Archives For Kids

As I laid in bed earlier this morning with my daughter by my side, buried as deeply down under my blanket as the fallen tree outside my bedroom window was blanketed in snow, I looked up from my phone to see her reading to herself.

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And this made me happy.

Refocusing my attention back to glowing screen staring back at me, I devoted the next 3.5 minutes of my day to watching this video.

And this made me hang my head in shame and put down my phone.

Later in the day, my little girl asked me to complete an “assignment sheet,” one that I was told needed to incorporate both pictures and words in order to describe her.

So I drew this beautiful rendition of her on the tiny assignment sheet she created for me.

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And this made us both giggle and me smile with pride.

She then told me it was my turn to create an assignment sheet for her. Same rules applied. She would combine words and pictures to describe me.

She meticulously printed her name and description sentence on the lines I created, drew her image in the square provided, then she handed everything back to me wearing a smirk on her face.

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This made me hang my head in shame (again). Notice the laptop and cell phone, in particular.

For the record, we did go to Target today. Miss Tell-it-like-it-is got a new pair of shoes and a couple more books to add to her Dr. Seuss library.

We plan to read those books together, like we do NEARLY EVERY SINGLE NIGHT snuggled under the same blanket. Where I will sit. Logged off.

Has your kid shamed you lately?

Written by Heidi Woodard

They get one childhood

January 26, 2015
Little Heidi

Little Heidi

I remember playing kickball with my group of childhood friends on a small patch of land surrounded by busy streets. We referred to that special stomping ground as the island. We’d meet at the island on the weekends or after school and had specific rules about where we were allowed to kick the ball.

There were the siblings, Chad and his younger brother Jeff, from one house and another girl like me, Amy, from another house. I say Amy was a “girl like me” strictly from an anatomical standpoint. I don’t recall her wanting to play kickball, race (foot or bike), or get dirty half as much as I did. I imagine Amy hung out with us for lack of other options as none of us were as musically gifted as she was. Chad and I were only allowed to kick between the first base tree and second base tree towards the neighborhood gas station because any ball booted over shortstop or third base ran the risk of being run over by a car.

You NEVER wanted to be the one who ruined a perfectly good game of kickball because you kicked the ball into traffic. Talk about the ultimate grade school buzz kill.

Before I knew what it meant to play sports, I was using muscle groups that would help me later in life as a competitor. Climbing branches in tall trees, burrowing deep down into bushes to hide, scaling rooftops, and avoiding traffic…seriously I would never let my kids cross that same street that I maneuvered on a daily basis now that I think about it…these were all everyday activities that formed my childhood.

My kids have ample room to play in our neighborhood. The open space behind our house is quadruple the size of the island and is fortunately not barricaded by moving vehicles. Yet that open space remains empty most days outside of the occasional dog walkers or bicycle riders.

The majority of my kids’ activity schedules is comprised of organized practices and games. Yes, they have friends (some teammates and others not) who sleep over every now and then, and they know what it’s like to go on a scavenger hunt or a random hike just to soak in nature and all its glory, but I’m willing to bet that my kids’ lives aren’t too drastically different from other kids their age – at least those kids whose parents are like my husband and I and signed them up for sports from an early age.

I’ve been asked by many about what motivated me to launch GiveTheGameBack.com. What inspired me to share my own personal story about watching my children compete in sports while tuning out the sometimes negative feedback from adults on the sidelines? What was my turning point in recognizing I needed to tone down my own competitiveness and desire to win? What urged me to take a stand?

The answers to all of those questions was something on which I had to really reflect.

I was motivated to launch an information site (support group) for sports parents and promoters that includes custom apparel designed to give the game back to youth athletes, because I want to be a voice for the silent majority who are putting their kids in organized sports for the right reasons.

I was inspired to share my story because I am far from perfect. I don’t want to come off as a holier than thou mom who doesn’t have the foggiest idea about what it means to prepare athletes for the next level of competition. I may take a few bruises by sharing my belief system, but I am of the mindset that you’ve either got it or you don’t when it comes to playing sports at the collegiate level and beyond. To me, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to dump thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars into trying to transform your little kid into the next Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Pele, Jerry Rice, (insert idolized athlete name here). It makes better sense to place your child on a team where he continues to hone his or her personal athletic abilities, playing for a coach who believes that sports teach lessons that extend well beyond the playing field, and with respectful and respectable teammates.

My turning point was a few summers ago when I caught myself questioning my son’s future potential because he wasn’t mastering a skill at 9 years of age that took me well into my collegiate playing days to master myself: the art of hitting a moving ball with a moving bat consistently and effectively. I challenge parents (because I’ve lived it myself) to stop and think before you yell or express frustration with your budding athletes. Ask yourself: Was I perfect in every endeavor I set out to conquer this week? If you answer “no” (and, for the record, I don’t believe you if you answer “yes”), then how can you expect a child whose brain and motor skills aren’t fully developed to do any better?

Recollecting my own childhood of playing kickball on the island urged me to take a stand. I had a fantastic, memorable childhood that involved self-discovery, taking risks, and exploring boundaries. Then I had 20+ years of playing competitive sports, which meant more to me than I can describe here. I had parents who supported me through my triumphs and tribulations. I vow to do the same for my own kids.

They get one childhood. Always remember that.

Written by Heidi Woodard

A wise woman once told me, “No matter where a mother was raised, how old she is, or how much money she has in her pocket, in the vast majority of cases, she wants to give her child a better life than her own.”

Of course this observation applies to dads too.

As a former athlete turned mom who is now raising my children and watching them compete in sports, I can easily draw a parallel between an everyday parent’s concern for their child’s general welfare and a zealous parent’s desire to see their offspring succeed in extracurricular activities. More often than not (especially in countries considered overly competitive like the United States), parents want to watch their kids achieve greater success than they ever personally experienced growing up.

I think this might be the biggest reason why we witness time and time again all across our great country and in our own communities, otherwise perfectly behaved adults lose their minds and their ability to act sensibly on the sidelines at youth sporting events (or spelling bees, or show choir performances, or dance recitals, or debate competitions, insert the activity of your choice here). Mom and dad simply want to see Little Johnny and Sweet Susie win because, one assumes, winning equals success.

And success leads to happiness. HEY REF! YOU SUCK! THAT DAMN KID TURNS THE BALL OVER EVERY TIME HE TOUCHES IT! I DON’T KNOW WHY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH YOUR COACH CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT! BE MORE AGGRESSIVE! QUIT BEING SOFT! STOP YOUR CRYING! (just trying to make the kids “happy,” right?)

Many of you already know I launched a business last week. It’s a labor of love for me because I believe so strongly in the message I am both trying to spread and continue to practice.

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“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I shared my moment on GiveTheGameBack.com. I would encourage anyone who’s struggling to keep perspective on how to support a child competing in sports to read about that moment. It basically involved someone giving me high praise about my son’s overall positive demeanor and attitude when I needed a gentle reminder that what he was doing and especially NOT doing on the ball field shouldn’t tarnish my pride for him.

A former collegiate teammate of mine read it and took the time to let me know it resonated with her:

“This is such an important conversation. Parents have lost their minds. Please know your words are inspiring for the other end of the spectrum – those of us who have great kids who love sports but just aren’t athletic. As former successful athletes, both my husband and I have struggled a bit to see our son on the sidelines or the C team. But he’s a great kid.”

Anyone who’s ever met me knows I am about as competitive as they come. Winning feels GREAT. Dominating an adversary in a sport for which you’ve both sacrificed years of blood, sweat, and tears is a life experience that is hard to match. There is a reason why my friends tease me about my inability to leave the glory days behind.

But I vow to give my kids the best life possible. It is their life to live after all. I’m guessing the best life possible for them won’t necessarily be measured in wins and losses. It will be measured in remarkable experiences lived, both on and off the court and field.

I challenge youth sports parents and promoters everywhere to join me in this movement.

Written by Heidi Woodard