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Crossroads, Chapter 2

On July 2, 2017, I made the decision to stop drinking. I wanted to share the story of how I came to this decision. In order to do that, I needed to go back to the beginning. If you missed those posts, you can catch up here:

Chapter 1        

 

Chapter 2

My brother began chemo and radiation treatments shortly after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He would go into remission only to relapse a short time later. This happened more than once.

Eventually he  reached the point where the chemo wasn’t working at all, and there was one final option left.

A bone marrow transplant.

It was a Hail Mary.

If it worked, it would save his life.

If it didn’t, he would die.

At the time, I was a sophomore in high school. The bone marrow transplant would be done  across the country in Seattle, Washington.

We lived in a really wealthy town in Fairfield County, Connecticut.  The two acres my parents built our house on was a gift from my great grandparents. My great grandfather had a farm back in the day, and the property he gave my mom and dad was part of what  had once been the apple orchard.

So for $30,000, my dad built our house from a kit with the help of my uncles in 1974. It was a small, three bedroom, 1  1/2 bath house.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad was a mechanic.

It was next to impossible to afford to live in the town I grew up in on my father’s salary.

But my parents were frugal and good with their money, and with the generous  gift from my great grandparents, they managed to make it work.

But they did not have the money to go to Seattle for my brother’s bone marrow transplant.

He’d need to be there for about four months. My mom, understandably, did not want to go across the country alone with my brother.  But there was no way my dad could afford to stop working for four months.

Nowadays, a GoFundMe campaign would have been started. But back in 1984, there was no GoFundMe.

There wasn’t even an internet yet.

That didn’t stop my parents’ friends and family. They rallied together and organized a fundraiser for my brother. It would be a night of fun. Dinner. Raffles. Auctions.  They were gonna do everything they could to raise enough money for both of my parents to be able to make the trip to Seattle together.

It was kind of a big deal for my family. I was fifteen at the time. My younger brother was thirteen. I remember being so excited.

Until my parents told me they weren’t letting us go to the fundraiser.

My younger brother and I would stay home and babysit my baby brother.

Thirty-five years later, I am not knocking my parents. I know they had their reasons for not allowing me to go. And who knows what the fuck I would do if I were in their shoes. I can’t even imagine.

But I was crushed. I was sad.

And I was really fucking mad.

All of my relatives would be there. My cousin, who was one of my best friends and only two years older than I am would be there with her boyfriend.

I did not understand why I couldn’t be there. Why I couldn’t be a part of it. Why I wasn’t included.

My great grandmother lived right through the woods behind our house on part of what used to be the farm she and my great grandfather had. It was probably 100 yards from our back door to her front door.

A few months earlier, she had gone into a nursing home. Her house was up for sale, but nobody had made any offers yet.

And so, on the night of the fundraiser, as soon as my parents left the house, I did what any level-headed kid would do.

I had a party at my great grandmother’s house.

 

I’m not sure how I managed to make it happen, but my friends bought food and beer and we got drunk at great grandms’s. We smoked on the front porch and riddled her yard with cigarette butts.  

I left my thirteen-year-old brother at home with my baby brother with instructions to come up to Nanny’s house if anything should happen.

At one point my baby brother woke up. His name was Christopher.

My younger brother, Eric, got a hold of me.

I ran home through the woods.

I got Christopher out of his crib, sat in the rocking chair with him, and rocked him until he fell back asleep.

I don’t remember most of the things that happened during this time in my life, but I remember those thirty minutes as clear as day.

Once I got Christopher back into bed, I hurried back to Nanny’s house. The rest of the night is fuzzy except for a couple moments.

I remember dancing to Rick James’s Superfreak on the flagstone floor in the breezeway.

And I remember ending up in the driveway in the back of a Jeep making out with Sam, the same guy who had given me my first completely unromantic kiss in the leaves behind a stone wall a few weeks earlier.

And while we were out there, out of nowhere, two people in fancy clothes banged on the window and scared the crap out of us.

Holy shit. My parents!

Sam and I bolted straight up and then he hesitantly opened the door of the Jeep.

It was late and dark out so we couldn’t really see much.

But boy were we relieved when we realized it was my cousin and her boyfriend standing there. They had left the fundraiser a little early.

And they were pretty impressed with my ballsiness. (Is that a word?)

I won’t lie.

Being the bad girl, the rebel, the hey-mom-and-dad-I’ll-teach-you-to-leave-me-stuck-at-home-kid was a major rush.

My dumbfounded but impressed cousin and her boyfriend helped me to get the party cleaned up as my parents were going to be home before too long.

We got everybody out and got the place cleaned up, and I was in my bed before my parents got home.

They never knew anything.

At least I thought they didn’t.

It would be a couple weeks later when I would retroactively get busted for having a rager at my great grandmother’s house.

But it didn’t really matter.

I had discovered alcohol, for the first time ever I officially had a boyfriend and I was no longer a good girl.

All this helped me forget what was going on with my brother, and it helped me give a big finger to my parents.

And I didn’t have plans to stop doing any of it any time soon.

 

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Five Things Parents Of Athletes Should Stop (or Start) Doing

Gymboree Sale On Now!

 

I have been involved in the sport of swimming since I was ten years old.

I swam for a small club team when I started, moved to a very competitive Y team in middle school, swam varsity all four years of high school, and swam for a Division I team in college where I was captain my junior and senior years.

Once I graduated from college, I transitioned to the other side of swimming and started coaching.

I  have coached every age of swimmer, from kindergarten through college. I’ve coached USS teams, Y teams, country club teams and Special Olympic teams.

I am presently the head developmental coach of a swim team that four of my kids also swim for. As the head developmental coach, I currently work with kids who range in age from five years old to eleven years old.

I coach kids who are brand new to swimming and kids who are the number one in the state.  I also coach three of my own children.

When my kids joined the swim team, I entered the third arena of swimming. Being a swimming parent.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of just being a swimming parent. This is not an opportunity I often have as I’m usually on the deck coaching while my kids are swimming.

It was a very welcomed change to be able to simply sit in the stands, just be a mom, and focus only on my daughter.

But as I sat in the stands, I overheard a mother talking about her son, who is ten years old. The same age as my daughter.

And after he had a swim where he didn’t swim a best time, where he didn’t place as high as she thought he should have, where he didn’t perform to the level she believed he should have, she said to the woman sitting next to her, I am going to rip him to shreds when we get home.

She wasn’t kidding.

It was disturbing.

Not as disturbing as what I overheard another parent saying three weeks ago at a different swim meet as he was exiting the building.

I heard a father tell his very distraught daughter, who was probably around 12 years old and who apparently hadn’t swum as well as she wanted to that day, I am pulling you off the swim team this summer. He later said to his daughter,  You swam so bad you might as well kill yourself.

I know.

What the f*ck.

You may think these are extreme and isolated incidents, but they aren’t.

Trust me. I get it. It is easy as a parent and as a coach to get wrapped up in the performance of your kid. I can see where you want to focus on times, places, overall finishes, medals, etc. You want your kid to be the best. You want your kid to be in the starting lineup. You want him to have as much (or more) playing time than everyone else.

But that isn’t why your kids are involved in sports.

Sure, that’s part of it. Everyone wants to be good. Everyone likes to win. Everyone loves to get a medal or a trophy or set a record.

But the most basic reason your kids participate in a sport is because it’s fun.

The definition of fun may evolve over time.

At first, fun equals playing games. Scrimmaging. Nothing too intense.

Along the way early on, while your kids are having fun, they learn some lessons. They develop skills and become stronger without even realizing it.

And they make friends. Friends who they look forward to seeing every day or every weekend.  They become part of a team. They have a sense of belonging and significance, something all human beings crave, no matter how fast or slow they are.

As your kids mature and develop, they learn to push themselves more. They realize that practicing helps them improve. They learn that by moving out of their comfort zone, they become stronger and better.

Now the fun isn’t just about playing. It’s about setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Practice becomes harder. But the results of your practice, playing well in a game or swimming fast in a meet is the fun part. So is working toward a bigger goal with your teammates.

It is on the coaching end of things that I’ve been able to rein myself in on the parenting end. A couple years ago, I was borderline psycho on the stands at Number 3’s baseball games. I was the loudest parent there. I was cheering loudly. But I was also being a backseat coach from the sidelines.

I was sure this was helping my son, but one day I asked him if he could hear me when he was pitching and his response was, “YES! And can you stop it? It’s REALLY annoying!!!”

I truly thought he welcomed my “input.”

But he didn’t. And I can only imagine how annoying I was to my son’s baseball coaches.

Something else occurred to me last week when Number 3 asked me a question while we were driving to swim practice.

He said to me, “Mom? What was  your best time in the 100 breaststroke when you were my age?”

And you know what? I have absolutely no idea. The more I thought about it, I couldn’t remember most of my times at any age, and I also didn’t really remember what place I came in at any of my meets. Even the big ones.

I think this is something many parents either never understand or at some point lose sight of.

In the big picture, the important thing isn’t what place you got or how fast you swam or whether or not your team won the championship.

Most teams never win the championship. The majority of swimmers never set a record or come in first place. Most players aren’t voted MVP and very very few go on to play any sport professionally.

If being the best and winning was the only reason anyone ever played a sport, there wouldn’t be too many people involved in athletics on any level!

As a former swimmer, I know from personal experience that challenging myself, setting goals and achieving (some of) them, realizing I was tougher than I thought I was, learning to move out of my comfort zone, making friends, laughing my butt off, and being a part of a team that almost literally became my family was what made swimming fun for me.

As a parent, I want my kids to be successful at whatever sport they participate in, but mostly I want them to have fun. The kind of fun I had when I was on the swim team.

As a coach I want the same thing. I want my swimmers to be successful. But more importantly, I also want to help them develop a lifelong love for the sport of swimming.

While the goals for a coach and a parent may be the same, the roles of a coach and a parent are different!

Your job as a parent is not to sit on the sidelines and direct or berate your kid. It is not your job to quiz your kid in the car and bark orders at him while you are on your way to practice.

What is your job as a parent?

1. Teach/encourage your child to take responsibility for him/herself. 

When your child is in the pool or on the field, it is up to him or her to pay attention, to focus, and to do the things his coach is asking him/her to do. If your kid is going to truly be successful in a sport, the drive/motivation/effort needs to be internal.

Stop packing your kids’ swim bags or baseball bags or whatever bags. They can do this! Even when they are five years old! When your kids are encouraged to take responsibility for their equipment/water bottles/etc, they are learning that all aspects of the sport are their responsibility.

I tell my swimmers all the time, I can tell you what to do, but I can’t get in the water and make you do it. You are  your biggest coach!

2. Stop trying to coach your kid. And relax.

Your kids’ coaches are the experts.

I see kids on the baseball field who make errors, and the first people they look at are their parents! NO! Look at your coach! When the inning or the race or the game is over, talk to your coach. Your coach will give you feedback to help you do better next time! That’s why he/she is there!

The same thing happens in the pool. There are children who, in practice, get to the wall and look directly over at their parents for guidance. Parents who have never ever been involved in any way in the sport of swimming before who are on the sitting on deck telling their kids how to move their arms.

It’s very frustrating.

And while these parents think they are helping their kids, they aren’t.

Neither is the mom who has spreadsheets and graphs at home of her kid’s swim times. (Yes, I met a mom who actually does that).

Trust your kids’ coaches, and let them do their job.

3. Don’t quiz your kid after practice or before a game.

There is only one question you ever need to ask your kids after a game: Did you have fun?

When dropping your kids off for practice, I know it may be tempting to fire off a bunch of directions at them. Keep your eye on the ball! Be aggressive! Work on your streamlines!

Just as you don’t want your spouse to nag you about things, your kids don’t want this from you either.

If you really can’t help yourself, ask this question: What is something you want to focus on today at practice? or What is something you think you did well at the game today?

This question helps your child to self-reflect and think about something he/she can do to play his/her best. And it helps your child learn to take ownership of his/her performance.

4. Let your kid fail.

YES. This is the most important thing of all.

Your kids will learn more about real life, more about being resilient, more about perseverance, more about sportsmanship and grace and humility, and more about themselves through failures than they will through constantly succeeding.

Failure isn’t unhealthy for your kids. But a parent who constantly tries to rescue them from it is.

I know it’s tough in the moment, but those moments don’t last forever, and your kids come out stronger, smarter and better for it on the other side.

5. Be present.

Put your phones down.  Watch your kids. Sure, pictures and videos are nice. But most of the time you bring your phone to a game or a meet, you end up doing something else on it. It distracts you.

And you know what your kids want the most when you are at their games and meets and practices?

They don’t want pictures or videos for you to put on Facebook. They definitely don’t want to look over in the bleachers and see you staring at your phone.

They want you to witness that home run first hand. Even if it isn’t a home run or anything spectacular, your kids want your attention and and they want your support.

And as their parent, that is the biggest gift you can give them.

 

 

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Birthday Party Guidelines For Your Child’s First Eighteen Years

1 year

Don’t have a party. Your kid won’t remember. And you will spend most of your time trying to keep him or her awake when it is nap time or bed time.

You don’t need to waste time making an Elmo cake from scratch or waste money on party decorations and food and booze for grown-ups. (Cause grown ups need booze to survive the one-year-old birthday party).

Instead, invite your closest relatives over and let your one-year-old smash his first taste of cake in his face, take some pictures, and post them on Facebook along with the obligatory “I can’t believe it’s been a year! Somebody slow time down!”

Take the money that you would have spent on the party and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

2 years 

Don’t have a party. Your kid won’t remember. And you will spend most of your time trying to keep him or her awake when it is nap time or bed time.

You don’t need to waste time making a princess cake from scratch or waste money on party decorations and food and booze for grown-ups. (Cause grown ups need booze to survive the two-year-old birthday party).

Invite your closest relatives over and let your two-year-old blow out the candles on her cake, then clap and make a big deal when she does it. After she completely just licks the top of the cake, watch her eat cake like a big girl with a fork , take some pictures, and post them on Facebook along with the obligatory “I can’t believe she’s two! Somebody slow time down!”

Take the money that you would have spent on the party and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

3 years

Don’t have a party. Your kid won’t remember.

You don’t need to waste time making a Thomas cake from scratch or waste money on party decorations and food and booze for grown-ups. (Cause grown ups need booze to survive the three-year-old birthday party).

Invite your closest relatives over and let your three-year-old blow out the candles on his cake, then clap and make a big deal when he does it, watch him eat cake like a big boy with a fork, take some pictures, and post them on Facebook along with the obligatory “I can’t believe he’s three! Somebody slow time down!”

Take the money that you would have spent on the party and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

4 years

DO NOT INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS TO A PARTY AT CHUCK  E. CHEESE.

Adhere to the general rule: your kid’s age +1.

Invite 5 friends to a really cheap place. Even better, hold the party somewhere that’s free. Like a playground.

Bring a picnic.

Let them play together and then eat some cake.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

Take the money that you would have spent on the big party for the whole class at Chuck E. Cheese and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

5 years

DO NOT INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS TO A PARTY AT CHUCK  E. CHEESE.

Explain to your child that a big party every year is not a requirement.

Invite your closest relatives over. Eat cake. Open presents. Post obligatory shit on Facebook and be done with it.

Take the money that you would have spent on the big party for the whole class at Chuck E. Cheese and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

6 years

DO NOT INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS TO A PARTY AT CHUCK  E. CHEESE.

Adhere to the general rule: your kid’s age +1.

Invite 7 friends to your house and make sure you let their parents know that they don’t need to hang around. In fact, tell them they must go spend that time alone doing something enjoyable, and that they should come back in two hours when the party is over.

Invite some twelve-year-olds over to run the party for the kids.

Play some cheap old fashioned crowd pleasers, like pin the tail on the donkey. Don’t worry about decorations because most 6-year-old kids don’t really give a crap about that.

Eat cake, open presents, blah blah blah.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

Take the money that you would have spent on the big party for the whole class at Chuck E. Cheese and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

7 years

DO NOT INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS TO A PARTY AT CHUCK  E. CHEESE.

Explain (again) to your child that a big party every year is not a requirement.

Invite your closest relatives over. Eat cake. Open presents. Post obligatory shit on Facebook and be done with it.

Take the money that you would have spent on the big party for the whole class at Chuck E. Cheese and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

8 years

DO NOT INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS TO A PARTY AT CHUCK  E. CHEESE.

Explain (again) to your child that a big party every year is not a requirement.

Explain to your child that you are going to have a birthday “experience” rather than a party.

Spend the afternoon or day, one-on-one with your child. Set a budget for the afternoon and stick to it.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

Take the money that you would have spent on the big party for the whole class at Chuck E. Cheese and instead put it into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

9 years

Same as 8 years.

10 years

Double digits. That’s a big deal.

Throw a party at the place of your child’s choosing (within reason).

By this age they should have at least outgrown fucking Chuck E. Cheese.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

11- 12 years

Birthday experience.

Set a budget. Let your child come up with the idea for what he or she would like to do with you.

Match the budget and put that amount of money into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

13- 15 years

Birthday experience.

Set a budget. Let your child come up with the idea for what he or she would like to do.

Allow your child to invite one or two friends to share in the experience with him or her.

Match the budget and put that amount of money into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

16 years

Throw a sweet sixteen party.

It will be special because your kid hasn’t had a ridiculous party every year for the past 15 years.

So it doesn’t need to be over the top.

Set a budget.

Match the budget and put that amount of money into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

17 years

Birthday experience.

Set a budget. Let your child come up with the idea for what he or she would like to do.

Allow your child to invite one or two friends to share in the experience with him or her.

Match the budget and put that amount of money into a college or car or house fund for your kid.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook.

18 years

Small party with relatives.

Present your child with a big ass check to pay for the first year of college or a car or a down payment on a house, made possible by your smart birthday decisions in the first 17 years.

Post obligatory shit on Facebook, along with pictures of the cake from year one captioned with Eighteen years. Where did the time go???,

bawl your brains out,

and cross your fingers as you watch them fly away from the nest.

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Hey Honey, don’t we have a son?

Every day there comes at least one moment when I would like to lock at least one of my kids in his or her room for an indefinite amount of time…

A couple days ago I read a story (http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/ohio-teen-collapses-call-duty-marathon-181245943.html) about a 15-year-old kid who partook in a video game marathon.

For 4 days.

So when he finally emerged from his room with blue lips and then passed out 3 times, his mom figured she should probably do something.

I can see how you might lose track of time.

I mean, at least twice a week I send a kid up to his or her room for a time out and then forget I’ve sent them up there.

Inevitably I hear, “Mom?  Can I come down now?”

Oops.

And maybe I didn’t forget.  Maybe I was just enjoying the extra calm created by one less child in the room.

I understand how it starts.  Your kid goes into his room.  He’s not causing any problems.  You are getting some shit done.  You might even be relaxing.  You are enjoying some peace and quiet.  Whatever.  You are alone, so who cares.

And I know how badly teenagers can suck.

But come on.

4 days???

And isn’t it ironic that the game he was playing is called Call of Duty…

Hey Parents… Here’s your Call of Duty…

If twelve hours go by and you haven’t seen your kid, don’t be stupid.

Go check on him.

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