Feeling humbled

I like to see myself as a healthy person.   During my injury, I have been on my windtrainer for about 100 miles/week and I make it to yoga 3 or 4 times a week.  When I am not injured, I am running – a lot and well.  I feel strong.  I feel fit.  But when I get into the water,  I am quickly humbled.

I am not a good swimmer and I am finding that frustrating.   Years ago, before kids, I was in the water five times a week – slow but able to swim 1600 metres without stopping and strong enough to swim over 5 miles a week.  During that time, I taught myself how to breathe bilaterally; during the 20-odd years away from the water, I managed to forget everything that I learned.

Leaving the pool – and sporting the wet look.

So here I am, 55 years old,  trying to relearn old tricks.    For the most part, I think my strokes are good, but I am slow.  With practice, I have figured out bilateral breathing again by slowing down my stroke and focusing on the count: 1, 2, 3 (breathe), 1, 2, 3 (breathe) and so on.   Now the crawl is a little easier, and I might even be a smidge faster, but I still feel completely out of shape when I swim from one end of the pool to the next.

I’m trying to stay positive, though.  I’m swimming again, and I have swum more in the past 6 months than in the past 20 years.  That’s progress.  Also, I am intentionally keeping my distance at the low-end for now (500 to 750 metres) while I focus on breathing and skill, and I am getting it – more progress.  I still have goals in sight;  by the end of the month, I hope to be able to swim 1000 metres and, if things go better, swim more than 100 metres without feeling like my lungs are going to explode.

Commitment: a new lock for the pool.

For me, swimming is hard.  But other things have been tough too: running after an break (like pregnancy or an injury), cycling in cleats for the first time, getting into a crow position in yoga.  Swimming is just one more challenge to add to my list of things to accomplish; I have done it before and I will do it again.  It may take me a while to get to where I want to be, but I will get there.

 

Life in the Slow Lane

Tuesday was the first night that I went to run in  the pool this summer.  I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of crowds.  Now that we’re into the first week of summer holiday, a lot of kids have no real bedtime so it was quite likely that there would be a lot more of them at the Y than during a school night.  Also, it’s been really hot in southern Ontario so I figured that the pool would be insanely busy.   I played it safe and aimed to get into the water at 8:30, after swim classes were over and around the time when most kids should have been heading home.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I walked onto the deck and saw about 20 women in 3 or 4 lanes (I tried not to count – or stare) as they waved their arms around during what I thought was the end of their aquafit class.  As the music seemed to be too “pumped up” to be the end of any fitness class, I asked one of the lifeguards when it was over.  8:45; 20 minutes away. “Great,” I thought.  “It’s a good thing I have my swim cap and goggles.  Now I get to do some lengths while I wait.”  My thoughts were full of sarcasm since doing lengths was really the last thing I wanted to do.  But I did – maybe 500 metres worth – until the music softened, signalling the end of Aquafit.

As I walked on the deck to my bag to trade my cap and googles for my running belt, a group of boys catapulted into the pool running area.    I figured they were about 13 years old and as I counted them (yes, I did count this time), I recognized 2 from school.  The group was trying to hide in the top corner of the pool, laughing away.  “Really, guys?” I thought as I took out my buoyancy belt.   The names of my two students were being yelled loudly by their friends, without a doubt to draw attention to them and embarrass them, but the boys’ giggles had already done that for them.  I shook my head and laughed.  “Just what I need – the boys I taught to see me in a swimsuit.”  I had a flashback to my Grade 8 year when some of my friends talked about seeing our geography teacher water skiing – in a bikini [gasp!].  I figured I was safe in my one-piece speedo.  The buoyancy belt, though: that was sure to be a conversation piece.  I had never been more grateful that cameras were not allowed on deck.

I climbed into the pool and started to run.  Within a minute,  all six of them swished past me and headed back to the security of the wading pool at the other end of the deck.  I was safe to run on my own.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll see kids from school at the pool again this summer.  That’s one of the joys of teaching in the community you live: you run into kids and their parents a lot.  And now it has given me a new superpower; I can clear a section of a pool just by standing in it, leaving the whole area to me.

 

July: Summer Goals

As a parent and a teacher, I am constantly telling the kids around me that, if they want to improve in anything, they need to set goals, real goals, tangible goals, something that is achievable.  In essence, we need to have SMART goals.

At the beginning of June, I made a wish and I set a few goals for the summer.  My wish is to be running again and I have every confidence that I will be able to soon.  Ironically, my almost year off running has left me feeling stronger and fitter than ever (an insane amount of cross-training will do that).  I am hopeful that my PRP injection will give my hamstring the extra strength that it needs so that I can confidently start to run and race again. So my first goal is based on this wish: pool-running 4 to 5 times a week.  This should build and strengthen those same muscles and  will allow me, I hope, to resume to running with a bit of a base.

I also have 3 other fitness goals:

Test run on my mountain bike. I’m ready!

1) Cycling.  If you are following me on Instagram, you already know that I have spent many hours on my wind trainer this winter, leaving me with an average of 375 miles a month since the beginning of November.  Cycling is one sport that hasn’t bothered me because the ischial tuberosity doesn’t touch my bike seat.  But, since I have been healing, I haven’t been able to push myself with intervals either.  I am feeling ready.  My summer goal is to get back to cycling outdoors.  Dave and I are planning my first “test ride” later this week and I am pretty excited about it.

2) Swimming.  I have had an on-again/off-again relationship with the pool all winter.  I was quite proud of myself when I finally got back in the water after being away from swimming for the past 20ish years.  But family schedules and work hours have made it difficult for me to stick with it.  And, let’s face it, swimming scares me.  It’s hard and I have to work at it.  If swimming were my only form of fitness, I would be more committed to it but it’s an add-on.  I am also on my own almost every single time.   So my summer goal is to be consistent, to work at it at least 3 times a week.  I am really looking forward to seeing my distance in the water increase as the summer progresses.

3) Yoga – keep it up.  Yoga has been my saving grace through the winter.  It’s made me stronger and helped me to come out of my comfort zone and challenge myself.  It’s also let me sweat when I wasn’t able to any other way.  As strange as it may sound, psychologically, more than anything else, I just needed to be able to sweat.  Getting stronger has been an extra benefit.  As I spend more time in the pool, my time in the studio will likely decrease and I’ll adapt as I need to.  Right now, my goal is to hit the studio at least 3 times a week and that is doable.

Along with these is my goal to write more.  When I started blogging a few years ago, it seemed that everyone was doing it.  But as Instagram became more popular, blogging became “less of a thing.”  I have loved keeping this blog as it gives me the chance to be creative, to express myself and verbalize my thoughts.  Most of my writing is fitness-related, but I really enjoy writing the occasional, more opinionated piece too.   I like being able to share my story or information that can motivate, educate or impact others.

So how am I doing with these goals so far?  Since July 1st, I have ridden 37 miles (2 rides) on my wind-trainer, swam, ran in the pool and written this post.  In an hour, I am heading to yoga as I have just been cleared to go back.  All in all, I’m off to a good start.

Chasing my dreams……

Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy

Warning: If you can not handle the sight of blood, you probably won’t want to read this because, yes, you will see some blood.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to the clinic for my PRP injection.   How long will it take?  Will it hurt?   How long will my recovery be?  Will this be my only injection?  And, most importantly: will it work?

The “blood-sucker” introduced herself, took me into a room and proceeded to withdraw 30 cc of blood from my arm.  “Whoa!  That’s a big syringe!” I said when I saw it, and I didn’t look at it again until after she had finished taking my blood. “Wow! That’s really purple!”  I had forgotten that blood can look purple too,

One Platelet-Rich Plasma Cocktail in the making.
My layered blood.

Dr. Bentley, then, put my blood into the centrifuge to spin it around.  It only took seconds to see the blood start to separate into its layers: red blood cells on the bottom, then white bloods cells, and the platelets on top.  After a minute, the 30 cc that I had given him had been reduced to much less. After that, I really didn’t see much more as I was getting ready for the injection.  I caught of glimpse of what I think was a very long needle (the length of a pencil) as Dr. Bentley filled a syringe with my platelets to inject into my hamstring tendon.   I lay on the table, face-down and in a quasi-prone position, trying to relax.

Dr. Bentley poked with his finger at my upper hamstring to find the location of the tear before he started using the ultrasound.  I wasn’t able to feel any discomfort at first and that made me nervous.  “What if there really isn’t a problem?” I thought, only to be followed by my verbalizing, “That’s where it is.”  Dr. Bentley started to use the ultrasound and I heard him say to his student “That’s the tear, right there.”  I suddenly felt a bit of assurance.

“Get ready for a poke,” he said and that was all I really felt.   At one point, I felt like I was in a dentist’s chair as he asked how I was doing a few times.  I was fine.  “I’m just telling myself that this isn’t going to hurt that much because my legs are so muscular – ha!”  There was no real sensation of pain; it was more of a tightening.  I later described it to Dr. Bentley as an elastic tightening around your arm until you have a constant throbbing.  He replied that the blood being injected into a tendon has no where else to go so it would create that same kind of feeling.  As we finished up, he told me that it would feel like I was sitting on a golf ball for a few days.

On the way home, I was glad that Dave drove me to my appointment.   Moving my foot from the pedal to the brake and back to the pedal would have been difficult.  We hadn’t even left Hamilton when I said to him “I feel like my leg is having a baby.”  Painful, but not terrible, and knowing that it would end with something good.

A few hours later, I was able to drive.  I took my 13 year old to referee a soccer game and I happily stood for an hour to watch.  Walking was difficult and sitting was impossible, so standing had become the position of choice.   I could tell that it was going to be for the few days but I had a feeling that it would be worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever It Takes

A few months ago, I hoped to be running again by mid-June.  As good luck (and a lot of patience) allowed, my physiotherapist cleared me to start running slowly.  “Run for mechanics,” he said, “not for fitness.”  He was telling me not to push myself and to just get use to the motion of running again.

Back At It!

My first run was 2 miles at a 9:30 pace.  Within two weeks, I was averaging 3 miles just below an 8:30 pace and, just recently, I have been running up to 4 miles with my average pace around 7:50 per mile and a few miles hovering around 7:40.  On paper, everything looks great.  I’m running more and I am running faster – and I am being careful not to push myself; I’m running at a “feel good” pace.  My gait feels good, my hips feel straight, and I feel strong.  But the back of my leg just doesn’t feel right.

As the saying goes “Nobody knows your body better than you” and I can tell that I am still not “fixed.”  In April, Dr. Bentley (the hip specialist) wanted me to have my pelvis realigned through  physiotherapy  and it has definitely helped me.  But I still have a tightness at the top of my hamstring, close to the tear where the hamstring meets the ischial tuberosity.  Nothing feels wrong, so to speak, but it still doesn’t feel right.  I feel like Tammy the Hamstring is lurking at the door, waiting to break in and turn my house upside down.   After all of the rest, muscle work, rebuilding, realigning and time I have invested in my recovery, I am ready to do whatever it takes to keep her locked out.

Ready for some time off to heal some more.

I went over my concerns with Dr. Bentley and we decided that a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection is the next step for me.  I have spent months reading about PRP treatments  and there is not a lot of  evidence to support its effectiveness.  I have spoken with two people who had it done: one said it made things worse, and the other said it didn’t really help.  But there is a lot of research that supports PRP therapy.  My GP, sports med doctor, chiropractor and 2 different physiotherapists all feel that this is a good route for me to follow; when I have a team of professionals who are rallying a PRP injection, I am going to listen.  I really have nothing to lose.

Last night, a lady I know told me of a friend who had a PRP injection done.  “Her text right after was full of delightful words,” she said, “but she’s finding that it’s helping.”  That was the message that I needed – something positive, something to affirm that I am on the right path.  I am ready for the pain and I can deal with a bit of time off – whatever it takes to keep me running and let me keep chasing my dreams.

Using Your Head

In Ontario, cycling with the helmet is the law.  Anyone under the age of eighteen who rides any type of bicycle must wear a helmet.  But something happens when kids suddenly turn 12 and many feel that they are better than the law, so they leave their helmets at home or ride with their helmets dangling from the handlebars.  It annoys me that this has not been legalized for adults as there are many who feel that they are invincible and ride bikes without wearing helmets; ironically, I often see this when they are riding with their children, who are wearing theirs.  Whether it is the law or not, every cyclist needs to wear a helmet every single time they mount a bike, no matter how old they are, how far they are going or how fast they are riding.

2011 – riding with the dude

When my oldest was 4, he rode his bike everywhere – and always with a helmet.  This was long before the helmet law that came into effect in 2105 but, with parents who cycle and a dad who also rides a motorcycle, not wearing a helmet simply wasn’t an option.  One day, when I watched my speedy son zoom down a 4 year old sized hill, lose his balance and crack his helmet, I was grateful that wearing them was part of our lifestyle.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, a very experienced cyclist, was riding north of the city, training for an upcoming Ironman competition.   The roads were slick that day and, as she crossed a set of train tracks, she lost her balance, slid and hit her head. The damage to her bike was so severe that it needed to be replaced, as did her helmet.   She had a concussion but walked away and started training again a few days later.  Her helmet saved her.

Why people even think about riding without a helmet is beyond me?  Sure, your head might get a little sweaty but wouldn’t you rather have a sweaty head than a crushed skull?   Messy hair can be fixed; brains can’t.

Two years ago, one dark Saturday night, I was driving down a particularly poorly lit street to pick up my son at a friend’s.  At that last minute, I spotted a couple of boys riding their bikes – no lights, no helmets.  My parent  instincts took over and I pulled into a parking lot, which I thought they would cut through, got out of my car and waited.  When they turned in, I called them over.   As it turned out, they were kids from my school, grade 7’s whom I had taught the year before.

“You guys need lights.  I could hardly see you.  There are parts along that road that are so dark that you could have easily been hit.”  Then, I noticed the lack of headwear.  “And your helmets need to be on your heads, not on your handlebars.”

They were speechless, but they got it and it wasn’t long before their lights were turned on and helmets were locked into place. Two years later, on their last day of  Grade 8, one of them said to me “Thanks for stopping us that night.  I always wear my helmet now.”

Yesterday, my own 13 year old left the house wearing his helmet, came back home to change into something warmer and left.  Zeda barked at them as they were chatting on the driveway, which drew my attention to them.  “Where is your helmet?”  I yelled as I ran outside.

“In my room.”

“Go get it.  And where is your helmet?” I asked his friend.  “I’m pretty sure that you have one too.”

“I don’t have one right now.”

“You don’t have a helmet?” I questioned.  I know his mom.  He has a helmet.

“It’s at my house.”

“Then you are going to go home to get it and I am going to text your mom that you are on your way.”

And that night both sons were reminded, by their respective moms, that if they are ever caught without a helmet again, they will lose their bike.

Whether young or old, new to bikes or an experienced cyclist, everyone needs to wear a helmet when riding.   So be warned: if I see you cycling without one, I will call you out every single time.

When Will They Learn?

This year, the skunk population has jumped.  Our neighbour has a den behind its shed and another has a skunk family under its back deck.   Since Zeda loves to play with any four-legged creature big or small,  and she has had more than one skunk encounter, I am on my guard in the morning and at night, and our walks are typically in the safety zone of busier streets.

A few mornings ago, Zeda woke us up at 4:30.  We had walked her at 10:00 so we were fairly certain that she didn’t need to get out – but wanted to get out.  By 5:30, I gave up and took her for a walk.  Even then, when we got home, she headed straight to the back door and whimpered again. “It’s still too early,” I told her, but she didn’t listen.  I showered and was grateful that she settled down by the time I had finished but, sure enough, by 7:00 she had returned to her whining at the door.  “The sun’s been up for almost an hour” I thought and I didn’t see any sign of backyard creatures, so I let her out.  She bolted towards the fence only to turn around and dart back towards the house.

“Dave!  Zeda has been hit by a skunk!” I yelled as Zeda ran towards me.  The early morning whining now made sense.  I grabbed Zeda by her collar to take her into the garage,  but it was too late; Zeda managed to rub her face into the carpet, leaving eau de skunk behind.  And as she moved to the garage, she saturated the air with even more and, somehow, permeated our freshly cleaned clothes hanging in the laundry room with that same stink.  It was clear that the rest of my day was going to be spent cleaning.

Needless to say, the next few hours were spent bathing the dog in Vagasil (yes, vagasil.  You can read about that dog-owner hack here), washing floors, deodorizing the carpet, doing laundry, showering (more than once) and running the diffuser non-stop to purify our home.  By noon, things were under control when Dave called me from the kitchen.  “Cynthia, look, I caught a skunk.  Oh, wow, it’s a big one too.  Come look!”

“You caught a skunk?”  I actually wasn’t sure if I had heard him correctly and went into the kitchen feeling somewhat perplexed.  “What do you mean you caught a skunk?”

“Well, I’ve been trying to catch that squirrel that keeps getting into the bird feed, but I caught a skunk instead.”

“You set a trap in the backyard to catch an animal and you didn’t tell me?  We have a dog!  It would have been a good idea to tell me!”  It quickly became obvious that the skunk was trapped in the middle of the night – most likely around 4:30 a.m. – and sprayed Zeda a few hours later when she went out to play.   Then it was Dave’s turn to be confused.  “Oh…that’s what happened….” Seriously, I can’t make up this kind of stupid, only to be followed with more.  “Wait.  Why was Zeda outside for most of the morning, and the skunk was there, but they stayed away from each other?”

“Would you go back if you got skunked?” I asked.   “And….just how do you suggest we get rid of the said skunk?”

“Well, I can put it in the car and drive it up north to release it….or….”

Bye bye, Stinky!

After a bit of animated discussion, we decided to call a pest removal company to take the critter away for us.  We did have to wait until the next morning but Zeda seemed quite happy to avoid the backyard altogether.

Later that day, I hesitated whether to go to a hot yoga class, worried that the smell had gone into my pores. “I’ll be fine,” I thought.  I’ve showered twice and my yoga stuff is clean.   Even though I felt somewhat confident that I was clean, as I walked into the studio and placed my gear on the floor, I looked around to see if anyone might be giving me the stink-eye.  Then, during class, I tried not to cringe as the instructor put her hands on my back to help me move into a deeper stretch; as she walked away, I peeked to see if she was twitching her nose or wiping her hands on a towel.   There was no reaction.  Phew!  I passed the test.

Exactly a week later, my mind wandered back to the skunk escapades as Zeda and I left for her morning walk.   We had just turned onto the sidewalk at the bottom of our driveway and, completely unexpectedly, we came face to to face with another skunk at the bottom of our driveway.  The skunk looked perplexed as it had just climbed out of our neighbour’s garbage, tilted its head as it stared at us and didn’t know what to do.   I did.  I froze and so did my dog but worried about how long Zeda would stay.  Would she jump?  Would she bark?  Did she even realize that this was the same creature that sprayed her the week before?

“No, Zeda,” I said, and we slowly walked away in the other direction while I crossed my fingers and held my breath.  By the time we got home, it was gone.  And needless to say, Zeda did not go in the backyard that morning no matter how much she whined.

Looking for My Pony

Shell-shocked.  There is really no other word to describe my reaction after finally seeing the hip specialist in Hamilton.   I waited for 3 months to get to the bottom of what was going on with my hamstring – a tear at the insertion of the ischial tuberosity.  I waited another three months for a consultation with Dr. Bentley, whom I thought was going to prescribe platelet-rich plasma therapy to strengthen the tendon. I got more and more excited as the days to that appointment got closer; I felt like a 6 year old hoping to find her pony on Christmas morning.  But I left his office feeling dejected.  There was no pony waiting for me, not even a stuffed toy that could act as a substitute. Instead, I left with a piece of paper: a prescription for more physiotherapy.

During the examination, Dr. Bentley commented, “I don’t think you need an injection.  It won’t help you.  I think there is something else going on.”  Like most runners who have been off longer than they want to be and are desperate for answers and healing, I tried to pry more details out of him.  “Let’s finish the examination.   Then we can talk.”   But the words “won’t help you” kept my mind spinning.  So I am that one in ten who PRP injections aren’t suitable for?  I wasted  all of this time waiting for nothing?  Is there no hope of recovery?  Will I ever run again?

During our debrief, Dr. Bentley explained that my pelvis is not aligned properly.  I have an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning that my right hip sits forward; in doing so, the right hamstring is stretched and that, he believes, it the root of my problem.   This also explains the occasional sciatica discomfort that I get, my tight hip flexors and, most visually obvious, the right leg swing when I run.  The treatment, Dr. Bentley said, is pelvis realignment through physiotherapy, and he suggested 10 treatments would correct the problem.  “Once a week?” I asked.  “Oh no,” he said.  “You need twice a week.”  Between his words, I imagined hearing “Your pelvis is that messed up.”

“And what if this doesn’t help?” I asked.   After all, I have gone through the rounds of chiropractic care, physiotherapy  and worked with an osteopath, yet I am still considered injured.   Dr. Bentley told me to book another appointment if I felt that the treatments don’t  help.

It’s taken me almost a month to emotionally recover from his diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.  I am angry that I had to wait so long to get to the root, or what seems to be the root, of the problem.  I am frustrated that I have had to go to yet another physiotherapist, one who specializes in pelvic realignment, and explain the events of the past 9 months.   And I am confused as to why he wouldn’t want to strengthen the tendon when it is going to remain a “less than 50% tear” for the rest of my life (since tendons don’t repair), especially with osteoporosis-arthritis showing in January’s MRI.  But, as with all other wounds, time heals and we move on.

On Wednesday, I am starting my fourth week of treatments.  Some days, I leave feeling optimistic and ready to start running again; other days, I leave feeling frustrated and wonder whether this will, in fact, let me return to running.   There have been good days and bad, laughter and tears, and longing….a longing for good news, a wish for running health….and hope to find that pony with a pink ribbon around its neck.

 

 

 

Stress Test

Last week, after 15 months of heart tests,  I was finally given a thumbs-up.  Everything is fine.

The fact that doctors thought there was something wrong with my heart was an enigma. In November 2017, days before I was running Nationals cross-country, an 8k distance, I was scheduled for a routine asthma test at the hospital.  During one of the baseline tests, the respirologist stopped the test.  “We can’t do it,” she said.  “Your heart rate isn’t normal.”

I was completely dumbfounded.  How was that even possible?  At that point in 2017, I had logged almost 2000 miles for the year and I was racing fast enough to call myself a competitive runner.

Cross Country Nationals 2017

How could I possibly have something wrong with my heart?  But during the baseline test, my heart rate dropped (spiked down, as she said) so that it was dangerous to proceed with the test.  After answering what felt like a gazillion questions (Do you smoke?  Do you drink?  Do you workout?  What do you do for exercise? and so on) and meeting with a cardiologist, they decided that it was safe for me to continue the asthma test.  “It’s okay.  There is a cardiologist next door if something goes wrong.”

Over the next 6 months, I had bloodwork, an echocardiogram, and an ultrasound of my heart.  In simplest words, results showed that my outtake valve is thinner than my intake valve; the valves, by the way, are only 1mm thick, which I find absolutely remarkable.  So running is good for me, but it meant that I needed to be monitored.

This past fall, at another asthma appointment with my respirologist, she asked whether I had been showing any symptoms?  “Of what?” I asked.  “I really don’t know what I am looking for.”  My waking up and gasping for air in the middle of the night could be asthma-related, or it could be a symptom of a heart problem.  So could the dizziness that I sometimes have during the day (which is likely attributed to a low heart rate).   My doctor wanted to “cross the t’s and dot the i’s) so she referred me to a cardiologist. Continue reading “Stress Test”

Let Them Be Kids

In the past six months, Ontario universities have lost students who took their lives.  We can’t begin to wonder why or guess the circumstances.  But what we can do is find ways to improve.  We, the adults, we need to do better.

The stress that our youth face is no joke.  Ten years ago, as a teacher, I saw Grade 8 girls put so much pressure on themselves to get marks as close to 100% as possible that I worried that they might have a breakdown before they even got to high school; that was before the pressures of social media.  A few years later, I watched a parent criticize a Grade 8 son for his 80% average because “it isn’t good enough for the top universities.”  Yes, he was only in Grade 8.  And, as a parent, I have watched my son and his friends devour their books so that they can have the 90% averages needed for university entrance while accumulating hundreds of volunteer hours and working part-time.  I have read resumes of university students who make my own – a resume of someone who has been in workforce for over 30 years – look dull.

Today, without meaning to, we have put pressure on kids as young as 12 and 13 to start thinking about their career choices.  We expect our kids to be well-behaved, have high marks, play a sport or instrument (and often more than one), volunteer at school or in the community, and, if they are able, work at a part-time job.  Every parent wants his/her child to be the best, but is the best right for every single kid?  And when exactly do our kids get to be kids?

She believed she could, so she did.

I often feel that, as parents, we have lost touch with what really matters in our children’s lives.  We need to let kids play – not an organized soccer practice or robotics club kind of play, but completely unstructured “run around and be silly with your friends” kind of play.  Let them complain about being bored because kids can always find something to do; it may not be what we want them to do, but they’re making their own decisions and, if they get in trouble, so be it.  Let them face the consequences and help them to understand and accept those consequences.  It’s part of growing up.  So is failure.  By all means, we need to support our children at school so help them with their homework – if they ask for it – but don’t do it for them.  And if they don’t get the mark that everyone wanted on a test or assignment, let it go.  We need to stop helicoptering around our kids and rescuing them every time things don’t go they way we want.  We need to let them fail if we want them to succeed.  With our support and encouragement from their teachers and other adults in their lives, our kids will figure it out.

This is what builds resilience in our kids:  being independent, making their own mistakes, failing, and using each day to try something new.  Resilience is most definitely not gained from larger class sizes.  If that happens, we will have taken away time from the second-most important group of people who interact with our children: their teachers.   (And let’s be real about this: there are many kids who see their teachers more than their parents.)  Increasing class sizes increases the demands and the pressures that we are placing on our youth.  The failure that is bound to happen comes from our government’s decision to increase class  sizes and, since that decision is not our youth’s control, it is only going to lead to greater stress for our kids through high school and more urgent feelings from their parents who will feel an even greater need to hover around them, protect them and help them get through high school.

As mental health is becoming, if it is not already, a crisis among young adults, whether in the work force or at school, we – the parents, the teachers, the coaches  – must prepare our students for this step in their lives.  But we do that through the connections that we have for our youth, through our care and understanding of who they are and what they need to succeed.  We do not build resilience by creating larger class sizes where kids – yes, kids – become one of too many to teach and get to know.  But we can build resilience by letting kids be kids and enjoy their high school years.   We build resilience by spending time with them, guiding them and allowing them to see that they have our support, the support that they will carry into the  next stage of their lives.