Tales from a Soccer Sideline: 2020

 

“I’m devastated, 2020 was going to be his first year to be graded into a good team,” says soccer mum, India, carefully placing her newly lifted face in her hands so as not to create any wrinkles.  “A hip replacement, can you believe it?”

“Try not to worry India honey, he’s young, he’ll bounce back quickly and be back on that soccer pitch in no time,” soothes her friend Sydney, via collagen lip balloons.

They sit in silence, watching their tiny younger son’s play in the latest technology Protein Infusion® compression wear, and helmets with inbuilt multi-directional Bouncepads® for headers.  The Bouncepad® was the same technology Nokey had tried out in their football boots a couple of years before, which had helped shoot China onto the world stage of soccer (in a deal whereby China supplied the children to manufacture the shoes and the Chinese soccer team would be the first to use the new technology. Chinese children would do anything for soccer, said Nokey’s Marketing Director).

“Yes, I know,” continues India, rearranging her hands to her knees and off her face, deciding it wasn’t a good idea to tempt fate on the wrinkle front. “It’s just, you know, all those years of training – 6 hours a week of development squad when he was 5 years old, all the 4am Crossfit strength and endurance training before school every day, the evening academy’s year round in the freezing snow and the 40 degree temperatures… The Christmases we gave up! The 100 hours a week work I had to do to pay for it all….. For what? A hip replacement at 8 years old.  I can’t believe it.  He’ll never get back to a decent level before the month-long sleep over camp where they assess them for grading…” India cries at the injustice of it all, gently dabbing tears away along her cheekbones – rubbing your eyes was the absolute worst cause of major wrinkling.

“Have you spoken to the club’s doctor? Maybe he has some supplements little Ronaldo can take to get him back in top shape before the grading?” suggests Sydney, careful not to smile in admiration and stretch her lips too much as she sees her wee 2 year-old scissor-kick then roundhouse a goal from the other end of the pitch.Baby playing football

 “Oh yes, absolutely, he’s got a full regime ready to go as soon as I give him the go ahead,” nods India.  “Thank goodness all that’s allowed because we’re still at the junior, amateur, volunteer club-run stage of soccer.”

“Good.  Oh look!” Sydney points toward a mother, who dared wear a tracksuit to a sporting event and is kneeling down cuddling her son.  “There’s that silly hippy who still believes sport is for fun! Ha!”

 

 

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Notice

Ah, holidays, they’re so good for the soul aren’t they?  Warmth in your bones, cocktails in your belly and pictures of your red toenails against a blue sea on your Facebook account.

Or not – as was the case for our most recent holiday.

Yes, we did have warmth – but only for a few hours in the middle of the days, for a couple of days.  We also had rain for much of a day, clouds, and the chill of early morning and evening which comes with mid-autumn. It was invigorating and restful weather.

No cocktails. (There was wine though – let’s not get too hippy here).

But we did have some chairs and a wee porch, which was situated upon – literally – the sand of an almost deserted beach.  One day, the kids played on the sand, watched a movie, played a board game, played some more on the sand, walked on the rocks and swam, and for about three hours my husband and I sat.  We have many kids, aged 3 to 10 (our fault).  Sitting was an activity we had to relearn.

My red toenail picture I took. IMG_1181However, sadly, and gladly, Facebook was nowhere near us.  Nor phone contact, nor email, nor ANYTHING!  Plenty of chip eating kangaroo’s, pretty finches and fisherman at dawn.  But I couldn’t tell anyone about them.

To begin with I found myself looking for things to do, with no quick fixes of social media enjoyment, or snooping into other people’s enjoyment,  available.  I found that actually, it doesn’t have to be quick fix, because in fact there is nothing quick at all about FaceAche (as my funny friend calls it). Once you’re in there it’s like quicksand – nothing quick about it and you’re not getting out any time soon.  I think I grabbed back hours – in fact I know it was at least three hours that one day on the balcony.

I began by filling the time with my book. Which I finished. Then I read another and I was all outta books.  Because anyone with a 3 year old knows there’s no such thing as finishing a book within the library’s designated 6 month return policy (what? It’s not 6 months?).  The kids didn’t need organised activities – they organised their own.  Yes, the 10 year old boy got a bit sick of being the “horsey” on the beach, but hey, that’s your job when you’re number 1.  They were safe and free.  Doesn’t happen often in the burbs nowadays.

Then I looked.  What I saw when my head was up and out into the open was clearest, magic-coloured water… my two big boys just sitting on a rock gazing, in companionable silence…IMG_1298 a national park of our quite amazing Australian trees swaying and framing the expanse of sky.  I saw dolphins, incredible colours on the rock shelves, and a stingray surfing with my kids (till it ran away from their squeals).  I saw fresh air.  Can you tell me what fresh air looks like? How it feels coursing through you when you’re still?

I saw my husband again. I saw that we need to switch off phones more often.  I saw how I see things when I stop.

Noticing. It’s important.

When we returned I heard of a tragic accident which resulted in the loss of a little boy, just like my own. I cried for them. I wondered if the parent was too busy, too pushed with too many things to do, and in that split second it happened. It could happen to me – I can feel it hovering too close to my heart.  I appreciated my opportunity to notice all the more.

Why not switch FaceAche off for a day and count the hours you grab back?  Look up.  Breathe out.  Listen carefully. Touch the hands of the ones you love.

Understand though, I am not suggesting you give up cocktails…

 

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #2

“It’s just really important to Sam,” enthuses Marsha with a look of utter distress on her face about the whole situation, whilst simultaneously checking Facebook. “Soccer is a huge passion for him and he really looks up to the coach, sees him as the most important thing in his life during the soccer season – oh my gosh, Carolyn’s at it again with her status updates complaining about having no help at home, bor-ring….If no one else is doing it for you, get off Facebook and do it yourself woman,” mimics Marsha as she swipes Carolyn off the screen in disgust.  

“You know,” continues Marsha, back to the important topic of soccer, “when their coach doesn’t turn up, not only does the team fall apart during the game, but the boys don’t feel like they’re worthy of their “esteemed” coach’s time,” she sighs, withdrawing her French polished fingernails back to their phone typing.     soccermumsbagcoach

“Hmm,” agrees Beverly, mother of the star striker of the team. She’d not been happy since the beginning of the season when her division one son had been relegated back a level to division two. “This is what happens in the lower divisions, it’s just rubbish, no one commits, no one cares.  I think I’ll talk to the club director about it. See if they can give us a new coach – one who actually has the team winning as their top priority.  When he does turn up to coach he’s too soft, like they’re just there to run about and have a giggle.  Perhaps we can pay a coach?  Volunteers just don’t work.”

Marsha looks at her watch.  It looks so out of date now, she must get herself one of those hot new Marc Jacobs’ timepieces.  “Five minutes late again. This is just ridiculous, where’s the man’s commitment, I ask you?”

“Exactly.  It might as well be us out there coaching them,” spits Beverly angrily.  “We turn up with our kids on time, we put in all this effort when we could be at home in the warmth, feet up, watching I’m A Celebrity –”

“Oo, do you think Shane Warne will win?” asks Marsha getting excited.

“For sure – Oh, here he is, FINALLY!” says Beverly loud enough for them to hear in the next suburbs’ training grounds.

But coach Tim doesn’t hear the women.  His mind is still back in that hospital with his little girl fighting the whooping cough ravaging her tiny body.  On his wife who is falling apart and on his boy, slinking along beside him who is suffering on all fronts as his family dances with death.  He gives his little Matthew a hug as they walk up to the waiting team. His wife had said it would be good to get fresh air, try and do life as normal for a while.  Him and Matthew had missed last week’s game when their baby girl had been rushed to the Children’s Hospital – maybe a run around with his mates and a bit of his beloved soccer will make him forget for just a small while. He tries to remember how to smile: “How are my boys? I heard you played an awesome game last week, lots of great passing and marking, well done, high five!  I was really upset I missed it…”

School Camp

Ahhh, school camp. It’s a challenge for a parent, is it not?

Firstly the packing list.  ‘Old t–shirts and shorts’.  Read: Complete and Utter Fashion Dilemma, might as well have written ‘pressure mum and dad to buy you the latest Nike gold plated futsal sneakers and scuff appropriately so it looks like you always wear this kind of stuff camping’.  school camp copy‘Underclothes’ – will he remember to actually put them on?  And a ‘Sleep Sheet’ – seriously? A sheet inside a sleeping bag is just a recipe to wake up wrapped like an Egyptian mummy – best use for it is to give it to Tarzan.

Secondly, interpreting the safety and medical forms. ‘Signs of asthma’ – well, can’t breathe is a good start but if you want anything pre-emptive his mother is just going to have to come because I’m the only one who can tell, ok?  Then we have the list, ticking yes or no, of all possible ailments – heart problems, night terrors, broken bones, concussion, operations – no, no, no, he doesn’t want any of these, thank you very much, you just bring him back the way I packed him off. Then there’s the good old ‘other’ at the end of the list – I take this to mean they want to know he sneezes 3 and a half times when he gets up and that if he wears soccer shin pads too much he will get eczema underneath them so you need to line them with a Libra Thin and Breathable. Well, you asked.

And thirdly, and most importantly, THE WORRY!  Will he have enough to eat?  Will they burn the toast, just exactly the way his mum does? Will he make it to the toilet during the night? And if he does, will he remember it goes in the toilet, not all around it?  Will he have a friend in his room?  Will he spew on the teacher on the bus – did they read my note? (actually, bad luck if they didn’t). 

And, will I survive missing my baby so much it hurts in my chest and my stomach till he returns?  

Yes, I will.  Because I remember how he stood taller when he returned from the last one, like he’d had a concentrated infusion of confidence for the past three days.  I remember that smile which tells me he’s feeling on top of the world.  I remember how he still talks about the log wrestling from his first camp all those years ago, and though I have many and varied skills as a mother, giving him a chance to log wrestle is not one of them.  And I absolutely remember his answer when I asked him if he’d been ok while he was away:  “Yes mum, I had a really great time.” He showered me with the biggest hug I have ever had. “But it’s good to be home now.”

school camp 2

Two Funerals and a Brain Scan 

Last year was one of those years – I couldn’t go to Coles without catching pneumonia. At one point I just took my sick-after-sick-after-sick kids out of school and we ran away up the coast to a big wide open space with no snot in it.  Add to this a brain scan for me, two family funerals and an evil piece of a skin cancer chopped out of me, and I was about to give up and go and live with the hippies. Then I remembered those filthy dreadlocks….

Before you feel as sorry for me as I was, all remains well.  The funerals were the finale to two well-lived lives, they found a brain in my noggin, the kids got their Gloria Gaynor on and “I will survived” and 2016 is a brand spanker of a new year.

However, in the thick of it all, one asks oneself: What is the dent I want to leave in this life?

What was very clear to me at the time was that my greatest work will be – sorry Book World – my kids. 

Part of this, of course, is Book World, or becoming la Fabulous Authoress. It’s leading by that good brave, ‘go-get-‘em’ example, showing them that they too can do absolutely anything they want.  Getting up when you face plant in the publisher’s office, faceokantshowing them what having a passion means and that hard work pays dividends.  I hope and try my hardest to show them a balance – to do both mum and work in the proportions that matter to our family, and hopefully not too frenetically (although I know this last part is my biggest failing).

A funeral brings up how you might be remembered.  You think of the person you’re saying goodbye to in the best and fondest of terms – will people think such things about you? At my 99 and a half year-old Nan’s funeral, these words were in my head: She was consistently kind and strong. 

This was the answer to my question.   

When it comes down to it, when my children have to stand on their own two feet, which thankfully God-willing is not right now, what I want them to be is kind and strong. 

Rather shockingly, a Harvard study a couple of years ago gained a lot of attention when it found 80 per cent of teenage participants chose success as their top priority, over caring for others, which was chosen by a measly 20 per cent. Apparently the kids said that these priorities mirrored their parent’s priorities. Parents – what would you think of this if your child was the one who needed the care shown to them?  I want my kids to be kind.

And strong – to know right from wrong, to be able to stand up for themselves – to everyone, not just to the usual issues parents nag about like drugs and bad behaviour.  I want my fairly timid kids to be certain about their beliefs and what feels right or wrong.  I want them to have strong instincts. And good perspective and balance in life.  But not a bland life – no way! Find your passion, my darlings. 

Feels like a huge job when you write it all down. Best I get to it.   

Month of Mini-Motivation

 

I sit here, looking at our sudden deep water frontage and a river knocking at my back door after rain so voluminous who knew the world could produce such a thing. I have four kids on school holidays jailed inside the house and never enough food.  Opposing this, I also have that New Year thing swirling about in my body – you know where you want to change something, refresh life with a deep cleansing breath, or complete a much-desired-to-be-completed task. I’m trying to get motivated to get into writing again, after a holiday from it. My task to complete is a big structural edit of 100,000 words – it’s that part of my fabulous authoress’ job which is something new to learn, but also, from this angle of having yet to begin, appears like it could be tear-jerkingly boring.  

I look up motivation on TED and surprisingly, there is nothing on there to fix my problem. How dare they!

However, I do come across something which germinates an idea.

30 days of something new (http://www.ted.com/playlists/321/talks_to_form_better_habits).

Ah pfft, I’ve tried that, thought me, as I get a 5th round of breakfast for the children who are behaving in a manner which is not at all conducive to grand or refreshing ideas.

 I’ve tried 10 minutes of mediation a day.  I’ve got my writing every day thing sorted. I’ve spring cleaned the springs right clean out of the house. Etc Etc. Where do I find a refresh on the motivation front within these good, but old habits?

As I lock myself in the bathroom, yelling out the the word “cleaning” to the children (a word which usually makes them suddenly busy or pretending not to be there) in an attempt at some peace and quiet, it comes to me:  How about 30 days of spending some dedicated time outside?

Sounds simple, and like something I should have been doing all my life.  But we all know that it’s easier said than done. General life and busyness just seems to get in the way all the time.  

A good time to start is the school holidays, when routine is banished and the best thing to do is get kids outside.  These holidays I will follow them out, rather than relish in a stolen moments peace in a quiet house.  (Really Felicity? Yes: Really).

We were just blessed with a wonderful bit of family travel where, although we had the comfort of a nice hotel, we made the most of our time in a beautiful place and got outside. Even if it was just sitting and watching the outside, instead of the TV.

Well, Australia is a beautiful place too. Perhaps I can recreate some of that holiday freshness. Be grateful for what I have. If nothing else, the wide open sky and rawness of mother nature gives you moments of that big perspective on life. And hopefully some motivation and inspiration! (now I’m remembering this blog post – Finding Inspiration)

I think I’ll try and do some, if not all, of this outside time in my own backyard.  So that when school goes back and life ramps up again, I have the best chance of continuing the routine. I’ll need to think of things to do in my outside time – ‘cause just looking at the weeds ‘aint gonna cut it.

Here are some ideas:

  • Gardening. I love it but never afford myself the time
  • Sitting in our new outdoor chairs – bought, surprisingly on New Year’s Eve, for the purposes of relaxing in our own outdoor space – this ‘outside’ idea has been germinating a while now, I realise. In our chairs I can read, write, watch my kids, look at the sky, feel the sun’s warmth in my bones, perhaps even snooze (oh, hang on, I’m a parent – closing your eyes indicates to children they are hungry even though they just ate 72 kilos of meat).
  • Play soccer with my kids
  • Play basketball with my kids
  • Swing on the swings with my kids
  • Lay on my new beach towel my mum bought me for Christmas 

    feet
    Just missing a cocktail
  • Picnics and dinner outside
  • Board games outside
  • Morning coffee outside

And…

  • Who knows what else!

Are you coming? 

Hope v Fear

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

These words bring so forceful a feeling, an image, a time from the past, into my mind that I am reliving it as if it were now.

It’s a time when our family was holding on to hope as if it were the stairway to heaven. When we were waiting in that brace of not knowing about illness, within our baby girl.   

This is what I wrote:

Lately I have been trying to explain some good news we’ve had in our family.  It goes something like this:
‘Our daughter has a shadow of bone growing in the empty cavity of her hip joint. She will be susceptible to arthritis and will be disabled.’  
I often get the raised eyebrow, silently asking, and this is good news?
The rest of it goes:
‘The other option was that the bone had disappeared all together. This would mean our daughter will be susceptible to arthritis and will be disabled.   But at least now there’s hope.’
That is the only difference at this stage, a word, a feeling – hope.
Hope that she may grow a 100 per cent normal hip ball joint.  Hope that she won’t even have a limp, let alone be the proud owner of a wheelchair.  And – please God – hope that she has no pain.
I sound rather dramatic to myself at times, when all these words come out of my mouth.  I am well aware on the scale of sick children we are on the 90th percentile of hope.  Every time we see our wonderful doctor at Sydney Children’s Hospital I am quickly pulled into line with my dramatics.
However, at times the issue has swamped me. 
But now we have hope.
And I’m telling you, it feels better than Christmas.

Can you remember a time you have held onto hope over fear?

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