When Being Tough Can Be Cool

Night riding: be visible.

A few weeks ago, my son ended up hanging out at a friend’s house longer than planned, which was fine until he had to ride his bike home.  “Can you pick me up?”

“No, but I’ll bring lights for your bike.”  When I got there, he argued that it would be much easier to put his bike in the car, but I wanted him to ride his bike home.  He flat out refused the head and tail lights so I went to Plan B:  drive home behind him so that traffic would see my headlights on him.

The dude knows how I feel about bicycle safety.  I complain every time we drive by someone who rides without a helmet, through stop signs, doesn’t have a light…  Since that night when he was mortally embarrassed by Mom’s driving home behind him, he has been careful to get home before dark.

Until today.  He and a group of friends were out, lost track of time and were near busy-ish streets.  One mom and I realized that they would be riding home in the dark and started texting.

Mom: I might just head over and pick them up.

Me: There are too many bikes (5).  Some of them still need to ride.

Mom: Yup.

Me: I have headlights.  I’ll meet you down there.

I had four lights.  One came from the Energizer Night Race a few years ago, another from the Trek or Treat Race, and two others were won as prizes.  Fortunately, one of the boys had a headlight on his bike so we actually would end up with each kid being visible, as long as there wasn’t a battle about lights not being cool.

I was slow getting out of the house (after all, I did have to make sure that the batteries were working) and, when I got there, my son must have known what was coming because he ran to me and asked me to wait in the car.

“Um, no, I have lights so you boys can ride home.”

The youngest in the group ran up to me.  “Can I, please, have a light so that I can ride home with them?”  My guy gave in and I looked at the older boys.  “Here’s a headlight for you,” I said, starting with one whom I recognized as a former student of my own school.

“No, it’s okay.”

“All the cool kids have them,” I sang.

Supernova Lights – by Road ID.

“Okay,” he laughed as he took one.  The fourth boy followed.  Then, I clipped the Road ID  Supernova lights onto the backs of the two youngest.

“Wow!  You’re the cool mom!” I was told.

Energizer headlights and Supernova (Road ID)

Success! Within minutes, I went from being told to wait in my car to being respected as the cool mom.  They took off, I followed, and when I saw how visible the posse was, I drove ahead to meet them at the house.

One of the boys, clearly visible on a dark street.

And I might have spied on them, just to make sure that they were still wearing them, and everyone was.  No one complained when they handed them back.  Instead, they thanked me and reminded me that I was cool.

 

Keeping Ticks Away

Tick Repellants – Chemical and Natural

While ticks have been common in southern climates, they are still fairly new to those of us in Ontario.  I’ve always been a bit worried about them but, until this year, ticks simply haven’t been a huge problem.  At the beginning of March, that changed.

One night I was playing with Zeda and noticed something on her head.  It was like a giant disgusting pimple that wiggled back and forth when I touched it; I just wanted to squeeze it but I thought I would end up with blood everywhere.  Then I imagined some tiny creature with appendages everywhere slowly crawling out and I screamed for my husband.

“Dave, there is something gross on Zeda’s head!  I don’t know what it is but she needs to see a vet tomorrow!”

Dave didn’t even look.  He simply trusted my panicked tone and took her in the next morning.  To our surprise, Zeda won the first tick of the year award, a fully engorged tick – at the beginning of March, in Ontario.  This was unheard of.  Now it was an unseasonably warm winter but even our vet was surprised.  He removed the tick, bagged it to send it away for testing, and gave us Zeda’s tick meds.  I knew that we would have to do something more to be proactive about preventing ticks this summer.

My boys are old enough that they can handle manufactured sprays which contain Deet, but those contain chemicals.  My oldest, who is often on the soccer field at night, complains that everyone pulls out bug spray after dark; he can see a haze over the soccer field and it is hard to breathe.  So, once in a while, something like Muskoil is okay, but I thought it wise to try a bug/tick spray that was more natural.

So I went back to Dr. Google, who gave me a recipe for a natural repellent last summer.  All I could remember was it had water, vinegar and essential oils.  After some searching, I found it and started concocting what my boys call “Mom’s Witches’ Brew.”  All I have to do is mix up the following ingredients in a bottle.

Mom’s Witches Brew:

2 cups of vinegar (Yes, this sounds like a lot but the scents from the Essential Oils cover the smell of vinegar.)

  1 cup of water

Secret Ingredients: DoTerra’s Essential Oils

Essential Oils (I use DoTerra brand): 10-15 drops of Peppermint, 10-15 drops of Eucalyptus, 7-10 drops of Lavendar.  (There are other EO’s that are recommended, such as Lemongrass and Geranium, and I am going to try those in my next batch.)

I make a new mixture every two weeks and keep it in a spray bottle.  Zeda gets sprayed every morning (this is in addition to her monthly tick meds), I spray my shoes when I head out for a run and everywhere else if I am heading into the trails.   Even my boys don’t complain, but if left to their own devices (like on a recent school overnight trip in a wooded area), they prefer Muskoil.

This is really quick and easy to make.  I may get laughed at by the men-folk at home when I brew my magic potion, but it is doing its job of keeping us safe.

 

 

 

 

Values Win

Several years ago, I raced the Acura Ten Miler in Toronto on a particularly hot summer day.  With 1-2 miles left, I noticed a female runner about 400 metres ahead of me, who was weaving in and out from a group of people.  She looked drunk.  As I caught up to her, I asked if she was okay, to which she slurred back that she was fine and to leave her alone.  I realized that she was dehydrated and didn’t realize it so I did leave her, but I stopped at the next intersection where there was a police officer, told him about her, waited until she was close enough that I could point her out, and he immediately called for an ambulance.   I ran off, wondered how many people passed me, and how much time I lost, but I knew I did the right thing.   Looking back, I don’t remember my time (I think it was 78 minutes) and it matter any more.  What I do remember is every detail of helping that lady.

Cooling down after the race with Monica.

This Saturday, I raced the Canada Day 5K in Burlington.   I’ve raced the course many times; it’s close to home and it’s a great race to kick off my summer holiday.  My friend, Monica, and I went together with goals to run competitively; I wanted to finish faster than I did at the Moon in June, where my 5K time was 21:57.  This was a flat course, and with my feeling stronger than I did a few weeks ago and pumped up about a few weeks off work, I felt that beating that time was realistic.

When the horn sounded, I went out fast – a little too fast with my first mile in 6:53.   I got my pace back under control and found my spot in the pack, and I happened to end up running shoulder to shoulder with my friend’s 14 year old daughter.   We spent some time jostling for position until I pulled ahead just after the turn around.

Shortly after, though, I knew something was wrong.  My mother senses kicked in when I thought I heard “Somebody please help me” come from behind.  My friend’s daughter has a peanut allergy and is asthmatic.  She is very athletic, but she is also just learning to run faster with her asthma.  Knowing that she had trouble at the Waterfront 10K,  I came to a full stop – dead in my tracks – and turned around.   “Are you okay?” I called back.  She shook her head.  “Come on, I’ll run you in.”

Approaching the finish.

So we finished the last 2K together.  I wondered if she actually did verbalize “help” or if I imagined it, and I thought about all of those people who just ran past her.  It bothered me when the winner of my age group passed me, and I hated having to stop – twice – to walk with her for a bit.  But in the end, my time didn’t matter.  Doing the right thing was more important.   Making sure that she was okay was most important.  So I talked her through the rest of the race, we finished together and we cheered for her mom as she crossed the finish line.  At that point, I handed her off; she was okay.

In the end, my time was a bit slower than I wanted but I’m okay with that.   If I base my time on my age group’s winning time, I would have met my goal time (assuming that I held my pace).  Monica later gently reminded me that I chose to stop and she was right.  I made the decision to help this girl get to the finish line safely.  For me, that was what mattered on Saturday morning.  There will always be another race.

Soccer vs Marathon

Mom - soccer coachWhen I decided to coach my son’s soccer team, I looked at the dates carefully as coaching is a 14 week commitment and it’s twice a week.  I knew that the spring would be difficult as I had other things going on; from June through the rest of the summer, I have more flexibility with my time.  My only real need in terms of coaching was making sure that my obligations to the team were over before I would be running the Quebec City Marathon, my marathon of choice for the fall.  I diligently counted the weeks of soccer from start to finish and – perfect!  Soccer ends the week before Quebec.

I don’t need to marathon in the fall.  I BQ’d in Chicago last October and I plan to run Boston.  My goals in and out of a fall marathon are to build a stronger mileage base and improve my BQ time.  Running in August makes perfect sense as I won’t have to deal with high mileage during the craziness of back to school and registration for Boston is at the beginning of September.  The Quebec City Marathon, which has been on my bucket list for years and years, is August 28th.

Hubby and I started to plan a mini-holiday to Quebec City and the province with the boys, possibly travelling into the maritimes.  We looked into accommodations.  Training was going well.  Then, one evening, when going over the snack schedule for soccer, I thought twice.

“Um….why is Festival Day on the 27th?” I wondered. soccer named balls Looking again, I saw that we are scheduled to play on the week before Quebec City.  How is that possible?  I went back to the calendar and counted 14 weeks again.  “The last week ends on the 20th!  I don’t get it!”   I looked at the calendar again, carefully.  The players have a week off at the beginning of August!  Why didn’t I realize that?  Ugh!  There is no way that I can coach on the 27th and get to Quebec City on time to pick up my race kit.  Even if we play the first game and I fly, timing would be dicey.

I contemplated not going to the last two games of the season, our weekly game and the Festival Day event.   But I always teach my boys that when you make a commitment to do something, you follow through with it to the end. Volunteer work is no different.  I made a commitment to my team and the soccer club that I would coach the boys for the season.  Had the marathon date been in the middle of the season, I might take off a game.  But at the end of the season, it’s a different story.  It would look like I quit or gave up on the team.  How can I not coach for almost 4 months and, then, not be at their final game?  Even if some of the boys don’t see it that way, what kind of message am I sending them?  Is it okay for a  coach to miss the final game and your trophy day?  Not really.  So, I am not going to run Quebec City.  As I often tell other running friends when they have their own race conflicts, there is always another marathon.

Mom - team running skirts
Toughing it out in the heat during Marathon Training. Note the soccer field behind me.

So now the hunt for a fall marathon begins and there are only two conditions; it has to be in Canada, and it needs to be before the end of October.  I’ve narrowed it down to Run Victoria (B.C.), Scotiabank Toronto, and Prince Edward Island.  Before the end of July, I hope to have worked through the logistics and will register.  Meanwhile, my training continues as I work towards building my base and bettering my BQ time.

 

 

Pokémon Stop!

I love the outdoors.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I run on the coldest days of Canadian winter and in the ridiculous heat of the summer.  I’ll do whatever it takes to help my kids find their way outdoors, even if it means wandering around aimlessly while they are kicking around soccer balls at the park or shooting hoops on the street, because they would rather be playing outside.   And I think it is great when my friends and co-workers begin a fitness regime that takes them for walks or runs into the trails.

Pokemon2When the Pokémon Go app came out, you would think that I would have been excited about that.  After all, it is designed to get people off the couch and exploring the world. Last week, kids came to school, tired but proud of how much they walked the day before while looking for Pokémon.  “If it gets kids outside and moving,” many friends said, “it’s a good thing.” In that sense, it is.  The intention is to walk and hunt for Pokémon while paying attention to your surroundings.  Instead, within a week of its launch, the media  released numerous stories surrounding accidents and harm that are a result of the app’s users not being careful.

pokemon4
Playing It Safe: on the sidewalk while searching for Pokémon.

 

Technology is to be respected and using it while mobile does not give it the respect it deserves.  In the same way that it is illegal to text and drive, kids (and adults) need to use sound judgement when playing the game.  I, personally, have already seen 3 Pokémon incidents: (1) a grade 8 student, who was walking down the hall at school while looking for eggs to hatch, walked into another student, dropped his phone and watched the screen crack; (2) a neighbour held his phone while riding his bike, dropped it and lost control of his bike when he went up a bump on the curb that he didn’t see, admittedly because he was looking for Pokémon; (3) while running yesterday, I saw a group of 10 boys without helmets on their bikes, eyes on screens and calling out Pokémon hunting-like calls, while riding oblivious to traffic on a busy road: stupidity at its best.

But kids aren’t stupid. They are smart enough to find what they seem to believe are “safer” and “more efficient” ways to catch Pokémon, but they still aren’t respecting the technology in their hands.  Today, one mom told me that she saw one boy riding with his phone taped to his handlebars.  Another described a scene that takes the search for Pokémon and egg-hatching to a new level; she saw a group of 9 year olds at the park on motorized scooters, going crazy fast without helmets, and obviously looking for Pokémon.   It has no longer become a “whatever it takes to get kids outside” game, but a “whatever it takes to collect Pokémon.”  My own 15 year told me about the hack that a group of 14 year olds shared with him, a way to change your settings so that you can sit on your couch and capture Pokémon without even having to go outdoors.  Perhaps this group of kids actually has the right idea.  Yes, it is a hack and we all know that hacking is wrong.  But these kids aren’t wandering streets, unaware of what is going on around them, and they are playing from the safety of their own homes.

What this game really needs is a common sense upload, perhaps one which can hatch from a Pokémon egg because it would be priceless.  Until the developers come up with one, my kids aren’t really interested in playing and I’ll be following them around aimlessly while they chase soccer balls and shoot hoops.soccer pic10

 

 

 

 

A Good Problem to Have

I didn’t plan on becoming a soccer mom.  When my boys were younger – well, before they were even born – I imagined them becoming hockey players.  I would get them up in the morning and give them a bowl of oatmeal before Dad would take them to their 6:00 practices, and I would cheer loudly for them during games.  But this never happened.  Even then, at no point in my early parenting years, did I ever think that I would become a soccer mom.

When the boys turned 4, each was registered in the Timbits house league, practically a right of passage in town.   All of their friends played; I mean, ALL of their friends.  But as they got older, and their interests changed, they both walked away from soccer and got into other things.

Somewhere between chasing 4 year old Timbit players and going to High School, the oldest looked into working as a referee.  At the end of his grade 8 year, he took his first qualification course, CPR and First Aid, and he spent that summer getting himself to as many fields as he could so that he could work.  And he was good at it.  My 13 year old could control the field and the parents surrounding it – no easy feat- and that success propelled him to continue reffing during the following school year and summer.

soccer named ballsFast forward to the fall of 2015.  The Littlest Dude (TLD), entering Grade 5, decided that he wanted to play soccer.  Since the club was short of coaches and I was going to be there anyway, I decided to coach his team.  Within weeks, it became obvious that TLD was committed to the sport.  We registered him for another season, and I agreed to coach again.  When the Summer League opened, TLD wanted to play again – but he wanted more than a weekly house league; he wanted to play in the developmental program, which runs twice a week.

This year, it seems, I have officially become a soccer mom.  I am often helping my oldest with travel to his games or back home, since games can end late.  As TLD’s coach, I am committed to working with his team two nights a week.  And now, as he has eyes on trying out for Rep soccer in the next year, I find myself spending almost every afternoon taking him to a field, at his request, so that he can practise shots and play with his friends.  In an average week, I am making an average of 11 trips to any of the different soccer fields in town.

Honestly, I don’t know how this happened.  As a parent, I introduced my boys to different activities, hopeful that they would find one that they liked and would stick with it.  When they were younger, I told them, “It doesn’t matter to me what you do, but whatever you do, do it well.”   My oldest son chose music – played the piano, sang in a choir, played percussion in the band – and he was good, really good, in all.   He took swimming lessons and he ran cross-country, but that was really the extent of his interest in sport; his throwing himself into the world of soccer was a bit of a shock.  He refs, helps coach his school’s Senior team (grade 11 and 12) and mentors new referees.  My youngest?  He loves athletics but he never had any real desire to get involved in any kind of competitive sport.  Out of nowhere, something clicked; he constantly wants to play and, like so many boys his age, he wants to be one of the best. Soccer cleats

I like to think that my own racing and training have somehow rubbed off on my boys.   They have seen me throw myself into my running – especially during marathon season – and chase my own goals.  Secretly, I have been hoping that they would follow my footsteps, especially since they didn’t follow Dad’s path to the rink.  But they haven’t.  For whatever reason, at different points in their lives, both of them simply seemed to wake up one morning and throw themselves into soccer.  And they do it well.

Spending my time taking them from one field to another is a good problem to have.

 

Keeping Up With the Boys

CR - ClimbIn December 2014, I took my sons to Climbers Rock in Burlington to try some indoor climbing.  The oldest dude had done some at school, earned his certificate to belay and was keen to keep at it.  My youngest was a natural; watching him go up and down the walls reminded me of Batman scaling city towers and, then, jumping down.  Me: I’m afraid of heights so I spent countless hours watching the two of them climb together.  But the more I sat there and the more I saw others harness in and reach for the top, the more I realized that I should be able to as well.

We stopped climbing when I broke my jaw, started again when I was cleared to resume activities, then stopped again when my parents died.  For whatever reason, we never went back.  The three of us never discussed why we weren’t going, but I often found myself thinking about it.

Fast forward to December 2015.  I wasn’t running due to a tight SI joint and was tired of just spinning and yoga.  The dudes were bored and needed to get more activity in their lives.  We talked about heading back to Climbers Rock and it wasn’t long before the dudes were literally driving me up the wall.

CR - walltopiaDuring the past two months, I have realized what a fabulous form of cross-training this is for me.   First, it is a great way to strengthen my feet and counteract all of the pounding I do to them when I run.  When climbing, my feet are constantly stretching; I can tell that they get stronger.  The day after every climb, I almost feel as though I’ve had a foot massage.  Climbing also supplements the yoga work that I have been doing to strengthen my core and it helps me to really stretch out my legs and back.  I love the feeling of waking up back muscles that I haven’t used in a while.

The best part of climbing, though, is I can do it with the boys.  One night, the Littlest Dude climbs better than all of us and, another night, I can climb tougher walls than the dudes.  We’re at approximately the same ability level right now and that will change. But we will still be able to do it together and, when we aren’t climbing, we’ll continue to  watch and support each other.  It is a great family activity.

CR - trySo once a week, we are committed to going to Climbers Rock.   Getting one busy mom, a working teen and an active 10 year old to find time to do this together can be a challenge but we do and happily get out of the house.  Hubs: he is happy to have the house to himself.

And my fear of heights?  Well, I am still working on that.  But I am reaching for the top and make it up there.  I just don’t look down.

 

How Did I Become a Soccer Mom?

For the past 2 weeks, I have been hopping around from one blog to another and have enjoyed meeting new people.  Today is my spotlight day so I am going to start off telling you a bit about me.

Chicago - expoChasing My Dreams – Setting goals and going after them makes me happy.  After my long layoff this year, I still ran the Chicago Marathon and BQ’d.  When I was still on the course, I set one of my goals for 2016: to marathon in the spring and improve my time for a better corral start.

Yummy – My favorite food is chocolate.  I’m pretty good about staying away from it.  Being lactose intolerant helps.  But when I do my own baking and I know that foods are “safe” to eat, I have to really watch that I don’t eat all of the chocolate chip cookies.

Nerd – I am such a math nerd.  I love looking and analyzing data, especially when it involves running.  It’s a good think I teach math.

Toenails – I have ugly toenails – really ugly.  Running has not been kind to my feet at all.

Hot – I love hot weather runs.  I love to sweat.  I hate all of the winter laundry.  Summer laundry is so much easier.

Ice – After last January, ice terrifies me.  When I fell, I broke my jaw in four places. cropped-pw-near-trail.jpg I was off work for weeks and was forced to stay away from exercise of any kind for weeks and weeks.  Even downward dog was dangerous for me to do!  I’m not sure how I’ll deal with running this winter yet but I should know soon.

Asthma – I developed asthma when I was in my late 20’s.  For a while, it stopped me from running.  I tried and tried, but I had asthma attacks that simply wouldn’t let me run.  I go fed up and took asthma by the horns.  Over a few years, I learned to run with it, even in the winter, and can now race as a top Masters athlete in Ontario.

I am a Grade 6 and 7 teacher and, from one day to the next, each of my students has something special that makes them stand out, something that makes them shine.  It could be a passion for a sport, a favorite hobby that they love to talk about and share, or a general excitement that they bring to class.  That enthusiasm makes their eyes shine and makes even the toughest kid smile;  it defines who they are.

Ten Miler - finishMy enthusiasm for fitness and an active lifestyle makes me who I am.  Fortunately, the digital age is still fairly young so I can’t post any pictures from the Richard Simmons’ era, when I was bitten by the aerobic bug that eventually led to me teaching aerobics.  In the 90’s, I needed more of an adrenalin rush so I turned to running and general fitness training – and I haven’t looked back.   Today, if you were to ask someone about me, they would most definitely use the word “runner” in the first two sentences.

In the past 25 years, my running has only been halted three times.  The first was when I developed asthma – induced by cold and exercise (not great for a Canadian runner)  but I spent several years learning how to run with it.   I also stopped running when I was pregnant (my boys are now 9 and 14)  as I really didn’t enjoy running while pregnant .  So I turned to cross-training – mostly stationary cycling and the stairmaster.   My most recent hiatus was this past winter when I broke my jaw while running and, then, had to deal with the deaths of both parents in the spring.    After every “rest” period, whether forced or self-inflicted, I could not wait to get back to the roads.

So it has always shocked me that my own boys have not been into sports.  My husband is an avid hockey player, cyclist, tennis player and occasional runner.  Me:  I run competitively (competitive enough to claim the Canadian 50-54 title for the 8K distance).   We dreamed about raising superkids with both fast-twitch  and slow-twitch fibres, coming from his speed and my endurance.  Nope!

04800-p6080047
The Littlest Dude (at 4), ready to go.

Over the years, we encouraged both to participate in sports but they showed a combination of low skills and an even lower interest.  They came to races with me, cheered me on, and would race the odd Kids’ event.  We’d see glimmers of potential and a bit more enthusiasm, but the boys kept going back to the things they loved: music and lego.

We couldn’t push them.  I wasn’t going to be “that parent” who dragged a screaming child to a swimming lesson or soccer game.  But I could plan my training with them in it.  I would throw one into a baby jogger or drag them out on their bikes when I ran long.  We talked running around the house a lot but, still, there was no real interest.  All I could do was hope that they would eventually realize what they were missing.

At the beginning of August, like every other August, the two Dudes and I talked about what sports they could get involved with this year.  To my surprise, they both said soccer.  My oldest has been refereeing for the past year and has taken an interest in the game as a player.  My youngest is either following his lead or was bitten by the soccer bug when we watched the PanAm Games.  Either way, it didn’t matter; they wanted to play soccer.  Soccer cleats

At the end of the month, I opened an email: “Coaches Needed for U11 Boys.”  Hmmm…. We had a quick family meeting, a few days to digest the decision and I was suddenly coaching the Littlest Dude’s team.    So now, a typical weekend for us includes one U11 game, one U15 game, a few games to referee and a load of soccer laundry.  This week, Soccer Mom also organized a practice for the team.  It looks like the boys aren’t the only ones bitten by the soccer bug.

“Where are my soccer socks?”  “Can you wash my ref jersey?”  “Who do we play this week?”  Soccer has quickly become part of the regular language in our house.  The boys are excited about it.  They smile when they talk about it.  Soccer: it defines who they are.PanAm Green Screen Andrew

 

 

 

 

On Coaching Kids

IMG_2035I’ve coached kids for years, so many years now that my first cross-country team is now grown up, starting their own families and looking for ways to get their own children involved in sport.  As a young teacher, I did it all: cross-country, volleyball, basketball, and track.  Now that I am more experienced and in a large school with other teachers who have their own set of expertise, I can focus on what I know best: running and track.

When my own children were young, I coached their soccer teams.   It didn’t take long, though, for them to walk away from the sport.  My oldest was a music guy; my youngest simply didn’t have the maturity or mindset to play a team sport.  It didn’t make sense to force them to play so our family went on a soccer hiatus as they became more involved in other sports.   This year, both are playing soccer again.  The Littlest Dude, 10 years old, asked me to coach his team.  My oldest shut down that idea.

Whether as a teacher or a parent, I coach because I want to.  I don’t keep track of how many hours I have put into selecting and organizing teams, corresponding with parents, running practices and competing; nor do I worry about the unexpected costs that can be incurred, such as buying relay batons for track or gloves for our soccer team’s goalie.  The excitement that kids bring to each practice or game and the occasional thank you (yes, thank you’s are far and few between) make it worthwhile.  I can’t imagine working with kids in a sport setting not being a part of my life.

Sadly, that is now taking place in my work life.  In Ontario, elementary teachers are currently in a Work to Rule situation.  We have been without a contract since September 2014, and our union and the provincial government continue to negotiate.   Among the issues the union is standing up against are increased class sizes and significantly reduced support in Special Education.  In order to show concern to the government, teachers have gradually walked away from tasks which are not assigned parts of our jobs, but have come to be expected.  This past Wednesday, all extra-curricular activities have been added to the list.  The government’s response was a threat to reduce teachers’ pay.

Like many other teachers I know, I already miss spending time in extra-curriculars, be it a team, an art club or an outreach group.  Docking our pay, though, is not the solution.  In fact, exactly how do you take money from someone for not coaching a team that they volunteer to run?  How do you remove pay from a volunteer?  As a parent, I completely understand the frustration that others have over the cessation of extra-curricular activities but it would be far more frustrating to see my 10 year old child in a class with over 30 students.  How could I possibly expect any teacher, regardless of youth or experience, to be able to manage a class effectively, plan, teach, assess, and report accurately?  Add in all other expectations, such as coaching and other many demands of the job, and our education system will certainly lose strong teachers; it will fall apart.

What we need is not threatening language or complaints. Public support and respectful negotiations are a must.  Understanding is essential.  Once those are in place, things will settle and we can slowly re-establish the public education system in Ontario.

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions above are solely my own.  They have not been endorsed by others.

The Waiting Game

And and Rob SwimWhen I was growing up, I was raised on stories of how my uncle taught himself to swim in a creek not far from his house and how both of my parents learned to swim as adults.  One of my fondest pool memories is clinging to my dad’s back while he did the crawl across a pool.  My least favorite memory is falling off a sailboat with my dad into a river and, being a young swimmer (but in a life jacket), struggling to hold onto him while he kept pushing me away while trying to secure the boat so that we could get back in it; he told me on the way back to shore and many times that night that he was watching me and that the life jacket would keep me afloat.

That memory continues to haunt me and, even as I write this, I can feel many of those same emotions that I had almost 50 years ago.  Swimming is a life skill.  That’s why my parents made sure that my brothers and I learned to swim, why Ontario has a Swim to Survive program for every grade 3 student in the province, and why I have put both of my boys in swimming lessons.

My oldest son loves the water and always has.  He loved going to his weekly lessons, listened to what he had to work on and improved to become a strong swimmer.   I was certain that his little brother would follow his steps; how wrong I was!

The Littlest Dude started lessons when he was three years old.  For the first year, he was fine.  Then one Sunday afternoon, in the middle of a lesson, he had a meltdown – not a typical 4 year old meltdown but a full-fledged “I need my mom” panic attack.  For the last few weeks of that session, we had anxiety about going into the pool, tears once he finally got in and screaming until we were told “Don’t bring him back until he is ready.”

And it has taken years for him to be ready.  We have gone swimming at the Rec Centre and public pools but, for whatever reason, I simply have not been able to get the Littlest Dude back to swimming lessons.   He cried and lost sleep over the grade 3 Swim to Survive program but he was able to get through it; I think peer pressure helped with that.  This year, now that he is almost 10 (so a lot more mature, right?  Ha!), I was hopeful that he would be ready to start swim lessons again.

Andrew - Swim A
The Littlest Dude at his swim assessment.

On the first week of holidays, I took him to see a local swim school.  The Littlest Dude seemed to like it and agreed to an assessment so that he could take lessons through the summer.  On the day of the assessment, panic set in; I could not get him out of the house.  I called the swim school and apologized.  Then, I proceeded to tell The Littlest Dude that he was not allowed to go swimming anywhere, even with me, all summer unless he was taking swimming lessons.

And I meant it.  I struggled with the heat wave and other days with high temperatures and he didn’t ask if we could go to a pool;  he knew.  Last week, we had what has become a regular discussion: “We need to teach you how to swim this summer.”  We were running out of time as we didn’t have the earlier potential of 8 weeks of lessons ahead of us; we had just two.  I knew that if I didn’t get him in the water before the end of August, the chances of his taking lessons over the fall and winter were next to none.

“Okay,” he agreed.  “Can we do them next week?”

Andrew - barbecue swim
Permission granted. Now that he is taking lessons again, he can hang out with his brother in the water.

Within 24 hours, everything was in place.  He had done his assessment and registered for two weeks of swimming lessons.  The bribes were in place: a day of zip-lining for finishing Week One and a trip to Wonderland at the end of the session.  What he doesn’t know is that I had planned both as summer activities anyway but was waiting until the timing seemed right.  Without a doubt, the timing is now right!  We also discussed organizing fall swimming lessons at the end of the first week and he is already thinking that Thursday nights will be best for both of our schedules.

Every afternoon, I give The Littlest Dude a 30 minute warning before we have to leave the house for his lesson.  Once we get there, I give him the 5 minute, 3 minute and 1 minute warning so that he can make that last minute trip to the bathroom and, every single time, he waits until the very last minute.   And every single time, I take a deep breath, often more, and remind myself that this is okay.  He is taking swim lessons; he is learning; he is finally ready.