Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Every Child Should Have A Chance to Play

If your family is anything like ours, each season comes with the promise of a new sport and excitement from our boys. They dream of touchdowns, 3 point shots and home runs. And even though we complain to each other about how much new cleats cost (cause let's face it, kids grow so fast that last season's not only don't fit but have been worn to hell) , there is never any question that each season they will step on the field with all the gear they need to play their best and look super cool to boot.

Most sports guarantee each child equal playing time or a minimum number of plays until they reach a certain age. But what I never thought about, until the other night, was that not all kids are guaranteed a right to play in the first place. Let me explain...

The other evening, my ten year old decided he had been sick long enough and wanted to go for a run. Now, as his mom, I knew better. So instead of heading out on a path where we he would be too tired to make it home, we decided to head to the park by our house where he can run the track until he is tired. Of course, his energy only lasted for about 10 minutes. But the two year old had already caught site of the playground, so we headed over.

While I was busy chasing a two year old who thinks he can leap mountains in a single bound, my husband struck up with conversation with a 12 year old boy. He was wearing a New England Patriots jersey and confided in my husband that his dream, all he ever wanted, was to play in the NFL. But, he also confided, that he had never played a day in life. Being the infamous Couch Pete, my husband told him all about the American Youth Football program that practiced in that very same park and how much he would love it. The boy looked at him and told him he couldn't play because he didn't have any money (heart strings pulling....). Not missing a beat, Coach Pete told him they offered scholarships to make sure everyone had a chance to play. The boy went on to say, "We have no money. What about the pads or the pants?" And while it is true that the organization does provide most of what the kids need to play, there are some additional expenses such as cleats or mouth guards, expenses that most of us "soccer moms" don't think too much about. But apparently, for a child like the one is the park, it is everything. 

As we walked home that night, my husband and I started talking about all the kids who never even think about playing sports because they know that there just isn't any money to pay the registration fees or buy the equipment they need. Not to mention that sometimes their parents are so busy trying to make ends meet that there would be no way for the kids to get to practice or games. That is when we decided that we needed to do something about it. We started talking about setting up a Youth Sports Foundation and working with local companies to make sure that all kids, no matter the financial circumstances, have the same opportunities.

Aside from the physical activity that sports offers children, there are numerous other benefits that sports can offer children that can honestly change their lives. Kids involved in sports are less likely to take drugs or smoke because they realize the impact that these destructive activities can have upon their performance. Girls who play sports are also less likely to become pregnant. Sports help develop teamwork and leadership skills. Kids quickly learn that they have to work together as a team to win the game. Sports help kids develop discipline. They learn to set goals and then work to achieve those goals. They learn that by working hard they can accomplish the things that they want to in their lives.When kids play sports, they quickly learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. They learn to be a good sport in both situations. It also helps them learn to deal with disappointment and go on. Sports help develop teamwork and leadership skills. Kids quickly learn that they have to work together as a team to win the game. Motor skills, strategic thinking, and even math skills are learned by playing sports. Students develop strategic thinking as they figure out plays and the best way to get around a player or score a goal. I could go on and on...

I know personally, when my boys are involved in sports they are better behaved and in general much happier than between seasons. Sports give your children a place to belong and a positive path to follow. While we were driving the other day, we noticed some teenagers who most definitely hadn't taken the "positive" path. I turned to my husband and said that its too bad we hadn't been able to help them ten year ago. And I think I also said something corny like, "sports can save lives." But I honestly believe it's true.

Coach Pete and I are working on starting a Youth Sports Foundation to assist less fortunate children participate in sporting organizations. If you are interested in helping or volunteering, please let us know through the comments. We are also trying to organize a new/used sports equipment drive and will post dates and times you can donate when we have them. Thanks for reading....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happily Ever After, Thoughts on Mother's Day

As a child, I wanted two things. I wanted to live happily ever after and to be a mother. I am not sure who to blame more, Mother Nature or Hollywood. Either way, it seems my destiny was determined for me at a very young age. I dreamed about being a princess. I dressed up like a princess. In fact, I will never forget begging my mother for a bride's dress each year they put out the First Communion dresses. Why she never bought me one I have no idea (mom?). And when I wasn't planning my fairytale wedding, I was dressing my dolls and taking them for a walk. Somehow I always knew that I would be happiest in my 30s. After all, I would be happily married with two kids and a white picket fence. 

Fast forward to Mother's Day 2010. I am in my 30s. I am happily married. I have four boys (of course I was sure I would have a little princess of my own by now ) and a beautiful house (no picket fence but you can't have it all). So I guess I have the basics covered. What Hollywood never told me was what happened after Happily Ever After. No one ever warned me that Prince Charming wasn't always charming, or that the sweet princess wouldn't always be so ladylike for that matter. There were no fights in my fairy tales, no arguing over money or holidays or children. And being a mom in my make believe world never included dirty diapers, the terrible twos or endless sleepless nights.

I think my problem is that I am eternal optimist and a hopeless romantic. I always have these glorious ideas of how things should be. When I plan a family outing, I imagine a beautiful day where all the kids have fun and everyone gets along. I will take lots of great pictures that I will of course post on Facebook like everyone else. And then everyone will see how happy my family is. Why do I think this you ask? I have no idea! It's not like it usually happens that way, quite the opposite. But I just can't help but hope. Some how I am transported back to my land of make believe. 

Unfortunately for me, I do the same thing with Mother's Day. I envision a day where I am the princess. I get to sleep late and do whatever I want all day. I will be waited on and I won't have to do any housework. And at the same time, my house will be clean, the laundry will be done and I can sit in peace and catch up on Twilight. Now talk about a fairy tale! For some reason, my two year old thinks we should be stuck together with velcro and my 9 year old has a terrible stomach flu and calls me upstairs every five minutes. On top of that, my husband has to work in the evening so even our dinner plans have to be canceled. 

I am disillusioned by about 1 pm and acting very much like a little girl who didn't get what she wanted for her birthday. And the worst part is that my husband thinks I am nuts. And maybe I am, just a little. But I guess in my own little world, I want one day where I am appreciated and worshiped (two if you count my birthday cause lets face it, if I had never been born they wouldn't be here either). 

And so I end another Mother's Day. And I am truly happy to be a mother, blessed really. My children mean the world to  me. They make me laugh and keep my life interesting. And I also blessed to have my husband, who is great husband and father (even if he doesn't recognize my royalty). In my own mind I am a princess, a queen really. And maybe next year I will have my Happily Ever After.