The night gymnastics became a contact sport

NevegymnasticsRight now, I’m sitting in the front row of our local gymnastics center’s waiting area, near huge, plate glass windows, doggedly watching my 4 year old’s class.

Not because the class is riveting (girlfriend, please!). In truth, it’s not even my daughter Neve – in her purple gymnastics suit with silver stars, and her brown, curly hair swept up in a side ponytail – that I’m focused on. It’s another girl in her class, a bigger one who’s wearing a pink dance leotard with a sheer skirt.

Why? Because Pinky’s the one who got so impatient with Neve last week during class that she, by all reports, decked her.

The story goes like this: as Neve’s classmates individually made their way around a circuit of various kinds of equipment, Neve stopped to ask the teacher a question about how she was supposed to do something; she must have had trouble getting the teacher’s attention, because Pinky, who was behind Neve in line, got frustrated, hit/pushed Neve pretty hard from behind, and called her “stupid.”

Now, in fairness, Neve responded by calling Pinky “stupid” right back, which is less than ideal; but Neve was also upset enough by what happened that she came out to find me in the waiting area.

Unfortunately, I was utterly lost in the world of my laptop just then, sitting in the way-way-back row of chairs, scrambling to finish up an assignment for work. (It was an obituary for a longtime “Jazz Revisited” radio host, Ann Arbor-ite, and all-around-mensch Hazen Schumacher, so even though I hadn’t known of his work previously, I was studying up like crazy in order to try and do his life/career justice.) Being a 4 year old, Neve often leaves class for a bathroom run, and sometimes – well, sometimes she just leaves because she’s 4 and gets distracted easily. But this time, my bouncy little sprite wore a dark, cloud-like expression.

“A girl in my class hit me,” she said. “And she called me stupid.”

Oh. Didn’t see that coming. Ah, let’s see. Improvise, Mommy, improvise… Continue reading

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Trampolining by moonlight

1071570_10151589945942632_184669496_oTonight, I was late coming home, because I’d been asked to talk about reviewing and entertainment writing with an evening journalism class at Eastern Michigan University.

So it was dark, a little after 8 p.m., when I parked on our street and let myself into the house. Lights were on, but the place was silent – in a way that NO house with a 5 year old and a 2 year old in it is silent.

I walked around and checked each empty room, puzzling out the possibilities. Joe’s car was in the driveway, so they had to have walked wherever they went. The nearby café we used to frequent for post-dinner smoothies recently closed, so that left the library down the block as the prime suspect.

I grabbed my keys, locked up, and trudged back out to the sidewalk.

But then I thought I heard faint giggles and voices, coming from somewhere in the area of our house.

Could Joe and the girls be outside, in our backyard, though the moon and the streetlights were the only sources of light at this point?

Yep. As I walked down our long driveway, I spotted silhouetted figures bobbing up and down on the trampoline, and heard peals of high-pitched, little girl laughter.

What the what? Continue reading

Teaching “excuse me” in an “outta my way!” world

As someone who didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a mother, here’s a recent situation I’d never imagined starring in: sitting at the top of a three-story, enclosed swirly slide, I watch a 6 or 7 year old boy go down on his stomach, backwards, while gripping onto the slide, disappearing from view in small increments.

Here’s the echoing conversation that ensues between us: “I’m still in here!” he says.

ME: “My daughter’s waiting for her turn to go, please.”

BOY: “OK, I’ll go down this time. But don’t come back.”

ME: “That’s not very nice. And my daughter has as much right to ride the slide as you do.”

Then Lily and I rode down to, at the end, see this boy’s face hanging upside down above us, as if trying to intimidate us. Nice. Continue reading

How a 2 year old salvaged a holiday traveling nightmare (no, I’m not kidding)

Much of this blog, inevitably, concentrates on the struggles and difficulties of raising a little one. (Wouldn’t be much of a blog if I regularly posted things like, “This parenting thing’s a breeze! No problems here, no sir!”) But after the day my little family and I had today, I felt compelled to share the way Lily, our 2 year old daughter, managed to make a pretty crummy, delay-riddled day of travel into a tolerable, downright relaxing experience.

In order to celebrate Christmas with my family, Joe, Lily and I had traveled to my father’s home in North Carolina late last week. We’ve done this for many years now (since my parents retired to NC in the late ’90s), and we’re accustomed to getting off the plane to find warmer (than Michigan) temps and sunshine. So it never dawned on us to check the weather forecast before leaving this year. Aren’t there already enough details to worry about during the holidays?

So imagine our surprise as we watched, through the windows in my father’s house, six or more inches of snow accumulate on Christmas Day. Now, I knew from my two-year grad school stint at the University of Georgia that snow both excites and terrifies many folks who live south of the Mason-Dixon line, and judging by the local television coverage of the storm, this notion certainly seemed to apply to the people of Western North Carolina. But Joe and I soon became far more wrapped up in the snow’s consequences for us, specifically. As we checked in on the multiple flight cancellations out of Asheville that day, and heard forecasts calling for another couple of inches of snow the next day (when we were scheduled to fly home), our hearts sank. It’s one thing to be staring down a delay or an isolated cancellation on a regular day; it’s another thing entirely to wonder how an extremely large, upset backlog of people, all of whom would (understandably) be scrambling and jockeying for spots on outgoing flights in the coming days, would eventually all get to their destination – us included. Continue reading