Living Through your Kids

I had the most fun last Saturday than I have had in a while.  And get this, the fun was not wine-induced, nor was it with my friends, nor was it on a romantic date night with my man. It was at my little guys’ flag football game. Let me just say that if you have not yet entered the foray of watching youth sports, especially when it involves your own kids, you are in for a treat. There are kids cracking up and misbehaving, kids running the wrong way, high- fiving and back-slapping, kids doing the end-zone boogie, and kids who are standing in the middle of the field during a play having absolutely no idea what to do.

This is not our first season, but it is the first time both kids were excited for weeks beforehand, and it is the first time they both had great games on the same day. The league we are in emphasizes nine core principles, one each week. Some of these include responsibility, teamwork, sportsmanship, etc. The coaches highlight these traits during the week and, at the end of the game, the kids vote on which player they think best demonstrated the core characteristic. I like this and I really think it speaks to the integrity of the program.

My youngest pulled lots of flags, ran hard, and on the second to last play of the game, ran for a touchdown. I looked behind me where my older boy was practicing and saw him cheer for his little brother’s play. I then watched as my little redhead ran through the parent tunnel and gave me a special high five and a hug. He was so proud to finally be able to share in his own accomplishments, not under the shadow of big brother. Next up was my older son’s game. He is at an age where he is really into it. As the time grew closer to his game, I noticed his face changing, growing more serene and steady. I saw his steely focus and thought, “Wait a second, that looks familiar….he is getting his game face on!” Normally, he is the first one to crack a joke and have a giggle, but as the clock ticked down there was none of that. He looked up to find where I was sitting and I gave him the “thumbs up.” Game on, peeps.

He ran for two touchdowns and threw for one. He huslted and brought it, every play. He also pulled lots of flags and deflected a few passes. I wanted to jump out of my chair and run down to the field, grab him in my arms and swing him around. Somehow, I restrained myself and just gave him a smile and a thumbs up. It was HARD not to wig out, purely out of joy and excitement for him. I was a proud mama.  You know what made me the most proud though? When I saw my youngest hand back the flag he pulled to its owner, when I saw my oldest pause and crouch down in concern for a fallen teammate, when I saw them both listening to their coaches and cheering on their teammates for plays well made. That’s the good stuff.

But here’s the thing, be it touchdowns or the drums, a well-written essay, or getting into a great college,  I want my kids to have their own spotlight, without me trying to share it or in any way take credit for it. I want them to bask and sit and bathe in what they have done–and when and if they want me to share it, they can bring me in….but I always want to remember that it is about them. I lived and am living my life; I got to make the choices (right or wrong) that seemed right for me at the time, and I want them to follow suit. It’s tricky stuff, letting them make mistakes and learning from them, or letting them make decisions that I don’t necessarily want them to make because it isn’t what I want for them. I do know, though, that I must let them do these things if I want their love and respect forever. If they trust that I truly want for them what they do, and what makes their hearts shine, then I believe they will seek my advice and wisdom (if I have any) when they need it.

Those touchdowns though; inside I was screaming and jumping and acting like a maniac. Just saying.

Raising your kids in a “sports family”

 

Sports are important in our family. One can tell how important by seeing our cars with our respective schools on the plates or the basement painted in my husband’s alma mater’s colors of maroon and gold, complete with Boston College logos on the wall.Of course, the other side of the basement is “my side” with Gator orange and blue accessories.

 

I was raised in a sports family and some of my fondest memories are summers spent in the pool for swim team or at Bollettieri tennis camp in Bradenton, FL. My parents always raised me to value being part of a team, whether it was the softball team in high school or the equestrian team for the University of Florida. My husband also has a sports background, having grown up running track and playing basketball.

You can find us on any given Saturday in the fall at a college football game, in the winter it’s basketball and during the summer we are on the golf course or tennis courts.

I believe sports instilled the principles of teamwork, hard work and dedication in our foundations. We are raising our son with these same values and hope he has a love of sports like we do. I can’t wait to see what he will love as an older child and adult. One of his first words was ball (pronounce ba-all) and he can spend hours throwing and chasing down the ball for himself. I am counting down the days until he can enroll in tee ball, tennis or golf. I can’t wait to be a true soccer mom! Until then, the weekly swim lessons will have to tide me over.

I hope that being involved in sports while growing up will teach him the importance of teamwork and give him the self-confidence he needs to reach his goals in life.Some people have asked us what we would do if our son hated sports and chose   another activity completely unrelated to sports. My answer is always “completely support him!” If it made my son happy to sing in the glee club or be a Thespian instead of quarterback, good for him! I can guarantee you my husband and I would be in the audience for every performance, you’ll be able to spot us wearing the BC and UF gear.

I’d love to hear what you do to help instill your family’s core values in your children, please leave a comment letting us and the other readers know!

Keeping Our Kids Safe

As a Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in Neurological Rehabilitation, most of my days are consumed with assessing and treating teens and adults that have been affected by brain injuries. Although brain injury can take many forms, one of the most common types is TBI, or Traumatic Brain Injury. A TBI is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts normal function of the brain. Symptoms include headaches, motor dysfunctions, sensory changes, attention and concentration difficulties, loss of memory, word-finding and fluency issues, among others. Not so fun, huh? How do we keep our kids safe?

Annually there are 500,000 admissions to hospitals due to brain injury. 200 per 100,000 people are affected. The most popular occurrence is among pre-school age children and 15-25 year olds, with falls dominating the younger range and motor vehicle and sports related injuries dominating the teen and young adult ages.

For the pre-school aged child, it is important to follow all car seat safety regulations without fail. These vary from state to state, so check your state laws to keep your kids safe. Ironically, some of these accidents happen outside of the car when kids are not buckled properly into their seats, and then when picked up, fall out. Although personally embarrassing to admit, I had my child strapped into a vibrating chair watching me cook once when the chair vibrated right off the counter. Another child rolled off the middle of my bed while I was standing right next to it trying to change. Thankfully, both were safe and head injury free. However, these are some common pitfalls.  Also try to avoid sharp corners on tables or exposed edges when those little ones are learning to walk. If possible, keep them in a carpeted area during the “new walker” stage. Your kids will fall down and hit their heads. I am not sure how many little raspberries I saw on my boys, but there were plenty. Unless the crying ceases to stop and you notice other changes, they are most likely fine. If you do fear a concussion, contact your pediatrician.

From the ages of three to seven, kids move on to scooters, bikes and more. A helmet should be worn at all times while engaging in these activities. Furthermore, it is important to make your kids aware of local traffic laws. Biking always occurs with traffic, and at this age, preferably on the sidewalk. As they get older, and the bikes get bigger and more advanced, the bike lane is probably most suitable. One common occurrence during our family bike rides is that cars usually fail to see bikes when they are backing out of driveways. So, if your kids are biking on the sidewalk, it is important to talk to them about running cars and noticing brake lights.

On to the teenage years. Of course head injuries from MVA’s (Motor Vehicle Accidents) are quite common and lead in statistics. Always, always, encourage them to wear their seat belts. However, even more disturbing is the increase in sports related head injuries, which account for 21% of all TBIs. Why is the incidence increasing and what can we do about it? Well, one reason is that sports are starting younger and younger and are much more serious than when I was growing up. Tackle football at 8? Club soccer starting at 7? Repeated jolts to the head over time in both of these sports can lead to serious problems.

The American Football Association created a task force to decrease head down contact. Apparently, our helmets have become so padded and feel so safe that kids are often leading into tackles with their head, and repeatedly over time, this can have serious ramifications. At the high school level, 10-15% of athletes sustain concussions and only a fraction of those are receiving proper treatment. Just now, more rules are being made regarding pre and post season physical and cognitive exams to help determine if there is a concussive syndrome that has lead to a mild TBI. Just last week I saw a college athlete in my office from a division II school that had been playing tackle football since he was 8. Again, he has not even gone pro yet and is exhibiting memory loss,  attention and concentration and headaches. He is constantly fatigued and struggling in school.

One common injury in soccer occurs with repeated “heading” of the ball. Sixty percent of college level soccer players reported symptoms of concussion during a single season. There have been some head gears that have been developed to help alleviate this problem, but as of yet, all have been claimed ineffective.

Despite my career, I am not a worrier by nature and encourage my kids to be as physically active as possible. However, I would encourage all parents to think long and hard about at what age and what intensity our kids should be involved in these sports. I have two boys, and we love sports in our house. So I do what I can do to prevent some injuries (i.e. helmets and seat belts), and we have made the decision (despite some protests) not to start tackle football until at least the junior high years. It’s flag until then. Every family is different and certainly starting these sports at an early age does not guarantee a head injury. This is what feels right for us; so do what you can to keep your kids safe and do what feels right for you.

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