Oh, that’s sweet. Sure we can dig it a grave. You should probably go wash your hands, though. There can be a lot of germs on dead things.”

Later we go into the woods and find a hollowed out tree stump, more mausoleum than grave. We put in a bed of leaves, then the mouse with the flower, then cover it with ferns. Over the ferns the boys put more wildflowers and then a lattice of branches to prevent dogs from sniffing around.

“Sorry you died, little mouse,” we say, “but it’s pretty here, you’ll like it.”

Then the boys run off down the trail holding hands, dead mouse forgotten as, for little boys, it should be.

A pox on this house

February 26th, 2011

Sorry to have vanished like that. I read your stories about going outside the comfort zone, and I want to respond to your comments and thank you for your stories, and to say that I’ve agreed to help out next season, and to come clean about my social anxiety issues that I’ve obviously underplayed here, because clearly I did not convey just how nervous I can make myself about these sorts of things, and to tell you about our vacation in the mountains last week – which is why I vanished last week – but the Small Boy got sick on Tuesday and was diagnosed with chicken pox on Thursday (German lesson: Windpocke. Swiss lesson: Spitzeblasen) – and that is why I’ve disappeared this week.

Let me tell you a little secret about the chicken pox. It’s not the pox that’ll kill you, it’s the cranky. And the boredom of a 10 day house-bound infectious period. Which leads back to the cranky. Also, the knowledge of impending doom ringing in your mind like overwrought background music in a horror movie: there is no way that 17-21 days from now Boychen’s not going to come down with this too and we’re going to go through the same thing all over again.

This, my friends, is why we own a TV.

Speaking of hockey…

December 7th, 2010

… have I shown you the cutest. picture. ever?

Happy birthday, Boychen

November 19th, 2010

I’ve been sitting here for nearly an hour trying to figure out how to write about Boychen’s third birthday. I start and stop and delete and copy and paste and start again. I want it to be beautiful, the way he is, and I want it to be perfect, the way I think he is, and I want to capture that intangible shiny thing about him, the thing that makes me think of shiny new pennies or dew-drops sparkling in the morning sun or hoar-frost on the trees. My shiny boy.

It astounds me nearly every day how simply happy he is, the way a puppy jumping into a pond after a stick is happy. From my perspective, there was so much sadness in the first nine months – twelve? – of his life, my post-partum depression months, all those days of his that I feel like I missed. So many clouds for so long. And yet this shiny boy.

Who can make a game out of anything.

Who is always doing something.

Always smiling.

This beautiful boy who started his life near sadness just pushed all of that aside and turned out so bright and shiny. It astounds me, sometimes, even today, his happiness. Maybe he is not so special, maybe other people don’t see the shimmer that I see, maybe I only see it because I know, I know, how much of my sadness surrounded him and it seems so exceptional to me that none of it stuck.

How grateful I am for that, how deeply, deeply grateful. How relieved I am, nearly every day, that I did not break him. I missed a lot of his babyhood, but I didn’t break him and he is a happy child and he is three today and he is growing up so fast it makes me weep.

Not the Boychen though, no weeping for him. He can’t wait. For everything, for all of it, he can’t wait. It’s all such a joyous adventure, a great and wonderful thing. What’s not to smile about?

Protected: Thursday Night, Hockey Practice (A Poem)

November 11th, 2010

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The Good of Small Things

October 28th, 2010

It’s been cold but clear the past few days and the boys and I have gone into the woods where the pond is suddenly populated by the twenty-odd ducks that winter there. There are mushrooms sprouting everywhere, and the Boychen still calls out “Hey! Look, Memli!” (although he can now pronounce “mushrooms” in English and “Schwemli” in Swiss, he still calls them Memli) as though he’d never seen one before.

The Boychen. How to describe this boy who still cries out “Memli!” a dozen times a day, each one something new to be exclaimed over and enjoyed? This boy who, if I turn my back, will be half-way to the road on his tricycle, speeding off towards the Quartier and the world beyond it. This boy with a soul like a shiny new penny, who is growing up too fast, who wants wants wants life.

My little boy, who will not tolerate being called a little boy, who is learning to skate like his big brother and who says, literally, exactly, “That’s what happens by skating, it doesn’t matter” when he falls down. This boy who is going to be as good on skates as his older brother sooner than I care to think about and who is going to leave all of us is his wake. His shiny, glittery wake. Riding down the street towards the Quartier, and the big world beyond it, and hardly remembering to wave good-bye.

Call for help from US readers

September 26th, 2010

So Small Boy just lost his first tooth. I was all prepared for this in Swiss francs, but what’s the going rate for a tooth in US dollars??

And then he was big

September 8th, 2010

I would know this about the Small Boy by now, or you’d think I would: he develops in jumps. Usually big ones. He takes a long time, or what seems like a long time, to get used to the idea of doing something, trying something, learning something. Then he decides one day to try it and doesn’t look back. He was on the tail end of the curve for starting to walk, but when he did walk, he walked. He never cruised the furniture. He didn’t spend weeks taking four steps and falling down. He just waited until he had this walking thing sorted out in his head and then he walked. He was a late talker, late enough for me to ask the doctor if he might have a hearing problem although I knew perfectly well that he didn’t because he had full comprehension in two languages – he just waited to talk until he was ready to talk and then it was three, four, five new words a day. He wore diapers overnight until an age that I’m not going to mention out of respect for his privacy, but one day he started waking up dry and I can count the accidents he’s had on one hand. He takes a long time to warm up to some things. Then he goes and does them, and in one day grows up by six months.

I should know this about him by now, but it takes my heart by surprise every time.


August 21st, 2010

Wow. The change-over from Small Boy waking up around 8 and being dressed at some time in the general neighborhood of 9 to Small Boy waking up at 7:25 and being out the door for Kindergarten at 8 kicked our asses last week. Fortunately the transition to Kindergarten itself has gone smoothly. It’s his second year, he’s in the same room with the same teachers, and about half the kids in the class are his classmates from last year so all of that is familiar. But getting out the door on time? That’s been quite the transition after our lazy summer mornings. 

If you’ve got kids going back to school, how’s that going? And whether you’ve got kids or not, what’s the hardest part about summer drawing to a close for you? And what’s the best part? (Yes, I dread the grey days of winter here in the flatlands, but winter vacation skiing and sledding in the Swiss Alps? Bring it on!)