Tag Archives: Recreation

Sometimes Kids’ Adventure Needs to Be Mom-Free

“Mom, we did really awesome things that you would not like,” my son rambled from the backseat, along with descriptions of climbing high, wet, slippery rocks and getting up-close and personal with a possible rattlesnake.

My brain stopped at those high, slippery rocks. I knew those window falls he was talking about. He’s right. There’s no way I’d ever let him climb that.

But my son’s quote is the essence of our relationship. He seeks awesome things and I typically do not like them. Mention adventure and my danger radar goes off. I go into protection mode when it comes to my kids. I know I can’t wrap them in bubble wrap and send them out into the world. I know I have to let them live an actual life and experience actual things. None of that means I won’t worry the entire time they are away from me. And in order for my kids to have certain adventures, like awesome things I would not like, sometimes they just need to be away from me.

My son went camping this week with a friend and his dad. This dad has experience backpacking, camping in places much rougher than the hour-away campground they went to, complete with bathhouse. He’s been a camp counselor and a school principal. A pretty good resume if you are the type of mom who considers credentials before sending your child into the wild.

My breath may catch when my son climbs to new heights. I may tell him to be careful when he walks on slippery rocks. I may remind him twenty times to remember to shower so doesn’t get itchy at night. But once he leaves me, I know what I don’t know won’t hurt me, he’ll have fun, and he’ll do things I wouldn’t allow. He’ll experience life in a way I would never let him. Sometimes that’s the best part of letting go. In order for my kids to truly experience life, sometimes they need to do it out of my grasp.

When they come home and tell me their adventures, I smile and nod my head and I’m glad I wasn’t there to hold them back. And sometimes, I just pretend to listen. I don’t need to hear about all the awesome stuff.

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Filed under Boy Stories

Winning Isn’t Everything, Unless You’re the Loser

In our house, someone is always up for a game. Cards, checkers, chess, football, dominoes, or one of several we’ve made up through the years. Balls in the Hall, anyone? We take turns rolling balls down the hall. The person who comes closest to the door at the end of the hall without hitting it, wins. We made that up before we ever even played bocce. And we thought we were onto something.

As our kids have gotten older, my husband and I have introduced them to Yahtzee, Scrabble, Sequence, Ratuki, and more, bending the rules if necessary so everyone can play.

Games teach skill, strategy, quick thinking, problem solving, computing. They teach kids about winning and losing. Unfortunately, for someone in this family, losing does not come easily. In fact, my husband and I make this person agree beforehand that there will be no fussing during the game. There will be no crying. No card throwing. There will be no fits whatsoever if he loses. Oops. Did I let on that it was my son?

Nearly every game that he loses ends in tears, and it’s been that way for nearly all of his nine years. It’s so bad that every now and then, one of us, including his seven-year-old sister, will let him win so we won’t have to endure the agony that is to come.card games

As much as we all hate it, my son has no one to blame but his father. My husband does not like to lose, though he is no longer prone to tantrums and throwing clubs like his parents will tell you he did during the infamous putt-putt game when he was a boy.

This trait did not come from me, oh no, it did not. My childhood games were spent dealing with a sister who cheated at Monopoly. I always called her out. I never cared whether I got Boardwalk. I could care less if she had more houses or hotels or money than me. I just had to pay attention that she wasn’t slipping some extra pastel cash into her hands. I made sure she played nice.

At least my son isn’t a cheater, but his competitive streak can be unbearable. I try to remind myself that competition can be a good thing. I never cared about winning or losing, mostly because I didn’t excel at anything. I didn’t have the drive.

Even so, I don’t particularly like having to deal with my husband’s childhood paybacks. It’s not really fair to the rest of us. But I quietly endure the losing fits, chuckle, and tease my husband, saying, “He’s just like you.” I do this because I know my paybacks are still to come—when my daughter enters the teen years.

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Filed under Family

The Family Vacation: Why We Do It Every Year

Every summer my family joins my sister’s family for a week at the beach. Cousins can’t wait to see one another and do exactly the same things as last year. Dads man up to see who can find the most sea glass or the coolest treasure. (The taunting started around Christmas.) Us moms just look forward to sitting and doing nothing against the backdrop of a blue sea.

Then we arrive at the beach cottage and reality sets in. The kids run free like the wild horses on one of the islands, and we kind of still have parenting to do. And four kids somehow seems unequal to four parents who desperately want to relax.

Day 1: There was no denying when our troupe of eight arrived at the beach. As my brother-in-law put it, we looked like the Griswolds with our beach paraphernalia strapped to backs and shoulders: chairs, buckets, shovels, umbrellas, coolers, boogie boards, a skim board, towels, a football, and whatever else the kids snuck in their bags. Anyone in our vicinity who wanted peace and quiet was in for a rude awakening with all the shouting, flying sand, and obnoxious laughter.

Day 2: The expensive umbrella we bought for last year’s trip didn’t last through last year’s trip. We bought a cheap one this time. We were driving down the road our second day and fwoomp!everything on the roof had blown off. My sister’s umbrella and boogie boards landed in the middle of a five-lane road. So of course at the beach that day, my umbrella kept falling apart and hers stood strong.

Crappy beach umbrella, mominthemuddle.com

This may account for some of my sunburn.

Day 3: “Red Solo cup. Let’s fill it up. Let’s have a paaar-teeee. Let’s have a paaar-teeee.” Every year, everyone thinks it’s clever to latch onto one song so it gets stuck in everyone’s head the entire week. Four kids singing (the wrong lyrics) off-key day after day became mind numbing. When I heard it on the radio today and realized it was a real song and not some silly words the kids strung together, I nearly fell off my chair.

Day 4: Riding in a van with eight people can be lots of fun. When four of them are kids, it can also not be. At times I’m certain there were eight different conversations going on. I’m not sure how that was possible since I wasn’t part of any of them. My favorite was “Let’s copy Karen” and the kids would repeat everything I said. I hate that game. Then we played the quiet game and my husband gave the winner a quarter. Kids really aren’t so good at that. I got the quarter.

steamed crabs, mominthemuddle.com

No reason to feel crabby at the beach, right?

Day 5: My kids have never been taught proper beach bathroom etiquette. I grew up near a beach. If there weren’t bathrooms, you simply got up, waded into the ocean, and did your thing. My kids think this is disgusting. The same kids who lick their shoes and eat things from their nose. Seriously. Go in the water along with millions of marine wildlife.

Day 6: The kids and their cousins begged us to go go-karting. This activity provides no thrills for me. It’s not NASCAR. It’s not bumper cars. My kids fight over who has to ride with me because I always finish last. I don’t want to shell out $20 to drive my kids around a track so they can complain about it. I do that at home for free.

Day 7: Packing up, the kids got in some last games together. They told one another good-bye. And the adults were already making plans for next year’s trip.

We came home exhausted, filled with sand, and covered in peeling skin. A mountain of laundry sat as tall as the washing machine. The refrigerator held nothing for dinner. Normal life had returned.

But when we looked at the photos, we remembered: that first year when the kids were so small, songs from years past, giant sea glass, running down the dunes, and always getting soaked that first night on the beach. Every year the kids get older and bigger. So do the memories.

That’s why we do it.

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Filed under Everyday Life