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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 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

Written by a mom to her children, and anyone else who feels like reading.

By now you’ve come to realize that there are good days and there are bad days.

With as hard as I try, it’s nearly impossible for me to remember what I considered to be bad days when I was your age. I imagine my worst days involved feeling rejected by someone I thought I wanted to like me, not achieving something that I worked really hard for, finishing in second place when I knew I could be first, seeing someone I cared about get hurt, trying to find my way in a sometimes chaotic world, losing control of my car on black ice, dissolving a long-lasting relationship, and saying goodbye to my childhood dog.

The bad days, even though small in number compared to the good, were still really hard to get through. I will try not to minimize your woes if you come to me for guidance.

You’re growing up with challenges I never personally faced. Although it is impossible for you to wrap your minds around this, I remember a time before computers, cell phones, and social media. I’m part of the last generation who knows what it was like to grow up offline.

While I won’t understand every obstacle you’ve faced or have yet to scale, I do know this: both the best of times and the worst of times are yet to come. I guarantee you that.

The only way for me to explain that bold statement is by recounting my own personal experiences.

At your age, I thought I knew what it was like to feel everything very deeply. With each passing year, however, I am exposed to more beauty and tragedy than I ever realized was possible.

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…on top of the world. Until I discovered how it feels to watch someone you love achieve their own success in life.

…extreme pride. Until I received a compliment about how you treat others when I am not watching.

…heartache. Until I read a story about a dad tossing his 5-year old daughter off a bridge for no apparent reason.

…trustworthy. Until I had to find a way to allow others to keep you safe when I couldn’t be there myself.

…helpless. Until I watched your grandma, my mom, slowly suffer on the liver transplant list with a rare blood type that was hard to match.

…selfless. Until I learned about the young man who gave part of himself to give your grandma new life.

…cheated. Until I lost my grandma far too soon.

…loved. Until I sat with you in bed every night reflecting on how our days went and talking about the future.

…confused. Until I witnessed you playing Minecraft.

…spiritual. Until I eavesdropped on your prayers.

…embarrassed. Until I learned about you publicly relieving yourself at recess on school grounds.

…clueless. Until I watched you run football drills.

…pressure. Until I had to pay the bills.

…disgusted. Until I saw you lick the floor of Target.

I wish I could bubble wrap the absolute best parts of life and store them away for safekeeping. I also wish I could shield you from the tragedy and despair you’ll inevitably face. The best I can do is help prepare you for both.

I promise to always offer you my ears to listen, my shoulder to lean on, and my unsolicited advice. I imagine you’ll appreciate two out of the three of those.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Considering I’ve been writing a lot of unsolicited advice columns that have resonated with so many (and by “so many,” I clearly mean a half a dozen), I thought I’d toss this one into the mix.

The way I see it, every young, old, and somewhere-in-the-middle guy who’s interested in snagging a wife has to make a decision.

Do I want a girly-girl who will spend countless hours moisturizing, primping, styling, pedicuring, manicuring, and taking great strides to stay in optimal viewing condition? One who will make my friends do a double-take and extend me high fives when she walks by?

Or do I want a gal who I think is hot as-is, who takes no more than 30 minutes to get ready, and who actually enjoys hanging out in sports bars with me? One who doesn’t really care about labels, latest trends, or the pages of Vogue? Or the fact that I pass gas from time to time?

I realize there is a middle ground, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume these are the two main choices.

If you’ve seen me or read any of my ramblings, you know I fit into the latter (well, minus the whole farting thing…gross). I would also classify myself as an ex-jock…a highly-competitive one at that.

For all the fellas stumbling upon this post, I’m here to tell you something: you need to be able to accept the bad with the good if you’re married to someone like me.

Rewind to earlier today: I agreed to play a double-header softball game because, why not? Sports like slow pitch, after all, are where all former ball players eventually end up just to feel like they’re still in the game, right?

Before heading to the field, I made a quick stop at Walmart (the closest place to hell on Earth any of us mere mortals will ever experience) because I am completely out of contacts. I quickly realize that, although the store itself is open, the optical center isn’t. So, yay me. I’m in make-shift rec specs from that point forward.

In spite of looking like a washed-up female version of Ricky Vaughn, I played a pretty solid first game. We won by a small margin. I was on a winner’s high heading into game two.

I can’t even be mad that I’m a lot jigglier than I used to be when I was in prime playing shape. With a guy who looked like Santa in the summer time umpiring the field, I assumed things couldn’t possibly get any better.

We were barely into the second game when a girl came up to the plate whom I personally know. She’s a good hitter who can pick out which field (left, center, or right) she wants to target and rarely misses her mark. So you can imagine my surprise when she got under one and popped up into foul territory, but within my general vicinity at third base.

Have I mentioned I’m slightly competitive?

I instinctively sprinted took off in a semi-fast jog backwards and extended my throwing hand to find the fence while attempting to simultaneously reach over my head with my glove hand. The fence creeped up on me a little faster than I expected.

I bounced off it.

The ball dropped.

I felt some pain on my ring finger and reassured everyone I was ok.

Without looking at my hand, I trudged back to third base and prepared for the next pitch, which OF COURSE she smashed into the outfield.

As I was mentally retracing what I could have done differently, I looked down at my hand to make sure it wasn’t bleeding.

That’s when I saw the remnants of the ring my husband bought for me as an anniversary gift. It was bent so badly that the blue topaz stone had completely popped out of it and was so misshapened that I knew I wouldn’t be getting it off my finger until some swelling went down.

For the next several innings, anytime our team was up at bat, I retraced both the inside and the outside of the fence I smashed into. I cursed myself for being so dumb to wear my anniversary ring while playing softball.

When the game ended due to the mercy rule in the opposite team’s favor, my entire team searched for the stone…as did the girl who hit the foul ball in the first place. I never did regain it…or my dignity.

How does this story apply to my advice to all the guys who share their lives with ex-jock wives?

Don’t get mad at us for breaking sentimental jewelry (luckily my husband understands). Because when a foul ball taunts us into believing that we have a chance to catch it, no matter what obstacle stands in our way, we will go after it every time.

The top picture shows my anniversary ring the day I received it. The bottom pictures shows what's left of it after today's outing.

The top picture shows my anniversary ring the day I received it. The bottom pictures shows what’s left of it after today’s outing.

My jacked up finger. My sliced up leg. No one can accuse me of not trying.

My jacked up finger. My sliced up leg. No one can accuse me of not going all out.

I’d give you more helpful pointers, but I’m off to watch the Atlanta Braves game on TV with my husband.

Written by Heidi Woodard