How not to freak out about… your kids and sports
How not to freak out about … Presidential politics
How not to freak out about… your kids’ disappointments
An open letter to my senior in high school
Everything breaks. What matters is what you do with the pieces.
The story of an answered prayer named Praise
What will you choose to taste this summer?
Trusting God can be hard. Not trusting? Even harder.
5 truths our kids need most (hint: getting into the right college isn’t one of them)
Why I am living in this “Mommy” moment

How not to freak out about… your kids and sports

Ever notice it? How anxious we all are? Our suburban lives are safe and successful, yet we can’t stop freaking out about stuff: kids, school, money, schedules, expectations. Well, we’ve noticed it too—and we’re here to talk us all down a bit. So sit back, take a deep breath and shelve all that fear for a minute… Welcome to the third in a multi-part series: ‘HOW NOT TO FREAK OUT.’

By Beth Hartt

Once upon a time, there was a mom who was anxious to start her kids in sports.

She saw all the signs posted around town for various leagues, even for the youngest ones: baseball, softball, soccer, swimming, basketball, lacrosse … the possibilities were endless! She felt the mounting pressure of introducing her preschool-aged son to sports. After all, if everyone else was starting their kids this young, shouldn’t she? Otherwise her child wouldn’t be able to compete, right? So she decided a great way to dip her toe into the overwhelming waters of kids’ sports would be a preschool soccer camp. Who wouldn’t like kicking a ball around with a bunch of guys from England for a couple hours? Turns out, her kid didn’t. It was not the happy ending she’d imagined.

I was that mom. And it was my son who, despite showing zero interest in soccer, or any other sport for that matter, was forced by me into soccer camp at the tender age of 4. He hated it, every minute of it. And I hated that he hated it. I completely panicked. How could he possibly not enjoy this? It was supposed to be fun and ignite a life-long love of soccer! How will he ever play competitively when he’s older if he doesn’t do soccer camp right now?!

That’s really what it boiled down to: me wanting him to compete with other kids. I mistakenly believed that if he didn’t start loving a sport in his preschool years, his athletic life would be doomed forever.

My son didn’t play soccer again until he was in 2nd grade. When he finally did start playing, he enjoyed his time on the field, even last fall when we switched leagues. But it turns out he’s not a competitor. He’s just not wired that way, and that’s OK. We’ve learned that running and hiking are more his speed.

But I’m still embarrassed by the way I felt that week of soccer camp. Normally I’m not one to cave to social pressure, but I did. I valued the voices around me more than my child’s.

God used it for good, though, the way only God can do. That week taught me to value my children for who they are, not who I want them to be. I love how God made each of them unique, and how he knit them together to make them into the special people they are right now. It doesn’t matter if my children are soccer players or Lego builders, track stars or tree-climbers; they are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him and for Him.

And now here we are at the beginning of a new season and the small talk questions are all the same: “What sports are your kids doing this fall?” Nothing, I tell them, no sports. And their confusion is almost palpable. Opting out of sports is so counter-cultural people don’t know how to respond.

Opting out of sports is so counter-cultural people don’t know how to respond.

But I couldn’t be happier or more proud of my kids. At 10 and 11, they are well aware of the sports-centric culture we’re immersed in. It would be easy for them to go with the flow and keep playing just so they can be like their friends. But when I asked them in July what they wanted to do this fall, they both said, “Take a break.” My heart sang. We will run and hike together as a family this fall, but we will not be stepping foot on any soccer fields.

I love this quote from Anne Lamott posted on the “We Are That Family” blog a couple of weeks ago:

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” — Anne Lamott

It reminds me so much of the struggles that families face with kids and sports. Does your child really enjoy the sport they’re playing? Or are you feeling pressured to create the illusion that you have control over their future if you have control over the sports they play?

By telling me they wanted to take a step back from team sports this fall, my children have shown me a glimpse of who they really are. They have shown me that they’re confident enough in themselves to strike out down a different path no matter what everyone else around them is doing. My family has been given the gift of time this fall, and I have every intention of savoring it — because I never know what next fall will bring!

So if you’re worrying that your child isn’t showing any interest in team sports — DON’T.

If you’re worrying because your child doesn’t want to play the sport she’s been playing since she was three-years-old — DON’T.

Don’t break under the pressure. Don’t listen to the chatter in your social circles. Don’t bend to the will of your Facebook feed. Don’t shoehorn your kid into a sport just because you think that’s what he or she has to do. Sports is just one choice in a sea of extracurricular options for our children — art, dance, music, chess, computer classes. The possibilities really are endless. Encourage them to try different things, then stand back and watch what makes them happy. Maybe it is sports. Maybe not. But whatever they decide, don’t freak out. Your child is going to be just fine.

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How not to freak out about … Presidential politics

The second in a multi-part series: ‘HOW NOT TO FREAK OUT.’

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

Sometimes when going through my twitter feed, I do a double take over a preposterous-sounding news headline. I scroll back to realize what I have read is not “real” news but a link to the parody newspaper The Onion. Except recently, my double takes ARE for real headlines:

“Bernie Sanders is leading Clinton in the most recent NH poll”

“Donald Trump leads the entire Republican field”


I mean, I get that Americans are completely fed up with the same old establishment candidates.  But Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?!  Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist!  Trump is a bully with a comb-over!

“There’s still plenty of time,” the pundits assure us. But time for what?  Time enough to find a person with the moral character we crave, the ability to lead “across-party-lines” effectively, the experience necessary to both oversee  domestic affairs and to command our armed forces in our protection?  If there is such a person, a modern-day George Washington of sorts, is there time for him or her to raise the millions of dollars required to win, without selling themselves to lobbyists and party hardliners?

Simon and Garfunkel sang, “Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose. Every way you look at it you lose.”  I don’t take for granted my right to vote but the truth is that very few of us, as individuals, have any actual impact on election results. So what do we do?  Some of us sigh at the evening news, shrug our shoulders, and switch to something we’ve recorded on the DVR. Some of us get very anxious and scared and we let those emotions fuel our posts on Facebook, partly hoping to sway people, but mostly just wanting to feel less impotent. Some of us choose to get involved, supporting a candidate or a party or a “political action committee.”

I usually roll my eyes when pundits refer to the political agenda of the “Evangelical” base. As if simply by virtue of being Jesus-followers we all have the same opinion of how things should be done, although our dozens of denominations and thousands of churches prove that is not the case. The word evangelism means “bringing good news” but if you ask a secular American about what “evangelical” stands for, I doubt the word “good” would come up. I don’t appreciate the way “The Evangelicals,” as a voting constituency, have tied faith to a singular political platform, and I cringe at the often unloving way that they promote that agenda, so I shy away from them.

On my own then, I also don’t want to be the Christian that feeds and spreads my fear and anxiety. Sometimes I just turn off the news and watch Netflix. But I know that’s not right either. So what do I do? Read More

How not to freak out about… your kids’ disappointments

Ever notice it? How anxious we all are? Our suburban lives are safe and successful, yet we can’t stop freaking out about stuff: kids, school, money, schedules, expectations. Well, we’ve noticed it too—and we’re here to talk us all down a bit. So sit back, take a deep breath and shelve all that fear for a minute… Welcome to the first in a multi-part series: ‘HOW NOT TO FREAK OUT.’

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

Ask me where I went to college, and I’ll tell you the truth. Wake Forest University.

I probably won’t mention: I started there as a sophomore, because I didn’t get in the first time I applied. I had to attend my “safety school” for a year and then apply again.

When I got the rejection letter after my first attempt, my mother absorbed the blow along with me. She knew that I’d put years into making myself worthy—the GPA, the extra-curriculars, the summer program at Harvard. (I’d spent my 15th summer studying. Studying.)

“So, maybe you’re not one of those people that things come easily to,” my mother said, and sighed. “When you do achieve things, it’ll be because you worked extra hard for them.” She probably went on from there, and said something positive about character building. But all I remember is that she was sad about it. She would have preferred that I got in the first time.

It’s no picnic, being an imperfect person in a broken world.  It’s just plain awful, watching your children have to deal with it.

And now—hurray!—I’m a mother, too. I’m in her shoes. Read More

An open letter to my senior in high school

By Abigail McConnell

Dear Daughter,

I knew this day was coming. But the sight of you pulling out of the driveway this morning with SENIORS painted on the back windshield of the Mazda still felt pretty surreal. (Stop rolling your eyes — I get to have this moment. Someday you will too.)

Since you finished junior year, I’ve noticed something: All anyone seems to talk to you about is the future. Relatives, family friends, neighbors, strangers, it’s the same thing: Wow, a senior! What are you going to do next year? What colleges are you looking at? Do you know what you want to do?

And it’s in the mailbox, too, in those college brochures. The one yesterday shouted:

“What’s your dream, Eleanor? What are you passionate about? WHAT KIND OF LIFE DO YOU WANT? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN?”

Good grief, the pressure! I threw that one away.

You might think Dad and I are the worst culprits, nagging about applications and essays when you really were just on your way out the door to go night swimming with friends again. (What’s the fascination with night swimming these days anyway?)

Forgive us, it’s just that we know time moves fast, and we want to encourage and guide and challenge you like it’s our job. Because it is.

While you’ve handled all of this with your usual graceful smile and polite answers, I am sensing the pressure mounting. As if all that matters now is who you’re going to be in the future, and how you’re planning to get there.

Well, today, here’s what I want you to hear from me, more than anything else: It’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out. You can’t. And you shouldn’t pretend to.

Because when I realize how little I knew about my future on the first day of my senior year? Well, it’s actually hilarious… Read More

Everything breaks. What matters is what you do with the pieces.

By Leigh Sain

“I cannot ride this bike anymore, ever again!” My little one stomps his dirty shoes and levels his glare at me.

It’s Tuesday, just a simple little Tuesday in July. But after two months of summertime togetherness, I guess we’re all showing a little wear and tear.

His helmet, which is completely held together with duct tape, bobbles loosely on his head and I wonder is there really any point in him wearing it?

“It is a horrible bike! I hate it! Every part of it is broken! Look how everyone is leaving me out!” His demands are punctuated by the salty tears that wind their way down the edge of his angry face.

And I am pretty sure I should scold him. Yelling and stomping are not allowed at our house and the word “hate” is outlawed (when I remember to enforce it). And I am not in the habit of giving out new bikes just because a screaming tyrant declares he needs one. I open my mouth to regain control of the situation just as I look outside and see the bike tossed in the yard.

Oh, yeah, that bike. Read More

The story of an answered prayer named Praise

By Abigail McConnell

There’s this boy I know in Kenya. And his story has only just begun.

Back in March I introduced you to a boy with a tumor. A boy who seemed to have a sad story, with more chapters of loss and pain than his young life deserved.

But God named that boy Praise. And God always gets the last word.

When I wrote about Praise, it was out of utter frustration. As part of the US community that supports KCK, the children’s home that cares for him, I had received email after email updating us on his infuriatingly slow journey through the Kenyan healthcare system. After three months, I had had it. I couldn’t do much, but I could write. I could ask you to pray. I wrote as an impatient American irritated by the reality that if Praise had been born within our borders, he wouldn’t have had to endure even one week of that tumor growing in his skull.

But all stories have settings, and Praise’s is Kenya, where time moves slow. The days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and after more plot twists than I can recount, surgery was finally confirmed for June 3. Which just happened to be smack in the middle of our trip to Kenya (to three children’s homes, including KCK), by a team of 7 women from our church. A trip scheduled long before any of us knew about a tumor.

And one of those women? Well, she happens to be Praise’s sponsor. Read More

What will you choose to taste this summer?

By Leigh Sain

Watermelon signals the beginning of summer at our house. Despite the fact that my boys adore this juicy fruit and the grocery stores now stock this delicacy year round, I have a thing about not buying it until it’s warm enough to go barefoot. Weird rule, I know. But my gang has finally come to accept it and eagerly awaits the coming of this season. So as I rush into the kitchen to make supper, I find it odd that there is a paper plate piled full of fresh watermelon abandoned in the middle of our deck table. No boys to be found. Only stacks of uneaten watermelon. What in the world?

Muttering about wasted food and irresponsible boys, I stomp outside to collect the fruit before the ants invade. As I grab the sopping paper plate, two of my boys appear out of nowhere and barrel towards the deck yelling, “No mom! Don’t throw it away—we are gonna eat it!” Sure you are. That’s why it is just sitting here gathering ants?

“It was frozen when we took it out of the fridge, must’ve been pushed too far back. We were letting it sit in the sun for a bit and now we are gonna taste it and see if it is good. Ya know, cause things melt in the sun!” the older boy explains as they all grab pieces and begin slurping up the sugary goodness.

“Hey! It worked!” the little one exclaims. “The sun melted it and made it good! Taste it and see!” He barks his orders at me while waving the other half of his piece under my nose.

All I see is the disaster. Read More

Trusting God can be hard. Not trusting? Even harder.

By Beth Hartt

While preparing the craft for a Sunday school lesson recently, I found myself writing “Trust God” over and over on popsicle sticks.  It’s not a hard lesson to teach 1st and 2nd graders—trusting God comes easily to 7-year-olds. You tell them they should trust God because he knows what’s best for them and they don’t question it.

For adults, however, trusting God is a little more complicated.

I know I should trust God, and not just with the big stuff. But so often I only want to pray to him about the things I just don’t know what to do with instead of making him a part of every decision I make. And despite what I know to be true, I find myself believing the lie that I can handle whatever it is I’m dealing with just fine on my own. It feels like I’m in a constant wrestling match with God over things I think I can control. Only … I’m the lone wrestler. God is patiently waiting for me to realize, again, that yes, I do in fact need him for everything. Apart from him, I can do nothing. Read More

5 truths our kids need most (hint: getting into the right college isn’t one of them)

*Note: This post originally ran last May, and has been one of our most-read posts of all time.  With those banners going up again, we think it’s worth reposting. Don’t ask Abigail about it though, because now her oldest is almost a senior and talking about it might make her cry.

By Abigail McConnell

The graduation banners are up everywhere. Have you seen them?

They hang at neighborhood entrances, congratulating seniors name by name. Maybe it’s the new norm everywhere, or maybe it’s just around here, I’m not sure. But I confess they make me a little uneasy.

Don’t get me wrong. These kids have worked hard and it’s time to say well done. Graduation is a major milestone that already puts a lump in my throat — and I’ve still got two years till our oldest graduates. (Two years that will feel like six minutes.)

But the banner thing, it kind of makes me feel like we’re all playing a game. Like some 18-year match of College-opoly that culminates in the unveiling of a grand leader-board for all to see.

I’ve always assumed my kids will go to college, and I want them to push hard and find their strengths and dig deep into knowing. And yes, the kid who goes to college has a more secure financial future.  But, maybe mine won’t. Maybe yours won’t.

What would a blank spot after their name on that banner mean? Read More

Why I am living in this “Mommy” moment

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

Lately, when someone asks how things with the kids are going, I say, “We’re finally in a good place. They can bathe themselves but they still call me Mommy. It’s the best of both worlds.”

So when my son called me “Mom” the other day, I did not take it well. My daughter had dropped the “-my” a few weeks before, a change I reluctantly accepted as a rite of passage for the girl who is 9 going on 19. But I could not accept it from my not-quite-seven-year-old. Not from my baby. Read More

Copyright 2014 The Cul de Sac.

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