For the past couple years, J and K have given me the best Mother's Day gift EVER.
They spend an entire afternoon with me, letting me shoot to my heart's content, and pose for me cheerfully.
Yes, I said cheerfully.
Great sports, they are. Letting me twist them, and turn them, and push them around.
They get super dramatic so I get some fun shots.
One of my favorites from the day.
J is pretending to be the "Karate Kid".
K is not impressed.
I look at these photos and I see them as they were fifteen years ago.
It's hard for me to believe that they are all grown up now. It's hard for me to believe that by the middle of next month, I'll be the mother of two college students.
They were just eight and five, for Pete's sake.
P is home from college. She stopped over for a visit tonight and we all had a nice chat. Since P's brother is a tennis player, we started talking about high school athletics and how many athletes are poor sports. And refuse to shake hands with their opponents after a match or a game.
All this talk led to stories from the past and I got to tell her some stories from when J (and K, for that matter) were little tykes - things she hadn't heard before.
When J was about eight years old, he was playing soccer but was not an especially aggressive player. He liked playing with his friends, running around and chasing the ball all over the field but that was about it.
His coach kept encouraging him to be more aggressive and go after the ball and take it away from his opponent. J just couldn't do it. We started encouraging him to be more aggressive, hoping that if he heard it from us he'd take it to heart.
And he did.
In the next game, he actually went after the ball in a one-on-one situation. He beat his opponent to the ball but in doing so, knocked the boy down. J was left standing with the ball and had a clear path down the field.
What did he do? He ignored the ball. He leaned over his opponent, apologized for knocking him down, offered him a hand up, and asked him if he was okay. J's coach was a bit perturbed and started yelling at his team to go after the ball.
The Man and I gave J a thumb's up.
K played softball until she was nine years old. Third grade was the last year she played.
She was on a team with one of THOSE coaches. The type of coach who believes in winning at all costs. We did not enjoy that year at all.
Lots of practices and many lost weekends to softball. I remember thinking, I thought this was supposed to be fun.
We had plans to be away at the beach for Memorial Day weekend and I called her coach to let her know K would not be at practice on Saturday but would be back in time for the game on Monday. Her coach said okay.
Monday night. Game time. K has a lot of family that came to watch her - grandparents and her aunt and uncle. Me. The Man. J.
Game starts and all the girls go trotting out onto the field except K. K is left sitting on the bench.
She stayed that way for several innings and I kept wondering when the coach was going to put her in. I was watching K during the first few innings and her shoulders kept getting more and more hunched over. By the third inning, she was crying.
I went over and talked to her. Coach refused to let her play because she missed the practice on Saturday. Coach and I had a very short conversation in which I reminded her of our phone conversation. She refused to listen to me and said K would not play that entire game. I decided to back down and address it with the president of the league.
Who happened to be the father of K's best friend. He spoke with the coach and the coach changed a bit after that. K never sat out more than the other kids again. And we had to miss a few more practices.
I made K finish the season but that was the end of her softball playing days. Actually, she never played another sport again.
I'm sure there are many good things that children get out of sports programs but there are also plenty of negative lessons learned, too.
J was learning to be something he's not. Aggressive. I'm glad the Man and I changed our hearts after seeing his opponent knocked over. And seeing the look on J's face when he realized what he had done. I'm glad we were there to encourage him when he chose to be kind and caring.
K was learning some of the hardest lessons of all.
Life's not fair.
Don't give up.
But she also learned how much her mom loved her and and how far her mom would go to protect her tender heart.
I hope they remember the love. I sure do.
Thanks for a great Mother's Day, J and K. You guys are the best.