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For a lot of us in the parenting way, one of our New Year’s resolutions — inspired by a few weeks off from getting kids up in the morning for school — is to “take back” our lives, much like the Tea Party wants to “take back” America. We Tea Party Parents want to hearken back to a simpler time, before schedules, before burning the candle at both ends. Basically, before we had children. Like the Tea Party itself, we Tea Party Parents probably aren’t going to be successful at turning back the clock (or cutting spending, either), but, hey, no sense not trying to talk a good game!
On the site Lifetimemoms.com, run by the Lifetime cable network (during the Christmas season, is the site called Fa-La-La-La-Lifetimemoms.com?), Dawn Sandomeno of Partybluprintsblog takes time off from posts like “Rae’s Ultimate Eggplant Sandwich!” (if yours is better, you’d better put two fucking exclamation points on it) to describe herself as a Lifetime woman in peril, although the culprit is her kids’ sports schedule, rather than a fiendish man who seemed OK at the start but turned out to be danger.
This post stars Joanna Kerns. Or maybe Judith Light.
What’s crazy is that the problem is also what’s good for my kids: Youth Sports. For me, it’s three boys who play ice hockey, but it could be baseball, soccer, dance, lacrosse, or any other activity these days. Youth sports have gone off the deep end and to what end, I’m not sure. Mind you, I’m not against them, quite the opposite – I love that my boys are physically fit because of sports, have learned team play, and are developing great leadership and time management skills. However, there are no boundaries anymore. I was actually at an ice rink for a game on Easter Sunday and missed Thanksgiving with my family so we could play in a tournament in another city. Each youth sport is now a 9 – 12 month commitment and it’s not just time, it‘s money, lots of money! Practices, lessons, games, clinics, camps, it turns out to be 7 days a week – God rested on Sunday, why can’t I?
So, I will need to be strong and committed to this challenge, the pressure can be strong from organizations and clubs, not to mention my own kids. I want and need this change to happen. I’m determined to succeed and I truly hope to take some time back by being brave and saying no to the extras. I want to show my children that family time is important.
That’s all well and good, but a Tea Party Parent is going to fail cutting a few extras like, say, education. But you’re not going to reduce your family deficit by cutting a few extras here and there. The only solution is a radical one — eliminate activities altogether.
After all, it’s not like the sports organizations are going to say, “Oh, you want more family time? Please, take all the time you need!” It’s more like, “Oh, you want your kid home? I’ll tell you what: he can leave the team and BE HOME ALL THE FUCKING TIME!” So you have to decide as a parent, what do you want to do?
The rule in my family is that if you, as a child, love the activity — as in, we don’t have to drag your ass there, or tell you to practice — you can do it to your heart’s content. If you only kind of like it, then it’s on the bubble. I’ve got four kids. My wife and I don’t have the time or energy to schlep them around to stuff they only kind of like, whether or not our rationale is wanting to spend more time with them.
So Dawn Sandomeno should ask her kids whether they love playing hockey. If they do, then she IS getting her family time. If not, then she can cut off the sport like a Tea Party candidate wants to cut off spending on everything but the military.
Swampscott, Mass., is an affluent community of 15,000 in Boston’s North Shore suburbs. It has had a notable drug problem, with 17 overdose deaths in the last few years among those in their teens and 20s, and numerous others not dead but apparently carrying on the message Swampscott natives Fran Sheehan and Barry Goudreau endorsed on the Boston song “Smokin’.”
Bad influences. Bad!
A new principal, Layne Millington, came to Swampscott High, and he decided, after seeing a “huge number of incidents landing on my desk involving drugs and alcohol,” that it was time to frog-march parents in for a meaning to shake them by their collective lapels and slap them upside their collective heads to make them aware of the problem. He did this with the superintendent’s support. From the Salem News:
Asked about reports that drugs are “all over the high school,” Superintendent Lynne Celli replied simply, “They are.”
Recently, Millington’s approach included a surprise appearance by search dogs at the high school — he was heartened by how little contraband they found.
Ah, hell, let’s just go with the superintendent.
So Millington scheduled a meeting for Jan. 10, then browbeat parents into showing up by telling them their children that they (the kids) could not participate in any after-school activities, including sports, if they (the parents) didn’t show up.
Now, he hopes to form “a partnership with the parents, who are really the kids’ first teachers.” To do that, he sees the need for a meeting that carefully spells out the entire effort and the parents’ role in it.
In the past, Millington said, the announcement of such a meeting would draw only a handful of people. His decision to call a “mandatory meeting” won unanimous approval from the superintendent and the School Committee.
There are a lot of parents upset over this. Actually, the only one who appears to be speaking — or being asked — is Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader, who appeared in the Salem News and on local Boston television as a “concerned parent.” Because in the news, a parent “speaking out” is always a “concerned parent.” From the Salem News:
“The school has no legal right to compel parents to do anything,” said Judith Brooks, the mother of a ninth-grader [dang it, I mentioned that already]. Acknowledging the concerns of school officials, she expressed the need to be “treated like adults” and added, “We’re not under their thumb.”
As the hippie basketball player in Greensburg, Ind., may well learn, schools get to do all sorts of dastardly things, like make you cut your hair or send your parents to an anti-drug meeting, to let you play sports. So the parents of Swampscott, who either don’t give a shit or feel like it’s not their problem, are stuck.
Except that Millington might not have needed to be so drastic. From a 2009 article in the Swampscott Reporter:
The Swampscott Drug and Alcohol Task Force was pleasantly surprised when the Little Theater at the Middle School filled with parents that night in the first of two sessions planned to educate parents about the real problems in Swampscott.
So maybe they DO give a shit — even if their children’s sports are at stake! Maybe not enough to actually solve Swampscott’s drug problem, but maybe enough that they don’t have to be frog-marched to school on a single night during which they might have a legitimate conflict.
Alas, in his zeal, Layne Millington might have done more harm than good in his relations with the parents at large. Next time, he should propose a webinar. It is an affluent community after all; presumably they have computers.
A figure in one of the most notorious cases of school sports hazing in recent memory — and his family — were counseled by their attorneys to stay silent in the face of accusations of possible sexual crimes, intense media coverage and a backlash from some locals. After breaking their silence, the figure and his family proved their attorney provided wise counsel.
Scott Laskowski was one of four Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball players (now all graduated) who faced criminal charges following two separate hazing incidents, one on a team bus on the way back from a game, and one in the team locker room. Laskowski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to the locker room incident, though he was suspended from the team and expelled from classes. Laskowski is the son of former Indiana University basketball player and announcer John Laskowski, making him, by accident of birth, the most prominent of the four accused. (Two others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the locker room incident, while other charges have been dropped, and two players — not including Laskowski — are still going through the court system over the bus incident.)
I’ll save you the slog through a six-page story on The Indianapolis Star’s website to get to the meat (on page six):
When the Laskowskis finally decided to speak, they lashed out at the media and the school and the accuser. They said their son is the real victim. The school took one student’s word against their son’s. His accuser — whose family plans a $2.25 million lawsuit against the school district — is in it for the money. And the media excess was motivated by greed.
My response: boo fucking hoo.
I’ll give the Laskowskis that having stalkers (including one person arrested for doing so) posting “a sex offender lives here” signs on their lawn and following them through the streets of Carmel was way over the top, and I don’t blame the family for moving 65 miles south to Bloomington to get away from it.
But, for Christ’s sake, when you have a victim who is reported to have had various objects shoved up his anus, you don’t go around proclaiming yourself or your golden boy as “the real victim.” There is no way to come out of that unscathed.
The story dwells on all the information that wasn’t released because of laws governing school privacy and grand-jury testimony. (It’s nice to see that the Laskowskis and those sympathetic with the victim can agree on one thing — that the school totally mishandled the situation.) But it doesn’t shed a lot of light on what Laskowski did or saw.
His guilty plea came for, as he put it, holding the ankles of a victim attacked in the locker room, and he denies doing anything on the bus. OK, we’ll take him at his word. So what did Laskowski see on the infamous bus ride? Did he see something happen? Are the others guilty? Is the victim making this up? In six pages, either Scott Laskowski wasn’t asked, or the interview was conditioned on the reporter not asking. Or, given the Laskowski family’s self-absorption, at least as it came across in the story, nobody knows or cares.
It happens to many independent blogs — the sudden lull. In my case, my break was enforced by a busier real-job schedule, a busier kid schedule, and preparations for (and the actual taking of) a driving family vacation to Florida. If you have any children, much less the four I cart around, you’ll know that preparing for a family vacation is as intricate and difficult as Napoleon planning an attack of Russia, with similar horrible consequences if such preparation is not sufficient.
We did not go to Florida because one or all of our children had some event or tournament. Radical in some circles, we took an actual vacation just because we wanted to go somewhere. The closest any of my kids, so far, have gotten to travel sports is my 11-year-old daughter playing softball in the southwest Chicago suburbs over the summer. She didn’t care for it, so next July is free! So, all youth event shackles off, we could go to Orlando, Fla., with tourist stops in Atlanta on the way south and Birmingham, Ala., back north, for 10 days, staying in a rented house (which you can get much cheaper than a hotel these days, thanks to the lousy Florida economy) instead of having wondrous pre-winter weekends in Fort Wayne or Rockford crammed into a Ramada, waiting for the next game to start. I mean, those are lovely towns and all; I used to live in Fort Wayne, and my mother was born in Rockford. But I don’t think it’s 80 degrees in November there. (Not yet. Give global warming time.)
Now, I make the point about not having an event in Orlando because so many families who go there do — a tournament, mom or dad’s convention (we did that once with my oldest when he was a baby), a dying grandmother you need to butter up to ensure a prominent place in the will. And when we went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we saw it was thick with girls competing in something called “Miss American Coed.”
How do I know this was going on? These girls, in town for the first day of a six-day extravaganza of going back to 1954, which I presume they were doing because of the retrograde use of “coed,” wore their tiaras and sashes the whole day, including when the tiniest contestants fell asleep in their umbrella strollers. I would have taken pictures to show you, except that a 40-year-old man taking candid shots of preteen girls he does not know tends to be looked upon as a bit of creep.
I learned a long time ago not to feel smug about sports as an activity and obsession compared with other pursuits, because the difference between parents and kids who go over the top about sports, and parents and kids who go over the top about pageants, is minimal. Plus, in both you get perverts attracted to the flower of budding childhood for all the wrong reasons.
As a matter of fact, I thought of intense travel sports parents when I saw the budding Miss American Coeds at Disney, because the girls looked like a lot of the girls my 11-year-old played travel softball with and against — as in, they looked like they weren’t enjoying themselves very much.
I’m coming to this conclusion from casual glances, because, again, a 40-year-old man staring too long at preteen girls he does not know tends to be looked upon as a bit of a creep. But I’m thinking of one preteen in particular when we were in line for lunch. My 11-year-old daughter, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, was feeling free, grabbing the bars that marked the lines and swinging away like a monkey-in-training. Meanwhile, Miss American Coed in line was stuck wearing her pageant outfit, all without the little-girl pleasure of hanging out at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and pretending to be a Disney princess. The contestant, alone with her parents, looked at my daughter with what I detected was a bit of envy, that maybe she could be an 11-year-old, too, and swing on the lunch counter bars.
Like the stereotype of the sports parents who push hard to make up for their own childhood failures, every pageant family I saw had this makeup: attractive daughter, unattractive parents. Perhaps the parents were into this because, blessed with the luck of having a daughter not as hideous as they were, they wanted to take advantage. Or maybe the parents were attractive at one time, maybe even had pageant lives themselves, until THE GODDAMN KIDS DID THIS TO ME.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. All I know is, everywhere we saw these girls, and everywhere they looked like they were celebrating Opposite Day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Sure, a lot of little girls were dressed as princesses, and didn’t look terribly comfortable being Cinderella in 80-degree weather in a crowded amusement park. But those Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiquers did it because, presumably, they wanted to, and they could change if they wanted to. Not because they had to promote some stupid-ass contest and pose in front of grownup judges that, to me anyway, seem a little creepy for staring too long at 11-year-old girls they don’t know.
My wife and I have always told our children that we would be more than happen to support them in any activity or endeavor as long as they really wanted to do it. So if my daughters wanted to do pageants, we probably would say, OK. I’m sure that some of the Miss American Coeds I saw really, really wanted to be pageant queens, at least at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, because the thought of pageants makes me gag, my girls have not chosen this route. (Though they do choose activities I don’t always understand, which will be part two of my vacation diaries.) Anyway, I think my 5-year-old daughter has already shown me the meaning of being a true princess.
A true princess is not someone wearing a sash in a pageant. A true princess is one who, when confronted with a 45-minute line to see the Disney princesses she presumably came there to visit, declared the line too long and demanded to go somewhere more fun. That’s right — a real princess doesn’t spend 45 minutes in line waiting to see ANYBODY!
Israel President Shimon Peres and his counterpart with the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in separate visits to Brazil came away impressed that Jews and Arabs in that country seemed to be able to interact without checkpoints and rocks. When the president of Brazil’s Olympic Committee visited Israel recently to chat with Peres about the 2016 Rio de Janiero games, Peres’ memories of harmony got him to thinking that maybe sports would be a great way to build some Brazil-style peace in his country.
Peres proposed that Brazil host joint Israeli/Palestinian youth teams at various of the year, because sport is a great equalizer. He did not suggest a joint Olympic team, although he was pleased that Jews and Arabs are serving together on Brazil’s Olympic Committee. The Peres Peace Center which has demonstrated that sport is a means of breaking down psychological and political barriers, has sponsored such teams of youngsters in games in Israel and abroad. The President’s proposal may gain support as there are both Jews and Arabs on the Brazil Olympic Committee.
Actually, I’m not sure that Peres has to take a joint Israeli-Palestinian team all the way to Brazil to ease relations between the two sides. If joint leagues start in Israel and Palestine, there might be tension at first, but soon enough both sides will stop fighting each other as they unite around their shared interest — doing something about that fucking coach.
Are you an early riser on Saturday or someone who likes to relax with a little radio Sunday night? Then you can hear me on Mickey Hiter’s “Athletes Parents Show” on WLAC 1510 AM in Nashville at 5 a.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday. WLAC has a strong night signal that I can pick up on my car in Chicago. But you can listen to a stream on the site here, as well, if you happen not to be in my car.