October 2014

White Lies

It began with a simple phone call.

The school district’s automated system called to inform us that our child had 25 cents remaining of her lunch balance. I was a little confused. How could she have one quarter left, when she’d only bought lunch twice? Each of my kids had begun the school year with a $20 balance. I’d have to get to the bottom of this.

I could tell something was up, just by the way her eyes got big and blank looking when I’d asked her. She didn’t have time to answer before a younger sibling interrupted. She was saved by the temper tantrum. My trusty Mom Radar was comin’ out. I knew I was on to something, and it would only be a matter of time. I had my ways of extracting information.

As we drove home from school the next day, car packed with sweaty kids, I asked again. This time I asked the friend, as my daughter, Suspect #1, sat quietly watching. The friend, now Suspect #2, said, very seriously, “maybe her lunch account was hacked online”. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Ok, now they were just insulting my intelligence.

Later, I pulled Suspect #1 aside for questioning. I was firm and calm. I had this thing in the bag. She had no where to turn. No alibi. It was all over for her, and she knew it. I finally got a confession. Apparently she’d been operating a cafeteria crime ring.

At snack recess, Suspect #1 would eat her own snack, lovingly packed by yours truly. Then she’d eat her counterpart’s, Suspect #2, snack too. The payoff came in the form of lunch purchases for Suspect #2. My kid would buy an off the record — illegal —  if you will, snack from the cafeteria as compensation for her friend.

I was not at all happy about having been bold face lied to. How dare they! I couldn’t remember a time where we’d had issues with dishonesty; with any of my kids. What else had they lied about? The most logical punishment is not replenishing that lunch account. My daughter’s buying lunch at school privilege has been terminated indefinitely. Which, of course is punishment for me as well, since I’m the in home lunch lady. Gone are the days of taking a night off my healthy lunch assembly line. Besides that, I now I had visions of her growing up and turning into a deadbeat, dishonest daughter.image

I remember when I was a kid, maybe a little older, getting caught in a lie of my own. I hadn’t studied for Mr. Dunaway’s history test. I couldn’t go to school and face that dreaded exam. The only logical thing to do was pretend I was sick. My mom, being a teacher, always confirmed or denied any of our proposed illnesses with a thermometer. The trusty thermometer was the true test of any sickness in our household.

So, as I laid in bed, thin glass mercury thermometer carefully balanced between upper and lower teeth, I hatched a plan. As soon as mom walked out of my room, I took the thermometer from my mouth and held it to the blazing light bulb on my bedside table lamp. It was risky, I knew. But I felt that I had no alternative.

I must’ve been so focused on tilting the thermometer just so, onto that bright bulb, that I didn’t hear her enter my room. The rest is a blur. Mom freaked. I was catapulted out of bed; ordered to get dressed immediately. I was being shipped to school; there was no way out. I was going to have to face that horrifying history test AND I’d been caught. Things weren’t going so well for me.

Yet, so far, I’ve managed to stay out of jail. Never been arrested, never been in trouble with the law. There was that time, two separate occasions, actually, that my sorority sister and I got in the tow truck altercation. We’d parked illegally near campus and the tow truck had instantly appeared, out of thin air. It hitched up my car, while we made our convenience store selections inside, ready to be carted off.

Having heard that they legally couldn’t tow your car if you were inside it, we jumped in my front seat. Like Thelma and Louise, but in an unmoving vehicle, we held strong. No way were we moving. I was a broke student and couldn’t afford towing! When the policeman arrived, he took pity on us. Maybe it was my crop top or my girlfriend’s cute, skintight black party pants. Whatever the case, Mr. Cop advised us to cough up $20 for the tow truck guy, and drive away. Besides that, and a few speeding tickets, my record is squeaky clean.

Although my daughter lied, she’s not a liar. I believe there is a difference. I’m fairly confident that her crime ring was a bump along her road of growing up. Being a kid is about learning right from wrong and occasionally messing up along the way. She’s a good kid. So is her friend. If they learned from this mistake, then it was worth it in the long run.

In the mean time, I’m passing the torch of household lunch lady to her. I can’t let her off too easily. And, I need a break, darn it.




Put Me in, Coach!

My big-enough-to-be-a-second-grader son, who is in kindergarten, plays flag football. It’s his first season. He is in the youngest division, Division D. This division stretches from kindergarten to second grade. When I signed him up, I had visions of cute little boys in a circle tossing the ball around to each other, fumbling often and having fun.  Mind you, he’s our first boy to play team sports and I’m a total rookie when it comes to sports in general.

It came as a shock to me when I was informed by his rather disappointed sounding coach that he, and another player, were the only kindergarteners among the vast sea of second graders on the team. That’s a pretty wide age range.

I had no idea, that even in second grade, these little boys would be so capable of playing the game of football. Able to catch long shots, while glancing over their shoulder and thundering toward the end zone. Fast and determined to run after the ball. Confident and skilled. They were like mini pros, while my little dude was learning to catch the ball. It was intimidating…for me.

Up until a few months ago, my kid had wanted nothing to do with sports. We’d tried signing him up for a parent and child sports class, back when he was two or three. After a few classes of hiding behind a large tree, saying he hated coaches, we decided to drop the class. No sense in forcing the issue, obviously he wasn’t ready and we didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Over the years, my husband would try to get him to play catch, attend sporting events, watch games on tv. We kept asking if he was ready. Nope.IMG_4994

Then there was the day that he changed his mind. Our 6’5″ neighbor kid, who happens to be one of the stars of the local football team, asked him what sports he played. He went on to say that at my son’s age, he played every sport he could. I noticed my kid watching and listening to this gentle giant intently. Later, when we were inside, my son, very seriously, and in a hushed voice, said, “Mommy, I want you to sign me up for every sport”. SCORE! I swallowed my outward enthusiasm, afraid he might change his mind if he saw that he had just given us what we’d dreamed of since learning that I was pregnant with our first boy.

My mind buzzed with possibility. Would he be a football star one day, like Daddy was in high school? Michael Phelps, Jr.? Would he follow in Grandpa’s footsteps with basketball? Maybe sport a speedo and be a water polo hunk? Take on Tiger Woods?IMG_5832

Not that I thought he’d suddenly — after years of preferring playground equipment at parks and driving small plastic trucks through heaps of mud, mutilating snails and worms instead of playing catch in the grassy field — become a standout player. Ok, maybe I did think that because of his larger than average build and height, he’d naturally take to the game of football. Well, I was mistaken. Turns out that if you don’t start playing football while your child is still in diapers, they’re doomed for Division D success.

Worried that he’d realize he wasn’t in the same league as most of his older teammates, we asked him if he was having fun. He said he loved it! He was having a great time at practice. Nobody noticed he was younger based on his size, that’s for sure. He seemed unphased about the gap. As I white knuckled it while watching practices, I was able to take solice in the fact that he was enjoying himself out there. Then, it was game time.IMG_8250

It was immediately apparent that the “good” players played most of the time, while the others made brief appearances to appease the parents. My kid has been benched so often during the games that he’s begun to notice. At one point, as he was yanked from the field again, he said, “I know I messed up again, that’s why I have to sit out again”. Really? Seriously? He is five years old. Is the coach really that concerned with winning? Aren’t we, at this age, discouraged from even keeping score?

The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) seems to have the right idea. Its philosophy is “everyone plays”. AYSO believes that “every player on every team must play at least 50 percent of every game”. No child wants to be the team bench warmer. Kids learn to love (or hate) different sports during these younger, formative years. In fact, my little football player is also an AYSO soccer player. His coach cycles each player out evenly and fairly during each game. There are two pretty impressive players, who are rotated out no less than the less World Cup bound players.IMG_8086

My hope is that sitting on the bench, at the tender age of 5, will not extinguish the new spark of love that he has for this game. I pray that he is resilient enough to try again next season. By the time he is a second grader, he just might be able to catch one of those long passes. Maybe he’ll even make a touchdown or two. Right now, we love watching him play. We love that he thinks he’s pretty darn amazing out there, even if he is just learning to catch the ball.

As he requested I’ve begun signing him up for “every sport”. Well, maybe not every sport, but we’re certainly on a roll. He recently made the swim team and plays on a soccer and football team. Looks like he’s trying little league in Spring. After playing water polo “splash ball” he’s excited to sign up for that again too. His enthusiasm for trying all these new sports is contagious.IMG_8405


and so it begins…

One day, many years from now,  when our family is sitting around the dinner table chatting, and I’m bouncing a grandchild on each knee, they’ll want to know.

My grown kids will ask me questions about their childhood. They’ll want answers about why they are the way they are.  They may remember fragments of childhood; maybe skewed versions of reality, or have no memories. I’ll be there to tell them, yes. That happened.

Yes, you really did strip off your pirate pants (that you insisted on wearing daily) and head to the front yard, wearing only your pirate shirt, and cycle down the street on your shiny red tricycle. A true pirate’s booty in action!image

Or, what about that time you, age 2, disappeared inside the mall for the longest 30 minutes of my life? Remember swan diving off the kitchen counter and landing face first on the stone cold tile? You got your first stitches that day.

I remember my overwhelming feeling of pride as you swam your very first swim meet. My tears that crept out, as I watched you glide across the steamy pool on that cold morning.  You’d been so nervous, but I knew you could do it.

So many memories. Some mundane; a few epic. It’s my life and my privilege. Four kids and a dog.