Wednesday, April 11, 2012

spring break: for real this time

Olivia's soccer coach sent an email the first weekend of spring break reminding everyone of Monday night's practice.  It also instructed that even though Wednesday and Thursday practices were canceled, “players should get in some quality time working on foot-skills, juggling, and doing the 'Pele series'" (instructional foot skill videos with routines that the girls must practice and 'pass').  

I had to wonder, why “should” they?  Will players from other teams bound ahead and snag our college scholarships while we’re lazying it up chasing easter eggs instead of soccer balls?  Will a week away from drills ruin everyone's chances for the national team?

The coach is a nice guy, but he’s gotten caught up in this whole soccer-industrial-complex thing I dislike so much.  In response to his call for compulsory foot skill drilling over Easter weekend, I only have one thing to say: “Thank God we quit that team!”

Yes, I finally put my money where my mouth is.  The pressures of this team had turned a fun activity into a tedious chore.  By Christmas, Olivia had had enough.  Steve and I agreed. 

I need to remind the manager to take me off the email list, but in the meantime, I haven't really minded being privy to their many obligations.  The information only reinforces our decision, showing me how we have reclaimed our holiday weekends from the grip of those soul-sucking soccer tournaments.  Instead, Olivia participates in synchronized swimming twice a week and happily drops into the ice rink on Saturday mornings for a 30-minute skating lesson.  All fun.

She’s not going to get to the Olympics on that schedule, it's true, but she wasn’t going there anyway, so who cares? 

Ironically, unlike Olivia's U11 team, both Gareth’s nationally ranked club team, and his high school team gave him the entire spring break off—with no mention of independent drills or “optional” practices for kids who were still in town.  

So, freed from Olivia's soccer commitments, we had spring break for real.  No organized sports at all. 

Instead, we did this:
me (3rd from right), steve (unmissable yellow), olivia (pink in front), gareth (2nd from left)
the sign says "Harper's Ferry or Bust"

We rode our bikes 30 miles to Harper’s Ferry with 3 other families, camped for two nights and returned by bike on Saturday. 

How did we get the kids to do it? Olivia likes to bike, so she jumped for joy at the news of our trip.  In typical teen fashion, however, Gareth nearly turned inside out when I broke the news.  Still, I think he has figured out that we give him his freedom and enable his burgeoning social life in exchange for a certain obligatory quota of “family time.”  When he recognizes that an event falls under this rubric, he resigns himself to endure, even while offering dire predictions of eternal misery, and making redundant proclamations like "This is soooo stupid!" 

So we unplugged and set out along the C&O Canal with 16 bicycles, 7 adults, 9 kids, and a lot of determination.  We stayed over in a sort of cheesy KOA campground just outside the town of Harper’s Ferry. That’s ok.  Steve will be the first to tell you, that while a bike seat can for sure do some damage, a little cheese never hurt anybody. 

The place had ping pong, horseshoes, a huge moon-bouncy type trampoline, mini-golf and most importantly, showers.  The beauty of all this stuff:  nothing electric (besides light bulbs), no schedule, very little supervision.  The kids came and went as they pleased, met other kids, played games, roamed the property…chilled--or as Olivia would say, "chillaxed."  The only thing we required of them (aside from asking them to ride their bikes 60 miles!) was that they wash the dishes.  A totally fair camping chore. 

At night, we listened to music, patted ourselves on the back for completing the first leg of our journey, and joked about the many pained "gooches" huddled around the fire (This was a new word for me. I had planned to link to a definition, but when I went searching for one, I found quite a bit of unsavory extraneous material.  So I'll tell you it's a particularly sensitive crotch area just behind what Steve would call "the doodads."  If you decide to google it, be prepared for an as-the-crow-flies diagram of a man or a woman's underside, among other things). 

None of the definitions say so, but if you're not an experienced biker, the gooch can take quite a beating on the first trip out.  Not even that persistant complaint, however, could overshadow that the weekend offered:

No turf.  No referees.  No coaches.  

Just this:

And this:

And this:

I think I am like a lot of other parents: wishing for a slower life, wanting to reduce stressful schedules, hoping to unplug, seeking quiet…accepting that I can’t always make it happen.

So when I do, I savor it.

And despite the litany of pre-trip protests, even Gareth reaped the benefits of the space we put between ourselves and our ridiculous schedules. 

I hope that however you did/do it, you also stole some time for a restful spring break--for real.


  1. Ha! Another word for notcha! Not your doodads, not an orifice. Not anything but a place to get sore after riding a bike! Congratulations on putting up the hand to all the crap that comes our way as parents trying to make our kids the best they can be. Man, do Husband and I struggle with this! Every season, "Are you doing basketball? Are you doing Challenger? Are you doing tri-county? Oh , you should try baseball! How about indoor soccer?" ENOUGH! I want to LIVE and just BE sometimes with my family. I want to go on bike rides and go golfing and hang around the house sometimes. All 4 of my kiddos are doing soccer, and I am dreading how my life will be not much of a life for the next 2.5 months. We said "NO" to basketball this winter for both of our boys. My oldest was happy about this, my middle guy, not so much. He'll have his chance at roundball, and then he will want it so much more. But this winter we patted ourselves on the back for pushing basketball away. I am thinking about the summer; less is more. Maybe it's time to REALLY go for things like your wonderful bike trip and clearing the house of things we do not use. I saw a bumper sticker in the parking lot of the awesome co-op I go to to buy organic fruits and veggies; it said, "Proud parents of some really nice people." I LOVE THAT!!!!!!!!!! I am not a soccer mom. I am a MOM. Mom's take care of people, not soccer players. Yes, my people play soccer, sometimes. But first I need to teach them to be people, good, nice, thoughtful people who spend time with their families.

    1. notcha? never heard of that either. here i thought i was a word person - didn't know i was so vocabularily impaired! you took the words right out of my mouth. I used to tell steve when he was a soccer coach: coaches need to remember they're mentoring children (people), not soccer players. there's more to life than just a ball!

  2. Oh what fun!! How awesome that you guys said no to over scheduling and yes to family and time!

    When Chad's team folded, another team wanted to pick him up, and he said, "NO." And I said, "THANK FREAKIN' GOODNESS" (although it probably was more like, "hells the frick yeah!")

    I appreciate being reminded that even if the teenage boy moans, he can still do the family time. What a treat camping is, too!

    1. i love it that you say "do the family time," like it's prison! :)

  3. *total like*

    I used to teach swimming lessons and all I can say is that I wish more parents were like you.

    A four year old needs to know how to doggy paddle to the side of the pool if they fall in, or tread water and roll over on their back and float in case they get too far from the side. A four year old does not need to know how to butterfly to join the swim team...and most four year olds aren't even kinesthetically aware of their body (much less their body in water) to figure out how anyways...)

    A bit off topic, but have you heard about this ? They are having a Richmond area rally as part of their national rally on the 28th...I think the munchkin and I might do our XX chromosome duty (and maybe even drag the hubby) and go.

    1. i am familiar with those butterfly performing 4 year olds!

      as for the rally, i am aware of it. i don't know if we're going to make it or not--i think there's actually something in d.c. as well. i hope you make it and have a great time. blog to tell about it!