What does carne asada have to do with team building?

Yesterday I hosted the last team dinner I’ll ever get to host. My son’s water polo team gathered at our home prior to a tournament they’re playing this weekend.

Two other moms helped me, and we served the boys mounds of carne asada, hot tortillas, enchiladas, Spanish rice and salad. As if that weren’t enough food, we also offered chocolate milk (great after a workout, you know), fruit, homemade cookies and brownies.

water+polo+Team+dinner

 

For years I’ve hosted end-of-season parties, supervised team sleepovers and served dinner to players and families after Little League games. But last night was the end. The end of orchestrating a large dinner to be ready precisely on time, of serving it efficiently, making it look easy. The end of sharing a gift with my children’s teams  —  not by playing or coaching their sports, but by doing something I’m good at: food and hospitality.

I’ll still find people to cook for, still find ways to build community over shared meals. It just won’t involve my kids as much. And since none of them is playing varsity sports in college, it definitely won’t involve their teams.

Maybe that’s why this final team dinner seemed so significant. Sports have been important to my children, but not because they dreamed of playing professionally, or even playing in college. They took their sports commitments seriously, valuing not only personal improvement, but also their teams’ collective achievement. They learned “life lessons” about things like persistence, fairness and sportsmanship that will stay with them far beyond the court, the field, or the pool.

 

Menlo School boys water polo. Photo by Cynthia Yock.

Photo by Cynthia Yock

 

I’m grateful for the role sports have played in my children’s lives, grateful for remarkable individuals who’ve coached them over the years. Needless to say, I’m less grateful for the handful of negative coaches who made my kids’ lives difficult or soured them on a particular sport or season. But even then, playing for such coaches helped my kids develop the ability to discern when they were wrong, vs. when their coach was being unreasonable. Without a doubt, this is a skill they’ll use in “real life.”

Cooking for my children’s teams, or organizing schedules and communications for them, was a way I could contribute to activities they cared about. My son’s a senior, playing in his final water polo season, so I’m nearly finished with these contributions to my kids’ sports. Yes, I most likely will contribute elsewhere in the future. But all the same, an emptiness lingers.   [Read more…]

Flaws meet faith at a family wedding

A family wedding lets us reconnect with relatives, revisit memories, and reflect on the bond that draws families together.

That’s what I did last weekend, when I attended the wedding of my husband’s cousin’s son. While neither of us knew the groom well and had never met the bride, we were happy to visit with so many relatives gathered in one place.

Goin’ to the Chapel

The wedding itself was a suburban Los Angeles affair. Held at a wedding chapel on a trafficked boulevard, the event was relaxed but efficient, a bit impersonal although personalized. The “chapel” had a front room with wooden folding chairs and stained glass windows. Adjacent to it was the dining room, where guests retired immediately for the reception and dancing with a DJ.

Like any wedding, this one had its “moments.” Face it: planning (and paying for!) a wedding is hard. For example, it’s tough to find a bridesmaid dress that suits the array of figure types most weddings entail. Selecting soloists can also be tricky — there were three long minutes last weekend when I focused on the carpet design and thought about serious things in order to keep from giggling. But that was me. Most likely there was a reason behind choice they made.

Weddings can be particularly dicey occasions nowadays, when multiple sets of parents and blended families are the norm. This event was no different, as the groom’s parents divorced years ago. Both halves of his family, plus the bride’s relatives, spent several hours in the same building, but we barely interacted. Photos and table assignments gave us individual versions of a communal event.

This wedding was a notable day for our family, an unforgettable one for the bride and groom. No matter whether the setting is a wedding chapel in California, a cathedral in London, a courthouse in San Francisco or

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Last first day of school

First day of school photo

Yesterday I took my last “first day of school” photo. I have thirty-nine such photos, thirteen of each child. I’ve stashed them in various places around my house or on the hard drive of my computer. But yesterday’s was the last one. The final picture I would take of my child on his or her way to another year — a year of growing up, of learning in the classroom, of learning about himself.

 

 

With my last one leaving home next year, I will have completed my task of raising my children. It seems as though this is all I’ve ever done, all I was ever meant to do. At the same time, it also seems they were here for just an instant.

It’s strange to reflect that my greatest achievement is essentially done. I’m 50 years old, and I’m done.

I don’t feel “done.” As their first-grade teacher had our older kids chant, “Cakes are done, pies are done, people are finished.” I don’t feel “finished” either, though.

 

First Day of School Kindergarten.jpg

 

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My daughter turns 20 today

Today my incomparable daughter turns twenty. It sounds trite to say, “I was there when you were born.”  But I was, actually.

 

 

Where did two decades go? I can see the passage of time in the wrinkles on my own face, but it seems like such a short while ago that I was pushing a double stroller, doling out Cheerios and wondering how I’d make it to the end of the day.

I loved parenting young children, and in my memory those years take on a rosy glow.  But truth be told, it wasn’t always so delightful, so feel-good, arts-‘n-crafts-sy. Baby #2 (Sarah) challenged me with her strength of voice, of will, of personality.  I think she was one of those “spirited children.” But since my first two kids were born seventeen months apart, there were a number of years when I didn’t get past the first chapter of my books — so I never benefited from much of Mary Sheedy Kurchina’s advice. I did, however, enjoy re-visiting classics from my own childhood: Goodnight Moon, Ferdinand the Bull and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

 

 

Now she’s nearly grown.  Not much left for me to do but be her friend, occasional mentor and guide, and forever biggest fan. Happy Birthday, Sarah!  I love you!

 

 

Bring back the joy!

There’s a sign I drive by most weeks, usually on my way to play tennis.  Although it stands outside a car repair shop, it reminds me of a resolution I made when my tendency to self-judge was sucking the fun out of my chosen sport.  I decided, in short, to bring back the joy.

Before choosing to look for joy in tennis, I thought what would bring me pleasure was playing better, so I focused on that alone.  I took lessons, watched videos, read books, kept track of wins and losses.  And guess what?  I didn’t play better, and I didn’t enjoy myself.

Step back, and it’s obvious.  A recreational activity like tennis should be enjoyable – if not, what’s the point?  But it’s easy, especially for us women who’ve given up careers and are looking for a way to evaluate “productivity” outside of making school lunches and coordinating book fairs, to take something we do for fun and start to measure our progress.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  But I let it go too far – I lost perspective.  I lost the joy.

No more.  I’m taking practical steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  To start, I remind myself constantly: “bring back the joy.”  It’s one of the things I say to myself during matches.  Or I ask myself on tough points, “Are we having fun?”  Because whether I win or lose the point, I want to enjoy playing it, and not “having fun” usually means tightening up and playing worse anyway.

Here’s another one, but it’s a bit touchy.  These days I avoid playing with people whose styles don’t match up well with mine.  Many times, it means I try not to partner with women who are more serious and intent on winning.  It’s not that I don’t care about winning – but if I concentrate on the score too much, or think about whether I’m living up to my partner’s expectations for me, I start making more mistakes. I feel bad about playing poorly, so I play worse – it’s a downward spiral.  My progress is slow, but I’m learning to put negative thoughts aside, stay loose and have a good time.  This helps me play better.

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