Growing Pains

 

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My ten year old son recently began limping and telling me he had a sore foot. He is extremely active so I put it down to a stone bruise or something innocuous. I finally decided to take it seriously when he was hobbling around like an old man when he first got up in the mornings. It was the end of the summer sports season and he was nearing the finals for all his sports. It also coincided with the start of training for his winter sports. Every day of the week he was exercising and it was at that point that he was diagnosed with ‘Severs Disease’.

The name conjures images of a contagious infection where the foot is severed from the body, but thankfully it’s not as disturbing as that! Put simply, it is when the growth plate in the heel grows faster than the achilles tendon can stretch and is very common in active kids after they have had a growth spurt. The only course of action was to rest and to do stretches to help the achilles lengthen. As he already wears orthotics in his shoes, these were raised slightly in the heel to relieve the tension in his tendon.

To my son’s horror, the diagnosis of severs required him to limit his activities. He had to give up rugby training, competing in his school cross country and sat out a game or two of basketball. After reducing his sport, which let’s be honest is like a cruel form of torture for an active ten year old, the pain subsided.

Severs is a condition that will flare up off and on as he grows and he just has to manage it with ice packs to reduce swelling and stretching exercises.

As a side note, the podiatrist mentioned to me that kids that get ‘Severs’ often then get another growth related disease called ‘Osgood-Schlatter Disease’ a few years later in life when the growth plates in their knees start to give them pain. He advised that my son should try to build up his quads to help support his knees before the pain sets in.

So if you have an active kid complaining of sore heels or knees there is a good chance that they are suffering from good old growing pains!

 

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End of an era

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Today my eldest daughter has started her last week of school. I feel a bit like I blinked and suddenly she is all grown up.

I still remember the little blonde haired girl who cried and clung to me as I dropped her off to preschool, the same little girl who a few years later bravely started school in her little uniform and wide brimmed hat that seemed so large that she resembled a little mushroom. Fast forward a few years and she moved schools. I think back to the bribe of a new outfit and dinner in a fancy restaurant as a reward for her bravery to start afresh at a new school where she didn’t know anyone.

I think of the countless sporting carnivals, music recitals and awards ceremonies we have attended, proud of the effort she was putting in to her education.

I recall the ups and downs of her being a tween who lived through the dramas of friendship changes and issues that at the time that seemed insurmountable, which today she would be hard pressed to remember in any detail.

I think back to the day she was inconsolable over missing out on a place on the exchange program at school, although she had gone above and beyond to do all she could do to qualify. The flip side was the amazing trip she went on to China and the friendship she formed with a Spanish girl that she met over there that led to them doing a small private exchange. In hindsight, I think she actually was better off the way things worked out.

And now she is going through the routine of school for just one last week. It is going to be a huge week with muck up day, leaver’s ceremony and then the formal dance to finish off the week. Within a few months all her exams will be done and then she can focus on the path she chooses to start her life.

Although I’ve looked forward to this time, I also can’t believe it is already here. My little shy girl has grown into a confident lady and I’m so proud of the woman she is becoming.

I’m not sure where the years have gone, but as they say, time flies when you’re having fun!

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COMMITMENT

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Over the years, all my children have made commitments to be on a sporting team or part of a music ensemble and half way through the term have wanted to stop participating in that group.

I must admit, as much as it would make my life easier to reduce the amount of running around I do, I expect them to honour a commitment so I will never let them drop out of a team activity. I’m a true believer that when you agree to be part of a group, no matter how good or bad you are at the task, you have given your word to be a team player. If every child were to drop out, there wouldn’t be sufficient participants to enable the groups to continue.

Furthermore, when children agree to be part of a group, this commitment also includes attending all practice sessions. This is a constant source of aggravation in our house, as a few of our kids enjoy the music ensembles they play in and sporting teams they belong to, they just don’t like the early morning starts to attend practice. But as saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’.

We recently attended a performance evening at our children’s school and it was interesting to watch the kids in the choir. You could tell the ones who attend rehearsals as they knew the words and actions to the songs, whereas the kids that obviously don’t attend regularly were left standing on the stage looking a bit like stunned goldfish either not doing any actions, or if trying to copy the other kids, were a few seconds behind.

I worry about the future of the children who are allowed to either not attend practice sessions or are allowed to quit their commitments as it doesn’t give these kids a sense of responsibility, tenacity or reliability. Sometimes ensuring your kids do the right thing isn’t agreeing to the path of least resistance, rather it’s a case of persistence.

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BASKETBALLERS  

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I have agreed (maybe foolishly) to play basketball with a group of mothers from my children’s school. Our team’s experience is limited to watching our kids play and an odd game of basketball or netball twenty or so years ago.

Having watched and scored my children’s basketball games for the past ten years, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the game. Turns out that it is:

  1. Far more exhausting than the kids make it seem
  2. Far more brutal
  3. The hoop is a lot smaller than it appears

After a hard played 20 minutes our team limped off court, struggling to comprehend that we had only just completed the first half of the game. Watching and playing this game were really totally different experiences.

In the second half we lost a player after she provided the soft cushioning for an opponent who fell on top of her, leaving our player badly bruised and batted!

This experience has given me a new found respect for the energy levels of our kids and a wake up call that, whilst I may be an expert on how the kids should play the game when I’m a spectator, the same can’t be said when I’m actually the one playing the game.

Our aim was for the opposition to not double our score, which we managed to achieve. At the final siren we all gathered together happy to have played our first game whilst discussing appropriate triage for the numerous muscle strains, bumps and bruises.

They say you shouldn’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes – well now that I’ve run more than a mile in basketball shoes I plan to take a back seat on giving my kids pointers on how they can play basketball! Forty minutes on the court has proved to me that the game is harder than it seems and that at the end of the day, you are just there for some exercise and fun!

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GOOD SPORTS

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All my kids play sport and so I find myself exposed to the full gamut of ‘sporting parents’. There seem to be three kinds of parents: the supportive ones, the absent ones and the over the top ones.

The majority of the parents are supportive, but I must admit, I find the over the top parents worse than the absent ones!

Most kids play sport just to have fun, unfortunately the same can’t be said for all of the parents.

In the last few weeks I have witnessed parents yelling at their kids, at the refs, the team officials and the opposition. These parents seem hell bent on their kids winning at all costs, which leaves me wondering what message they want to send to their kids.

The parents become so competitive that they lose sight of the fact that their kids are there for exercise, friendship, teamwork and above all fun. It seems these parents project their expectations on their kids, living vicariously through them, rather than supporting them.

In my opinion, these parents would be better to take time to coach their children and give them skills, rather than turn up at games to yell at them. They could donate their time to ref games, rather than yell abuse at the umpires or they could work out a roster they think is fair for the playing time of each child, rather than harass the manager. 

Sport should provide a healthy, safe and happy environment for kids to play with their friends. There is nothing wrong with wanting your kids to win, but at the end of the day it is just a game! Being a good sport is better than being good at sport!

 

 

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SWIMMING CARNIVAL

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It’s like Groundhog Day every year! The annual swimming carnival consists of a sea of children, dressed in outrageous garb in their house colour, all simultaneously screaming out chants at the top of their lungs. The school even goes as far as to encourage the kids to scream even louder, awarding points to the house that is cheering the loudest. 

I’m all for team spirit, but 500 kids voices, bouncing off the walls in the indoor swimming centre leaves me with a headache every year without fail. On a positive note, the cheering and swimming does exhaust the kids and so I know at least they will be eager to go to bed tonight.

I’ve never been one to encourage my kids to excel at carnivals because realistically it just locks me in to having to attend another one of these hideous days if they were to qualify for the next representative level. Luckily, my kids don’t actually have the skill to qualify for the next level, so I guess it is really a moot point! 

Last year one of my daughters did qualify at the athletics carnival for ‘power javelin’. For those not in the know, a ‘power javelin’ is a piece of plastic pipe with a pointed end that the kids throw, before they are considered responsible enough to handle a real metal javelin. In the three throws my daughter got to qualify in the heats, two throws landed about 5 metres away from her and one strangely sailed through the air and landed in second place. This freakish throw was not due to skill or raw talent, rather (I think) a gust of wind that made it float along. Having come second in the competition, she had to then represent the school at the district carnival. We tried in vain to work out the correct method to throw a ‘power javelin’ threw YouTube tutorials, but could not master throwing very far. So a day off school and a three hour return trip to the athletics track saw my daughter throw the ‘power javelin’ the shortest distance in the field. Whilst she was disappointed, I personally was thrilled that she hadn’t fluked another good throw that would see us having to attend yet another carnival.

Some people are born athletes and then some people are born into my family! I love to encourage my kids to compete so they are involved, but I will never put any pressure on them to excel, as one carnival per sporting pursuit per year is more than enough!

 

 

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WELL DONE, YOU LOST

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We live in a society that is so focused on rewarding every little movement of our kids that our children are growing up with a warped sense of entitlement. I think there is a difference between rewarding genuine effort versus giving our kids a pat on the back for just participating. Our kids expect to win, expect to receive awards and expect accolades in all aspects of their life.

I think it is a healthy thing for kids to experience not being the best at something and to accept losing graciously, because in real life, you don’t win at everything you do and you need to learn how to deal with it.

I once witnessed a child playing on the losing team who refused to shake hands with his opponents at the end of the game and went into a full meltdown over the fact his team hadn’t won. My initial impression was that this kid was an absolute spoilt brat, but then I thought, if he has never had to experience loss before why would he be gracious? Maybe he thought no-one ever loses and that his team was being penalised for something for which he wasn’t responsible. Regardless of his mindset, I made a pact with myself to make sure my kids know that in every competition there will be winners and losers, but if you have tried your hardest then you have no need to feel ashamed if you don’t win. Furthermore, I always insist my kids shake hands with the opposition at the end of the game to thank them for the competition, because without them there wouldn’t have been a game.

Teams that try hard and lose against a stronger opponent improve their skills. A team that wins every week without effort doesn’t find it challenging and therefore doesn’t improve as quickly as those who struggle. Maybe the true winners aren’t always the team with the highest score. 

I would rather we acknowledge a kid who has played at their best but lost, versus a child who has not put in much effort but has been part of a winning team.

It is human nature to want to win and I agree that people should try their hardest in a competition to do so, however if they don’t win, it doesn’t mean they have failed. The next time your kid loses a game, be grateful that they are building tenacity and humility, which are, in my opinion, more important than the accolades that come from just winning.

 

 

 

(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)