Monday, May 28, 2018

Fools Gold? Macy May Think So

Macy, my middle one, is the most brash of my three girls.  She is the most physical and the most competitive.  In this vein, she has a lot more of my wife in her than me.  My wife’s legend includes single handedly beating up a football team and challenging guys that brag of their basketball skills to one on one competition.  I, on the other hand, picked daisies in right field until my early teen years.  

She is a very physical girl, one who is as likely to solve her problems with her fists as anything else.  When it comes to sports she is competitive and recognizes when she isn’t doing well and has a strong distaste for losing.  Those who are asking "what kid isn’t like that" should meet me or my eldest, we both enjoy being out on the field but winning and losing isn’t as important as trying hard and post-game snacks. 

Back to Macy.  While she is a very strong kid, she is also the most delicate of my girls.  She is the most apt to get her feelings hurt and the most likely to realize when she has been treated unfairly. 
Every element of her competitive personality got tested this weekend.

Macy’s team had a soccer tournament called the Boulder Cup.  It was a tough tournament and her bracket looked to be a steep climb.  She primarily plays defense and the teams in the tourney looked like they could score.  It looked to be a long weekend for my little one.  

The first game Saturday was against a very good team from Boulder.  They put a lot of pressure on the defense, but they held strong.  Macy’s team, the Mustangs, would leave with a 3-1 win over the hometown team.  

Their next game was against the tournament favorite.  They were a team from Denver who were bigger and faster than the Mustangs. They were extremely physical, and the game was marred with tripping and pushing.  There was a verbal altercation between some of the parents that may or may not have included my wife. Did I mention that she is competitive, too?  When the final whistle blew the game finished 2-2.  They played well, but in this tournament, a win and a tie would not get you into the finals.  They would have to play lights out soccer on Sunday. 

We took Macy home for some well-deserved rest.  She had played all but five minutes in the two games and was exhausted.  

The next day, as the games were being played, the teams that should win, won, and the teams that shouldn’t, didn’t.  The Mustangs could have used an upset or two in the tournament, but they didn’t happen.  When it came time for them to play they would need to win, score at least three goals and shut out the other team.  If they did all of that, they would most likely be in the finals.  They did all of that and more.  They played at another level.  When the game ended the score was 5-0 in favor of the Mustangs.  Macy played every minute.  She was tired but proud of the fact that her team needed a shut out and she helped provide one.  The Mustangs were in the final.  

As the bracket shook out, they would have a rematch against the Denver team that left them bruised and battered.  Privately, many of the parents knew that they would be taking home silver medals that weekend.  Personally, I began mentally formulating the “second place is great” talk.  When the game started it was fairly apparent that my speech preparation was well warranted.  

Macy only played five minutes of the first half and played mid-field, a position that she is very unfamiliar with.  At halftime the score was 1-0 and the Denver team looked much better than our girls.  

Macy started the second half on the bench and when she did finally get in, it was again at mid-field and this time it was only for three minutes.  The Denver team kept their lead until there was five minutes left.  The Mustangs scored and frankly the Denver girls looked rattled.  A minute later the Mustangs would score again and the game would finish with the good guys winning and taking tournament gold. 
Unfortunately for Macy, she would celebrate the win from the bench.  

She was happy, but in driving home, it was obvious that something was wrong.  

When we got home I needed to go to the grocery store and Macy asked to join me.  Not for any love of me, but because they have a claw machine and she has a unique gift of pulling prizes on the regular.  

We loaded into the car and I asked how she was doing.  I meant physically as she had played almost three entire games in two days but her response caught me off guard. 

“I’m okay, I’m happy that we won the game but I didn’t play very much.  I didn’t feel like I was a part of it.”

We talked for a while as we shopped and she explained that she was confused as to why she played a different position and that she thought she could have done more for her team at her position.  She felt like it was unfair that she didn’t get to play.  She thought she had earned it.  

To be honest, I agreed with everything she said.  The last month had seen Macy blossom into an extremely competitive soccer player.  If I were making the decisions, Macy would have played defense and she would have played a lot more.  I’m biased, sure, but it’s the way I would have done it.  

Then Macy said something that will stick with me for a while.  “I’m going to practice hard this summer.  I’m going to make it so she can’t take me out in the championship next time.”
Woah.  It reeked of personal accountability out of an eight-year-old. It was a proud papa moment. 
The lesson here girls, Macy has already learned it.  It’s fine to see something as unfair.  Heck, it may very well be unfair.  Feel free to hang your head for a little while if you need it, but when the pissing and moaning are over, what can you do about it?  For Macy it wasn’t a pity party.  It was a challenge.  To her, the gauntlet was thrown and she intended to come out on the winning end next time. 

There is something else here as well.  Macy, your team won the tournament and they wouldn’t have been in the game if any of the other games had gone any differently.  If you hadn’t tied the number one team on Saturday or if you had given up a goal in the first game on Sunday, your team probably wouldn’t have been in the position to play in the final.  You were a part of it, a really big one.  So pat yourself on the back, you did great, but the goal is set up in the back yard, sweetheart, it’s time to make it so you play more next time.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Awesome People Doing Awesome Things (and nothing to do with my kids)

I haven’t written here in a while.  Frankly, I’ve been working on another project and this time of year tends to be crazy with the girls and soccer and school wrapping up. True, that could be said of the beginning of the school year, or the holidays or spring break.  Suffice it to say that I am a very busy guy.  That being said, imagine my surprise when my wife asked me to help her with her company’s volunteer day.  

Admittedly, I wasn’t interested.  I had a lot of things going on and taking an entire day out of my week didn’t feel like the best idea.  

Then she said it was for the Special Olympics.  

Of course I’ll do it.  It’s the Special Olympics.  As a person who sometimes suffers with his self-worth, turning down the Special Olympics may be a touch more than my fragile ego could handle.  I was in, if only for self-preservation.

I worked with the Special Olympics years ago, through a baseball team I was on.  I enjoyed it and always said I’d like to do more with it, but like so many things for me, life got in the way.  Once I agreed to do it, I was thrilled to be a part and looking forward to it.  

A quick shout out to my wife’s company, Keller Williams Realty Partners, for sending 50-ish volunteers to the event.  Another shout out to OtterBox.  They went above and beyond making it a great event for the kids.  Nice work Otter-folk!

Back to the story.  My wife and I were assigned to a team from local junior high school and we waited for our athletes.  The times I had done this in the past I was on lunch and water duty. This was the first time I was assigned to specific athletes. It was exciting but, honestly, I was a little nervous.  I didn’t know what my responsibilities would be.  What if I miss an event that a kid was supposed to be involved with? I didn’t want to do anything stupid and have my inexperience take away from someone’s day.  My nerves were settled very soon.  

That nerve settling brings me to the point of this story.  At the Special Olympics, it’s easy to find people to celebrate.  The athletes are remarkable.  Watching someone compete, to push themselves purely for the joy of the experience is soul cleansing.  But this story isn’t about them (which may be the most awkward thing I’ve ever typed).  The companies involved participate in an act of pure generosity.  There isn’t a huge ‘look at us’ moment with their contribution.  They don’t brand the event with banners and beer cozies.  It’s a warm fuzzy moment for a few companies that do things right, but it’s also not a story about them.  The volunteers are great.  Like me they lead busy lives and giving up a day means something.  It means they care about their communities.  But you guessed it, not about them either.

As my wife and I stood there, holding a banner for Boltz Middle School, a group of forty or so competitors approached all wearing the same yellow shirts.  Their shirts would identify them by school making them easier to spot. But each yellow shirt was accompanied by two green shirts.  The mass moving towards us was impressive, but I didn’t understand who the green shirts were.  

As it turns out, the green shirts were kids from Boltz Middle School assigned in pairs to assist each athlete.  As the kids approached, we high fived them and smiled but realized that our team was both large and a bit unruly.  They were excited to compete, and a few had behavioral issues that being in a group this big triggered.  One of those athletes was a young girl who clearly didn’t like the noise and the cheering and became agitated and withdrawn.  As she grew more upset, I watched two young women, her classmates take her hands, sit down with her, talk calmly and turned the athlete’s agitation to laughter.  It dawned on me, in that moment, that these young girls weren’t helping for the day, they were helping for the year.  They were friends. I started looking at the mass of people differently.  It wasn’t a large group of competitors and young volunteers, it was small groups of peers. There were people with physical limitations with kids who knew exactly what help they needed and people with mental disabilities that required constant engagement, or calming, or monitoring and each ‘peer partner’, as I would learn they were called, knew exactly how to help. 

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so enamored.  Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising to see that many kids acting altruistically but it was.  As I looked around I saw hundreds of Special Olympics athletes and twice that number of peer partners.  I felt happy and small all at once.  What I also felt was useless.  These young people had the situation locked up.  I really wasn’t needed.  My wife went to the woman who was leading our school and asked what help was needed.  She said that they need help keeping the kids hydrated and the it would be great if we would be willing to take pictures of the kids participating in their individual events.  

Long story short, or at least less long, it was a wonderful day.  There were smiles for miles.  I left feeling warm inside.  I suppose some of volunteering is how it makes you feel inside, but I’ll be honest, what made me feel good was the peer partners.  

The point here, ladies, is a simple one.  Give of yourself.  It feels great.  But also, you’re going to hear a lot of people say things like “kids today” or “millennials” in a not-so-nice way.  That is lazy thinking and complete, unmitigated, unadulterated, unvarnished bullshit.  I would imagine that the 80 students that volunteered themselves is a reasonable percentage of the students of Boltz and not at all indicative of the number of kids who are willing to help out.  Feel free to let grown-ups underestimate you but know that you can do remarkable things and your age isn’t a barrier for that.  I have watched you and your classmates be better than mine were.  You are kind people that don’t seem to see the differences between one another as readily as the kids I grew up did.  Keep that part of you and use it as you get older.  Maybe you can fix some of the things my generation decided to screw up.  Thanks in advance.  

Final note, if you need a phone case, try OtterBox, if you are dealing with real estate, consider Keller Williams Realty Partners.  Obviously, I have some interest in the latter, but I can speak from experience, they are companies that are giving back to your community.