Just One More Time

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
There is a skate park in our town, built sometime in the decade before we moved here. It’s steep concrete bowls are confined to a space that could park a half dozen cars. It’s because of this park that our youngest son received a used skateboard from his best friend on his seventh birthday. We saw excitement, not determination. That would come later. But, that skateboard, in a tiny skatepark in rural Colorado was the fuel for a dream.
By his eighth birthday he wanted to be a professional skateboarder. His mind was made up. Two years later he was still skating at the park everyday after school and all summer. In the winter he’d read skate magazines and watch the same videos over and over. Just before his 12th birthday a half-pipe ramp became available in Denver. If you don’t know what a half-pipe ramp is, imagine two, vertical, 12-foot walls you roll off, no nets, no ropes, and no rules. It required two truck trailers to move the wooden monster 180 miles up into the mountains to our back yard. I was less than excited to buy it, worried about injury, and thought it was total overkill on my husband’s part to be the cool skate dad. It would require hundreds of hours to assemble. I shelved my aggravation and pulled out the screw gun. It was my son’s communion.
He skated that ramp nearly every day. The number of people who could skate our behemoth paired down to a narrow few. After a few hours he was generally alone again. Back and forth. Fall. Climb. Skate. Fall. Climb. Skate. He’d bake in the summer sun and shovel the snow off before school in the winter. He’d skate at night under farm lights. His dad and I would watch him practice the same trick repeatedly, for hours. I’d try to talk sense into him after watching his 50th failed attempt, but he’d always say “wait, just one more time,” until he’d either land it, or collapse in a demoralized heap. He competed in any and every competition in Colorado. Later, in the pursuit of his passion, we’d spend a couple weeks a year traveling to competitions in California. Oh, California. The skate Mecca.
Watching passion at work can be a gut-wrenching experience. For years he made lists of the tricks he wanted to learn and stuck these lists to the fridge. He followed his heroes on Instagram and Youtube, bought into brands, and saved for gear. There were countless pep talks, and so much frustration. He had so much love for this sport that beat him to pieces. It wasn’t the competition he loved, but the camaraderie he found with other skaters. He was finding his people in this artsy, off beat, punk rock world and to lose them would have been unbearable.
He was a good skater but isolated by climate and geography from becoming great. He worked and saved his money. He planned. He skated the wooden beast that his dad had known, early on, would be what he needed to stay inspired and relevant. He graduated a semester early and at 17 moved to Southern California. His grandmother gave him her old Subaru and we watched as he drove away on a brisk, brilliantly blue, winter day.
We never told him it was going to be hard, or that he should go to college (though he had good grades). We never told him he should have something to fall back on. He was too excited, so full of hope and passion. He was so much braver and fiercer than I had ever been, with a sense of humor that could help bolster his resolve.
As parents, we watch our babies move through a series of somewhat predictable progressions. In the early years, their reward is, in large part, the adulation of a caring adult. That back and forth feels so natural. But, later their independence and character seems to hijack the process and it’s hard to build them big enough wings. It was hard to watch my baby step out of the nest, and off the edge, with nothing but words of encouragement because his determination was always a force beyond my understanding, but something I learned to respect.
It’s been two years. He’s worked numerous jobs, and found his crew. In the last nine months he’s traveled to Australia, six countries in Europe, Mexico, and China exploring and competing with many of the skaters he worshipped. He’s happy and busy. An artist, and an athlete willing to practice the same trick over and over and over until he can barely stand. Then he’ll yell to his friends, ”wait, just one more time.”

If Determination Could Grow Gills

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
For the fourth time my five-year-old came up sputtering and coughing. The other people in our community pool were starting to look at me with what I can only call “judgy” eyes.
“Sweetie,” I admonished her in a whispered hiss, “ don’t breathe when you go under okay? Just hold your breath like we talked about.”
Her big blue eyes looked up at me and she smiled. A drop of water rolled off her nose an instant before she pinched it shut, puffed out her cheeks and stuck her face back under the water. Sure enough, not two seconds later, she surfaced, sounding like she was coughing up both lungs.
The lady in the lawn chair nearest us lowered her shades to give me a “why are you drowning your child?” glare. But it wasn’t my doing. My child was determined. She has a kind of steely resolve built in her soul. And it serves her well.
She was born with a birth defect called spina bifida. She has had seven surgeries and she has worked in physical and occupational therapy since she was a few months old. Along the way she picked up the message that if she wants something, she just needs to do her best, work hard, and eventually she will get there, even if she needs a little accommodation to do it. She will be able to do what she works hard for.
And my girl is one hard worker.
Her first physical therapist said she would never sit up unassisted, never crawl. She disagreed with his assessments on pretty much everything. She worked for what she wanted. We got her a new PT who helped her reach the goals she wanted. She not only sat unassisted as a baby. But she four-point crawled as a tot. She walked now with braces and a walker. She plays T-ball. She makes honor roll in her kindergarten class.
She is unafraid of anything. When they brought the giant snake to class on critter day, she was the first one to raise her hand to hold it. She always has a smile and loves greeting her many friends with a hug. She knows that when you fall down or make a mistake you try again and do your best.
Though generally, determination is a commendable trait … Unfortunately, at this point in her life my darling daughter’s determination makes her think that if she just keeps practicing, like at PT or reading, she can do anything. Including breathing underwater.
And she doesn’t believe me when I tell her “no.” The biological differences between humans and fish seem to escape her, though I’ve tried explaining. Her solution was that I should buy her a mermaid tail. She’s seen them for sale on TV and she’s seen mermaids also. I tried explaining that mermaids were not real and that the ones she had seen were playing dress up.
She thinks I’m trying to scam her. She has even tried to convince ME to try and breathe underwater.
“Mommy YOU do it!”
“Mommies can’t breathe under water either. No adults can.”
“You should practice with me.”
And all I can do is facepalm. Because on one had I have to admire her spirit. She never lets it be said that she can’t. On the other hand, the sooner they cover biology in school, the safer she will be.  Her father is certain she will win in the end. As soon as she gets old enough, she will take a SCUBA course and breathe underwater just like she wants to. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Why I’m Determined to Live a Fearless Life

I no longer trusted that my feet would land in the right place, and I stopped all of my leaping and swinging and flipping and turning.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
My eight-year-old tan toes curl around the hot, steel edge of a North Carolina bridge. Below me, a creek swirls and cuts against large boulders that line its wildflower banks. The water shimmers underneath the late afternoon sun as a tiny hummingbird zips across my line of vision. It fearlessly pumps its wings against the thick, humid air, ascends higher, and then – just as quickly as it arrived – disappears. I am young enough to believe I can be just like that ruby-throated wonder, so I take a deep breath, spread my own wings, and then – filled with a mix of fear and joy and excitement – I jump.
Moments later, when I float to the top and emerge into the air of that hot summer day, I can’t help but notice that I feel deliriously, deliciously, wonderfully alive.
* * *
Once upon a time, I was a gymnast. I spent endless hours at the gym practicing and perfecting my routines. My strong little body tumbled across floors, hurtled toward vaults, moved from bar to bar, and dismounted four inch beams. I ran and leapt and swung and flipped and attempted to stick every single one of my landings.
Just like there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no room for fear in gymnastics. You trust that when you come out of that back flip, your feet will land squarely on the floor. You trust that when you propel yourself forward off the springboard, your hands will be positioned correctly on the vault. You trust that when you swing backwards, you will see the bar and catch it at just the right moment.
My physical fearlessness as a gymnast meant that I was pretty fearless when it came to other things, too – things like jumping off bridges and going down zip lines and riding the fastest roller coaster I could find. Since I was shy and had a hard time speaking up, the rush of these other risks felt like a way I could live out loud a little bit more.
* * *
During practice one day, my coach walked up to me as I was getting into position for my floor routine. He reached down and slapped my thigh. “No routine,” he said. “You run instead. You’re getting fat.” At the time, I was 13 years old and 115 pounds of pure muscle. Though I should have known better, the comment changed how I felt about myself: Doubt crept in, and just like that, the physical action of the sport – the one that required the movement of my apparently too heavy body – seemed daunting. So instead of being fearless, I started being fearful. I no longer trusted that my feet would land in the right place, and I stopped all of my leaping and swinging and flipping and turning. I became that girl on the edge of the bridge again, but this time, I was too scared to jump.
Shortly thereafter, I quit.
Looking back, I hate that I quit doing something I loved because of that man’s off-handed comment. But even so, I have to admit that it is a comment that I’ve often thought about over the past few years, years that, for me, have been full of decisions where I could have chosen to let my fear get the better of me, decisions where I could have let that little fear-filled voice inside me say, “Don’t do it. It’s way too scary.”
Because now, as an adult, I can look at my coach’s comment and turn his hurtful words into something 100 percent positive. If I could look that coach in the eye now, I’d speak up and say, “Okay, fine. I won’t follow the routine – I’ll run. But instead of running around in circles like you want me to, I’ll run wildly toward where my heart is pulling me. I’ll run and I’ll leap and I’ll flip and I’ll turn, and I’ll trust that no matter how scary the first steps of that journey might be, I’ll be headed in the right direction.”
* * *
When was the last time you jumped? Were you five, 10, 15, or 25? What would happen if you started jumping again?
Because life’s too short for anything less than a passionate, fulfilling, fearless life. Life’s too short to not run fast and far away from anything that makes you doubt yourself. Life’s too short to regret not spreading your wings every once in a while. Life’s too short not to trust yourself. Life’s too short to let your toes burn on the edge of whatever bridge you’re standing on. Life’s too short not to jump.
So today, be determined to live fearlessly. Take the leap into the unknown, and trust that wherever you land, it will be worth the risk.
This article was originally published on The Nostalgia Diaries.

Life Lessons From the Sidelines

My boy has helped me to redefine strength. He has helped me see what it really means to be determined and resilient.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
He is so handsome, this son of mine. I just love to watch him, and when he catches me I have a hard time being cool about it. He pretends to be annoyed, “Mooommmmmm,” he says when I tell him for the 1,000th time how I am so happy he is my boy. But I know his face well enough to know that he secretly likes the fact that we love him so fiercely. He still basks in it. I like to think it gives him strength.
And the kid is strong, not necessarily in physical sense. He’s not overly tall for his age. Has never really been into sports. He likes to play Minecraft and Legos and loves fishing and his guitar. But in the last few years the strength of his character has awed me. The determination of his spirit has inspired me. He has become a person in his own right, and that person is a doer and a risk taker.
We live in a community that loves sports and competition. It sometimes seems to be the lifeblood of the joint. But my boy ran out of the gym at the age of six, declaring it too loud, and hasn’t set foot back in it … until now. He decided to get back into the game. Determined to try again. Despite the fact that the other kids have been gaining skills without him for the past six years.
“Mom, I want to play. I think I can do it.” These words strike both awe and fear in my heart.
Because it is not always easy to watch our kids take risks. The other kids are not always kind to a new kid who might just bring down their team average. After the very first day, some commented wanting to know what team he was on … really wanting to be sure he wasn’t on theirs. Wanting to know why he decided to play. They offered no encouraging words like I know he hoped they would. And he has born this disappointment like a true champ. “Mom, I just thought to myself, who cares what they think. I want to play.”
He shoots hoops in the driveway at night with his sister, trying to make up for lost time. He is excited about getting a jersey with his name on the back, something he never knew he cared about. He is looking forward to getting to know new kids on his team, despite the knowledge some might not be kind to him. He still has faith that some will be.
My boy has helped me to redefine strength. Has helped me see what it really means to be determined and resilient. Two years ago we began this same journey with baseball. He was the new kid there too, trying to catch up and working hard every day. But he loved it. He loved the outfield. He loved the learning. He loved being on a team.
And so he continued. Even when he overheard kids on the bench declaring that he was “the worst.” Even when he walked off the field without making a hit. Again. Even when he could have walked away. He kept going and he found the good. He listened to the encouragers. Just like all strong and determined people do.
I don’t think I knew what strength really looked like until I saw these pieces of my heart walking around, taking on the world. Now, I want to be like my boy. He gives me courage to tackle new worlds myself. He gives me permission to silence the naysayers in my world. If this boy can do all this already at the age of almost 12, surely I can follow his example at the age of 40-something.
It’s amazing how our kids teach us so many lessons. Just like I thought I knew what strength was before I watched my kids bravely walking toward the world, I thought I knew what love was before I gave birth to these amazing humans. They have redefined so much of what I thought I knew about the world. I never knew I could love so fiercely, sacrifice so eagerly, worry so deeply.
And so we stand on that love and sacrifice and worry and we let them go. Because their strength can only come from being out in the world. We cannot protect them there. This is their chance to grow. And so much of their growth will come from struggling. From failing. From trying again. Each one of my kids will have their own time to try, to fail and also, I hope, to shine. And I also know there will be no time to shine without the time to struggle. So I smile and let him try and tell him how lucky we are that he is our boy.
And then we watch. We encourage. We support. We worry. We are there when they haven’t made a basket in three games. We are there when they catch that rebound and everyone is cheering. We watch it all because no matter what happens, we don’t want to miss a thing.

My Place With the Playground Benchwarmers

Where there is a playground, we will be there as Protectors of the Peace, like mundane super heroes keeping an eye on petty criminals.

It is almost 3 p.m. and I am standing around with a bunch of other parents waiting for the torrent of children to come barreling out of the school doors like a herd of screaming cats. Some of us chit chat idly with each other, some look at phones, some kind of stare aimlessly. It’s a fairly subdued scene, save for the slight hidden tension in anticipation of the impending barrage. Then the bell rings.
Some things never change, and certainly the end of the school day looks much like it did for me when I was a screaming cat in the herd. Like a river flowing forth from a burst damn, tiny people come streaming out of the doors, heads whipping wildly about in search of their respective rides home. Some charge off to the school bus lines, while other throw their backpacks in the general direction of their guardians and run recklessly to the parking lot.
Others, my son among them, greet their elders with pleading cries requesting playground access with their peers. Since I’m a sucker both for time spent in pursuit of physical activity and my son’s begging puppy-dog eyes, I graciously relent and we head around behind the school, my scion at top speed and me lagging behind with a newly acquired schoolbag.
The playground is ground zero for childhood, and these kids are anxious to spend as large a portion of their pent-up energy as possible before the cluster of parents at the picnic table finally decides we’ve had enough and it’s time to go home. They charge into whatever game they’d presumably created at recess earlier and just like that, they’re off.
As an experienced Playground Benchwarmer I know it is only a matter of time before the younger siblings that have been dragged along to pick-up will find something to complain about, and somehow in my seven years of parenting I still haven’t figured out the appropriate amount of snacks to bring to a venture such as this. So I bide my time as I commiserate with the other Benchwarmers about the nightly homework arguments and what new learning style has been introduced this year.
There was a time once, in the distant past, when I determined I would follow my son on the playground and do what he did, because I wasn’t one of those lazy parents that just sits around all the time while their kid plays. Oh no, I was one of those active, fun parents that likes to play with their kid and run around and swing on the monkey bars! I was able to keep up with him respectably for approximately three minutes, following which I collapsed on the nearest bench and spent the rest of the evening caving to TV demands just for a moment’s rest. Since that atrocious folly I have realized my place among the adults, and I stray no further from the bench than necessary.
This playground hierarchy, with kids rampant at play while parents sit nearby or push a younger sibling on a swing, translates to any and all designated play areas equally, I have found. There will always be a few guardians who get more involved, a few who remain aloof and remote, and the majority watching out of the corner of their eye from the sidelines. The Playground Benchwarmers are a stalwart bunch, braving the afternoon sun on an August afternoon or huddling around a steaming cup of coffee on a crisp November morning. Where there is a playground, we will be there as Protectors of the Peace, like mundane super heroes keeping an eye on petty criminals.
At the slightest sign of discord, the more alert and attentive of the bunch will call out a cease and desist cry, warning of the terrible consequences of non-compliance as the offending children pretend to listen before finding a sneakier way of breaking the rules. This is the way it has always been, and the way it will always be. One generation makes way for the next, but the bench will be forever warmed.
Finally the call has been made by one of the monitoring elite, and soon the rest follow. Momentum is a powerful force, not to be understated when children must be removed from a playground. Once one child has been suitably convinced of the need to leave, the rest will be much easier to persuade. It is imperative, therefore, the Benchwarmers work together as a group so as to avoid disruptive meltdowns and lengthy arguments. Slowly the playground clears out save for a few stragglers, and the sweaty children are led to their chariots to be carted off to the familial snack huts.
The Playground Benchwarmers have done their job, and the playground has been used and vacated without bloodshed or tears. Tomorrow is another day, and another chance at mutiny for the children. Against the Swingset Supervisors they stand little chance, however, and life will proceed as it has for generations.
I carry the bounty of second-grade math papers and left over lunch on my back as my son exchanges his last remaining potty jokes with his guffawing friends. As the sun sinks lower in the afternoon sky, we finally make it to the car and climb in, contentedly weary. All is right with the world now, as we head for home. Proudly I offer the bounty of Goldfish I actually remembered to bring this time, to which he replies that he has suddenly decided he hates Goldfish and is desperate for water, which of course I forgot to bring. Seven years in and I still have no idea what I’m doing.
This article was originally published at lifeoutsidethebox.me.

Practice Doesn't Always Make Perfect

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
My husband is perfect. Don’t be mad. But he is. He a great dad, a great provider, a great friend, and he’s top at everything. It comes easily to him. But he’s so damn nice and humble that it’s not annoying. Everything he tries, he succeeds. Be it at work, games, relationships (Hello! Happy wife here!) – anything and everything. Whatever he aims for, he achieves. Our eight-year-old son is the same. A mini version of his dad, everything is easy for him. So when my Mary Poppins husband (practically perfect in every way) didn’t achieve a goal, it was just what my son and daughter needed to witness.
The hubs is a runner. And the man is fast. Like a 5K in 18 minutes fast. Insane marathons fast. Therefore, when he set his sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, of course we assumed he would have no problem achieving this challenging goal.
To clarify – the Boston Marathon is incredibly competitive. So many people strive to enter the race that every year the qualifying times become lower and lower. To qualify, a runner must complete an approved marathon at a particular pace. For the hubby, it was three hours and 10 minutes. That’s 7:05 a mile for 26 miles. But the man is determined and when he sets his eyes on a goal, he achieves it. Every time.
His first attempt was early this year and, due to the race and weather issues, he did not qualify for Boston and we thought not much of it. Can’t blame Mother Nature. And so he trained, and trained, and trained. The kids saw him wake up early, strap on his shoes, and go at it. It wasn’t easy but he was focused and he quietly demonstrated to them the hard work that goes into a challenge. His regimen was on point. He was set. We were so sure he would, of course, qualify, that I had plane tickets set to purchase and our Boston hotel reserved.
But when the qualifying race came, his final time was 3:13. Three measly minutes short of Boston. No one could believe it. I told my sister and she texted back, “I don’t understand. Did something happen?” Of course, in our society these days, it’s valid to assume there was a bombing, an injury, or hurricane Irma that was set to hit our Florida house the next day and done some early damage.
I wondered how he would react. In our 19 years together, I had not experienced this. And, as always, he was perfect.
First, he was a little quiet. He processed it and visited the race medic. And when he returned, he told us, calm as can be, “I’m happy with how it turned out. I did my best. I set a new PR.”
A PR is a Personal Record. And in the hubbub of qualifying for Boston, the fact that he shaved eight minutes off his personal best marathon time was temporarily overlooked. This wasn’t a failure, but a major success.
Our son, his doppelganger, pleaded. “Let’s just buy it for Dad. He tried so hard.” If a person does not qualify for Boston, the runner can enter with charity donations. While I appreciated my son’s desire to fulfill his father’s dream, I tenderly looked at him and replied, “Nope, honey. That’s not what Dad wants. He wants to qualify. That’s his goal.”
The kids saw how their father reacted in the face of disappointment. Not do as I say, but do as I do. He showed by example. He didn’t yell or declare a system failure. The kids, by watching him calmly process the outcome, learned that you can’t always fix it. It ends how it ends and you decide how you want to handle that and if you want to try again. He showed that just because you try your best, it doesn’t mean you will succeed.
I am hoping they remember this. When my son doesn’t win his swim meet or my daughter doesn’t make it to the finals with her science project, they will remember the way Dad ran his race. He did his best, he set a goal he was determined to reach, and he faced the challenge. And while he still didn’t overcome that challenge, he set a new record and demonstrated a life lesson to his kids. He couldn’t have been more perfect.

All Parents Should Kick It Like Beckham 

Youth sports have become less about having a good time and getting exercise and more focused on competition. It’s time to bring some playfulness back.

This past week, soccer star David Beckham posted videos on his official Instagram account of him giving his six-year-old-daughter Harper her first “football lesson.” From the looks of it, she may have inherited some of his talent – Harper was a natural kicking the ball right to her father!
Beckham’s sweet post illustrates how playing sports with your children can have so many benefits. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, child psychologist and co-author of the recently released “Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends” says, “Parents and children enjoying each other’s company is essential for child development. It’s the foundation of our relationships and the greatest joy of parenting. It can also be healing when kids are struggling in other areas.”
However, many parents today prefer to have their children involved in organized sports rather than just going outside and kicking a ball around. Kennedy-Moore understands why parents might want their children to learn about sports from professional coaches. She explains, “It is often easier on both kids and parents if someone else is in charge of teaching certain technical skills. Parents tend to fantasize about sharing our wisdom with our children, but criticism from a parent can be hard for kids to take, and they don’t always respond enthusiastically to our tips or suggestions.” Organized sports allow children to learn skills alongside peers with proper supervision.
But the de-emphasis on “just playing” in favor of organized sports involvement has a downside. Rick Wolff, WFAN Sports Radio personality and author of the forthcoming book “Secrets of Sports Psychology Revealed” says, “As caring parents, we of course want to do what we can for our child. In youth sports today that means private coaching, elite summer camps, travel teams, state of the art equipment, etc.”
Youth sports have become less about having a good time and getting exercise and more focused on competition. Wolff says, “Sports parents today understandably dream and fantasize that their little one will indeed be richly blessed with superior athletic talent as well as the inner drive to succeed in sports. And when our child scores a goal, or makes a basket, or gets a hit, that special moment of success only serves to reinforce parental dreams.”
The problem is that even the most talented, hard-working and determined child athletes are not destined to be sports superstars. “Sadly, for more than 96 percent of all high school varsity athletes, their playing days end when they finish high school,” says Wolff. “Very few athletes are good enough to play in college.”
Wolff adds, “Even worse, the element of fun was most likely lost somewhere along the way.” That sentiment was echoed by a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports that estimated around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13. The main reason for quitting was because “it’s just not fun anymore.”
Watching Beckham and his daughter play together is a great reminder that sports are supposed to be fun. Kicking around a ball in your yard or shooting hoops is a great way for parents and kids to spend time together. In fact, the best part of Beckham’s post was the caption (12 hearts with a soccer ball in the middle) and the big hug he gave his daughter at the end of the lesson. While all parents may not be able to teach their kids to “bend it like Beckham,” they can let their child know they love them and will always be “superstars” in their parents’ eyes.

5 Payoffs of Watching Your Kid Battle Through a Sports Injury

As with every sport, the risk of injury looms. What’s amazing as a parent is seeing the perseverance of a kid determined to heal and get back in the game.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
If you have a child who is all-things athlete, you understand the depth beneath his/her competitive nature. The kid who lives and breathes sports has an internal drive for success that is off the charts. Watching the Olympics proves this truth.
As with every sport, the risk of injury looms. And you know how devastating a setback can be for your child. But what’s amazing as a parent is observing the perseverance and commitment of a kid determined to heal and get back into the game.
My daughter played seven sports in her first 11 years. When you look at her DNA under a microscope, pretty sure a Nike swoosh shows up. And she played each one with full abandon, expecting perfection of herself even as a pip squeak t-baller. She even had a two-year stint as QB on the football team, not a single bone of fear in her body.
Now she plays collegiate basketball – a level of competition in a different realm. She is a monsterish 5’ 2”; all you need to know about her will to succeed in a game dominated by girls who hover around the tall tree mark. Speed and moxie get the job done.
Unfortunately, even her mettle couldn’t prevent a significant labrum tear in her shoulder during her freshman season. Somehow, she found the grit to play out the year in pain. But what really amazed me, was her mindset and approach to off-season surgery and rehab. A determined purpose to heal and get back on the court left me slack jawed with admiration. And I know so many of you parents have witnessed the same resolve in your courageous kin.
If we take the time to reflect on how our athletic kids respond to injury, we can walk away with a heart full of lessons to buoy us going forward. Setbacks of all kinds await us in the future, and here are five gifts from watching a teen battle through a sports injury to tuck away for safe keeping:

1 | Attitude is everything

Teens get a bad rap for their rapid cycling mood changes. Sometimes their ‘tude gets underneath our skin. But if you look closely, you’ll find they often have us adults beat when it comes to positivity during times of stress. Mind over matter fuels the athlete.

2 | Embracing pain has great dividends

Athletes don’t let pain deter them. Their inner compass points true north: the place where the potential for victory AND defeat always co-exist. Learning to embrace the same paradox in life –accepting the struggles along with the joys – is a life-giving mentality we can all benefit from.

3 | Competitiveness can be a good thing

When the drive to be competitive transcends being a sore loser, the payoff of such determination is confidence. Athletes who lay everything on the line for the love of the game, rather than creating a springboard from which to boast, develop a type of moxie hard to match. And this resolve carries them through injury. If we choose to battle negative thoughts for the love of life, imagine the blessings we’d reap.

4 | You’re never too old to be a kid

If you are an athlete at heart, the joy of playing a game never leaves your spirit. Which means kid vibes run perpetually through your veins. Seems like this playful energy is what fuels the injured athlete and causes them to approach injuries with grace. Imagine if we all could see our setbacks through the eyes of a child.

5 | Life goes on … no matter what

Not every athlete recovers from an injury. But what is amazing to watch is how a kid rebounds from the loss. They continue to battle through the emotions even if the physical fight has reached an end. Kids, because of their limited life experience, take every day as it comes better than adults. And they choose to trust in the unknown going forward. As grown ups, we often struggle when life presses the pause button on our deep seeded efforts; already exhausted from decades of disappointments and let downs. What if we let go of what’s shaped us and start each new day with a fresh slate on which to chalk up our experiences?
So, here’s to the bright side of our child’s athletic injury. Kids teach us countless lessons, but some of the best things we learn correlate to some of the worst things they experience. And the best way to reward our kids for their positivity, grit, and grace is to adopt their philosophies and pay forward the results.
That’s how we make the world a better place one determined effort at a time.

Living With Fibromyalgia – Understanding What It Is and How to Move Forward

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a musculoskeletal disorder that is currently getting a lot of social media attention with Lady Gaga speaking up about her diagnosis, but what is it and how does it affect us as parents?
Diagnosis for Fibromyalgia happens after all other similar diseases have been ruled out by testing and has become well recognized as a life impacting illness that affects a person’s mind, nervous system, muscular functions, and energy levels.
Common symptoms for FM are:

  • widespread body-wide pain
  • jaw pain and stiffness
  • pain and tiredness in the face muscles and adjacent fibrous tissues
  • stiff joints and muscles, especially after any kind of workout
  • headaches (more than three a week)
  • irregular sleep patterns, or even what seems like insomnia
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and uncomfortable gas and bloating that lasts for weeks
  • painful menstrual periods (similar to the pain experienced in endometriosis)
  • tingling and numbness in the hands and feet (often times the first symptom of Fibro)
  • restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • sensitivity to cold or heat (and temperatures can increase your other symptoms as well)
  • difficulties with memory and concentration known as “fibro-fog” that can affect your ability to speak or form sentences
  • exhaustion or severe levels of fatigue
  • problems with vision
  • nausea
  • pelvic and urinary problems
  • weight gain
  • dizziness
  • cold or flu-like symptoms
  • skin problems
  • chest symptoms
  • depression and anxiety
  • breathing problems

This does not mean everyone with Fibromyalgia will walk around looking like they are struggling – quite the opposite. We look fine.
And maybe that’s part of the problem and why misdiagnosis happens so often.
As a patient, I had gone to see a doctor about backache various times – and got sent to physiotherapy and given pain medications, but there were no results. My backache was so bad that I needed to support myself against a wall to stand up at times. I complained for five years that something was wrong. But there were no answers.
I had also gone at a different time to have my hormone levels checked and to find ways to boost my energy levels as I was passing out during the day – not something a mother of three young kids can allow to happen. But all my levels were fine. I did these tests annually for three years.
I had gone for x-rays on other occasions to check for arthritis in my feet and hands as the pain became unbearably bad, to the point where I wouldn’t be able to walk comfortably or do simple tasks like opening the peanut butter jar. I couldn’t hold a broom with one hand … but the exams showed nothing.
I was having headaches constantly, reaching for ibuprofen daily. I kept blinds shut and sunglasses on at all times to see if that would help, but it didn’t. I started to call them my exhaustion headaches as they typically hit me mid-day when I had to force myself to stay awake when all my body wanted to do was fall asleep.
I went from being the mom always running around the basketball court with a kid held up above my shoulders so he could “make net,” to not being able to pick up my three-year-old at all some days without fear of dropping him because my arms felt so weak.
I found myself some days needing to stop mid-way climbing the stairs from our basement to our top floor because my legs were throbbing as if I’ve completed a marathon run the day before. But it was just doing laundry, I would think to myself.
I was getting snappy at my kids. I was getting snappy with my husband. I felt terrible most of the day and I started feeling like I was slipping away from myself and my family. But as much as I was trying to find answers, it just didn’t seem to lead anywhere.
I struggled with whether or not to write this article, I didn’t want to seem like I’m looking for sympathy or attention. But I was reminded that oftentimes this struggle in self-advocating is one that too many people lose.
You give up on yourself.
You start believing others who tell you there’s nothing wrong.
So I am writing this article for those of you who might be feeling lost right now.
There are answers and there is help.
You just need to know your own body and you need to believe in yourself enough to keep advocating for it.
I believe my diagnosis finally hit the right mark because I finally got to the point of just letting go with my doctor. No holding back.
My life is changing. Who I am and will be is changing and these same things may very well be happening to those you know with this disease.
They can’t help it. They can’t stop it. They can’t cure it. They can’t just get over it.
There is no known cause of FM, but it is believed for about one-third of persons the onset may be attributed to a triggering event, such as a severe illness, a traumatic incident, or a stressful, emotional experience.
So what we can do if we have FM?
We can educate ourselves on what works best for us. From dietary changes to the various treatment possibilities – self-education and experimentation is a must.
We can work on keeping our minds as positive as possible and focus on things that makes us happy – because any way you can boost serotonin in your brain is a good thing for the rest of your pain.
We can also talk to our support system and let them know when we may need a break.
We can stay active – in a way that helps our bodies, not worsens it – and not give in to some of the statistics that surround this disease like obesity and suicide.
If you were a runner who now gets tired and achy after a mile, then run that mile and walk the other four – or however far you like to go. And if you have days where even just running one mile seems too much – then simply walk for 30 minutes.
We can rest when we need it. But we can’t give in to it. We can’t let it beat us or take our passions from us.
We can adjust our lives.
We can still do this. But you need to be determined to kick butt every single day. You need to be determined to prove the statistics wrong. You need to be determined to remain as much YOU as possible.
More resources on understanding Fibromyalgia that I found helpful:

The Sport That Leads to More Concussions Than Boys' Football

Recent research reminds parents that they might be overlooking the dangers of concussions in sports besides football.

Mounting evidence about Traumatic Brain Injury has made many parents wary of high school football, perhaps contributing to continuing decline in high school football participation.
But research presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ 2017 conference reminds parents that they might be overlooking the dangers in other sports. Michael Schallmo from the Wake Forest School of Medicine found that female high school athletes are more likely to get concussions than their male counterparts, with female soccer players the most likely to sustain concussions.

More overall concussions

Concussion rates across all high school sports appeared to increase during the study period, with concussion rates more than doubling between 2005 and 2015.
That increase does not necessarily mean that sports are less safe than they were a decade ago. In fact, it may prove the opposite. The increased rate of concussions may just represent increased reporting of injuries, a result of successful interventions to combat Traumatic Brain Injury in high school athletics.

Girls have more concussions than boys

The researchers found that in gender-matched sports (like girls volleyball and boys volleyball), girls had a higher rate of concussions than boys. This same phenomenon has been recorded by other studies of female athletes at the middle school and college levels.
Assuming that coaches across sports and genders are reporting concussions at an increased rate, the higher relative rate of concussions in girls’ soccer requires an explanation.

Do girls use their heads more than boys?

Are girls’ sports inherently more dangerous? There’s not yet a clear explanation for why female athletes sustain more concussions than males. But it does appear clear that brain injuries are different for girls than boys.
One theory is that high school girls’ soccer involves more heading than high school boys’ play. But a 2015 study in JAMA Pediatrics found that injury rates for heading were about the same across genders. The majority cause of concussions for both groups was player-to-player contact – almost 69 percent for boys and 51 percent for girls. Heading – which could involve contact with the ball or another player – was related to about 30 percent of boys’ concussions and 25 percent of girls’ concussions.
Another explanation for the difference in the concussion rate is that girls’ physiology makes them more prone to concussions. Some researchers have hypothesized that girls’ neck size and strength predisposes them to injury. Other researchers have suggested that concussions sustained prior to menstruation interfere with progesterone production, which in turn affects healing.

What parents can do

Faced with the evidence about girls’ soccer injuries, parents have at least three options:

1 | Demand your daughters not play soccer

That’s as much an overreaction to concussions as parents demanding their sons not play football. The evidence researchers have gathered so far suggests that it’s not the sport, but the rules of play, that would benefit from change.

2 | Lobby for rule changes within your child’s leagues

One response to the concussion rate, not just for girls but for all young players, might be to ban heading. U.S. Soccer has already responded to research into Traumatic Brain Injury by banning heading for all kids aged 10 and under, and to limit kids ages 11-13 to no more than 30 minutes of heading per week. The researchers behind the JAMA Pediatrics study concluded that because headers were the most common source of concussions for high school athletes regardless of gender, a ban on headers could significantly reduce the concussion rate. But they also concluded that such a recommendation was not likely to be “culturally acceptable.” Increased regulation of player-player contact, however might be “culturally tolerable.”

3 | Support continued research

PINK Concussions, a not-for-profit organization devoted to pre-injury education and post-injury treatment, is one good place to start. And if you or your child has a concussion-related story to share, PINK Concussions is seeking contributors for an upcoming book.