I Took A Break From My Blog To Make Room For These Young Voices

Image by Caleigh, 2Me@12 contributor and Graphic Design student

My husband’s buddy called me out during cocktail hour at a Bar Mitzvah party last week. “How come Red stopped saying what?” I took a swig of my cider, stuttered, stammered, then made an excuse. “Um, life got in the way?”

The “life” explanation is only half the truth. For several months, anytime I felt fired up or had something to say, I never bothered to write the words. With so much noise and so many voices, good, bad and ugly crowding the field, with so many articles, podcasts and videos more relevant and credible than my privileged, princess point of view, I decided it might be best if I listened more and put out less.

I mean, who am I to post a blurb on parenting when children separated from parents are suffering? Why read my take on education when our kids and teachers go to school wondering if a crazed shooter will show up in their classroom next? And why type up notes about my experience with MeToo, when it’s more impactful to hear from Olympic gymnasts and countless other men and women survivors who continue to step forward?

So I put my blog on mute. Red went ghost.

But I haven’t completely disappeared. Bit by bit, I’ve been working on a project. One that lifts up the voices of those who inspire me, who give me hope and who I think young people may want to hear more from: teenagers. Teen girls specifically. Ones who have found their power. Girls who have the confidence, wisdom and perspective I didn’t have the guts to go after until I was middle-aged.

For two years, I’ve been gathering experiences from teen girls who found power through sport, namely CrossFit with some tennis and swim sprinkled in. These teens have stories they wanted to share and advice they wanted to give to their younger peers about how empowerment has changed their lives and views about health, beauty, community, attitude, and ups and downs.

Who better to offer guidance to young girls than their older selves? With that, I named the project 2Me@12.

2Me@12 began with four teenagers who started working out at my gym when they were 14 years old and has grown to include dozens of young ladies between the ages of 14-18 from around the United States and on either coast of Canada.

There’s Sophia from Washington who chose health over looks.

Bridget, from New York who learned to laugh more and worry less about other’s perceptions and what she thought she saw in the mirror.

Julia, also from New York who the gained courage to step out of her small town bubble and Jocelyn from Arizona who, thanks to a supportive community, found her voice to encourage others.

There’s Shelby, a Reebok CrossFit Games finalist from North Carolina whose change in attitude allowed her to go farther in life than she ever thought possible and Kelly from California who figured out how to tackle the curse of her bad attitude.

And Chloe, the “Fittest 14-15 Year Old on Earth” from Louisiana who learned success is not an end game but instead, finding something you love and enjoying the process as you grow.

Having the awesome responsibility and honor of lifting up the voices of young people, working with these girls and replaying their words in my head has helped me to be a more empathetic mom, appreciate those who show me love and support, run a little faster, push a little harder, get uncomfortable, not be so tough on myself and get to work so young girls and boys can also hear what they have to say.

Since sport and fitness aren’t the only paths to finding one’s power, this summer I hope to connect with teens who found their power through theater. And, at the request of my two sons, I intend to work with young men with lessons to share.

Once I determine the best way to get these teens’ full thoughts into the world, I hope you’ll let their experiences into your lives and into the lives of your children. And if you have a teen who has found power with advice to share, I’d love to help build that bridge.

Please visit 2Me@12 on Instagram.

“You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glinda the Good Witch

STACEY WILK SAID WHAT?…I Told You So

Courtesy: Flicr Creative Commons

Courtesy: Flicr Creative Commons

Bigger kids. Bigger problems. Can’t wait.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll dye my hair blue; with Stacey’s permission, of course.

Stacey Wilk - Author

finger pointingCourtesy of Flicr Creative Commons

I told you so!” 

Don’t you just want to say nah, nah, na, booby when someone says that to you? Of course you do. I do. So, you must too. It’s that awful moment when you know you’ve made a mistake and some other person thinks they’re smarter or better than you and is about to point out that ugly truth. Go ahead and say nah, nah, na, booby to me. Go ahead. ‘Cause I’m about to say, “I TOLD YOU SO” to you.

Well, not all of you. Just a few (what few? Tons) of you who told me to let Noodge 2 die her hair blue. Do you remember that conversation? If not, or if you missed our discussion, you can check it out here and get up to speed.

About a week or two ago I was in the car with…

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To The Young Lady Who No Repped Me During The CrossFit Open; Thank You

Courtesy: CrossFit

Courtesy of CrossFit

HuffPo Women

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my chest to touch the pull up bar.

It was the third workout of the CrossFit Open; an annual fitness test involving judges and score cards where over 300,000 CrossFitters worldwide do the same prescribed workout once a week over a five week period, or as in my case, a scaled version of said designated torture.

The 2016 Open was the first time I paid the twenty bucks and entered my name in the system. After 4 years of pursuing evidence based fitness, participating in mild competition holds me accountable to an exercise routine. Besides, the Friday Night Lights set up gave me a reason to forego evening parenting responsibilities. Plus, the coach stores beer in the gym fridge.

I felt confident going into this third Friday.  The task at hand involved jumping chest to bar pull ups. I’m 5’9. I can jump. I know how to do a pull up. I thought; piece of cake.

But I underestimated the importance of the angle of the pull toward the bar. Perhaps during my pre-kids, D cup days it wouldn’t have been an issue, but now a deflated C, I left a sizeable amount of air between the girls and the iron.

Each unsuccessful repetition of the movement resulted in a “no rep” from the judge. I hung from the bar like a sloth, praying for the clock to run out while convincing myself to go at again. Then, 15 seconds before the final buzzer the coach said, “Switch your grip.” I held on to the rig in chin up position and jumped. Slam! My chest hit the bar with ease.  Unfortunately, my renewed optimism was short lived. “5-4-3-2-1…” The music went silent.

Afterward, a young lady who assists with the kids’ class asked, “How’d it go?”

“What a debacle,” I huffed.  “That switch grip was the golden ticket, but I ran out of time.” I skipped the beer and went straight home, determined to improve my score.

Two days later, I did what any self-respecting, half crazy CrossFit disciple would do; I went back to redo the workout during open gym.  The same young lady was the designated judge for the morning.

When I was ready, she cranked up the tunes and started the clock. I made my way through the jumping pull ups using the reversed grip. After a few rounds my forearms stiffened and quads stung. My chest began to miss the bar.

“No rep!” she called.  “Almost there.”

I tried again.

“No rep! Let’s go, Red. You got this.”

But I didn’t “Got this.” My thoughts turned dark. Who does she think she is with the no reps? I’m not an uber-athlete. I skipped my morning newspaper to be here. Not to mention the fact that I could be this girl’s mother.

I wanted a break and I wanted her to give me one. Miss teenager could have let the no reps slide. She could have turned a cheek.  But she didn’t.  She could have felt intimidated. But she wasn’t.

So, I took a few breaths, regrouped and forged ahead. By the end of the seven minutes, I had a beautiful battle scar of bruise on my chest. What I also had was a legitimate and nearly doubled score compared to Friday night. And I had my judge, who held me to the standard to thank for it.

The following week, I took note of the young CrossFitter’s approach during regular sessions and the remaining Open workouts.  Each time she completed an Olympic lift or moved through a workout, she held herself to a high standard of form and function; and when she made a mistake, she no repped herself. Turns out, my judge hadn’t asked me to do anything she didn’t expect from herself.

At seventeen, this young lady already owns the integrity and courage that took me half a lifetime to cultivate, making her a powerful role model for girls and us masters, alike.

Soon, she will apply to college, graduate high school and move out on her own. As she cycles through life events, I hope she highlights these qualities when speaking with admission officers and future employers. And I hope she seeks out similar traits in others as she builds friendships and falls in love. Resume worthy accomplishments, physical strength and youthful outer beauty will fade; character will endure.

Integrity and courage are sometimes met with gossip, envy, and judgment. So when she catches slack for the high standards or the backlash cracks her confidence, I encourage my judge to hang tough and perhaps recall the time she refused to let this old timer break the rules during the CrossFit Open; because young lady, when it comes to life, “You got this.”

Take Away One

Courtesy Little Rock Family

Courtesy Little Rock Family

ML_published_badge_red_Mamalode

“I hate Thursdays,” Bubbe barked.  “I wake up early for band, go to school, spend two more hours in religious school, come home, and do homework.  I need a break.”

“You’re right,” I sighed.  “But education is not an option.  Band is a commitment and you need to finish what you started.  Please put your clarinet away, get one homework sheet done, and pack a snack for Hebrew school.  We’re leaving in twenty minutes.”

Later that evening, I scrolled through registration emails for the upcoming season’s optional extracurricular activities:

Baseball: League 1 and/or League 2.  Travel team.
Tennis, soccer, swim, lacrosse
Martial Arts
CrossFit Kids
Lego Engineering
Hip Hop
Drama, drawing, Junior Chef…

and thought about the last line of my response to Vicki Abeles’s New York Times’ Sunday Review piece, “Is School Making our Children Ill?”

Let’s resolve to take a step back and give children back their childhood.

In my Letter to the Editor, I complimented the Irvington High School community in Fremont, California for taking steps to rescue students from their high-stakes childhoods by limiting homework requirements and encouraged parents of young learners like me and those of my students to be brave, take ownership and embrace such efforts by curtailing after-school and evening enrichment in an effort to preserve the social, emotional and physical health of our children.

I often fantasize about what might happen if children, from toddlers to teenagers who live in a community laden with a multitude of well intended non-school related activities gave them up.

Would the children be lost; bored and confused by the lack of structure?  At first, until they learned how to organize and occupy themselves.

Would they stare at screens instead of reaching out to each other?  Probably, until an observant grown up or precocious peer stepped in.

Would their resumes suffer, leaving them unable to prosper in a society fixated on success, competition and career?  On the contrary; extra time and space would give them a chance to practice the socialization, thinking, and problem solving skills needed to thrive later in life.

After the initial shock wore off, I think the children would forget how busy their lives once were.

I imagine they would pack the playgrounds,

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

pick up the sport they previously raced off to play with whoever was nearby,

Courtesy Alan Zale for The New York Times

Courtesy Alan Zale for The New York Times

put on shows,

Courtesy Bored Panda

Courtesy Bored Panda

hang from trees,

Paul McDonough Courtesy Sasha Wolf Gallery, NYC

Paul McDonough Courtesy Sasha Wolf Gallery, NYC

visit with friends,

Coney Island Teenagers Harold Feinstein

Coney Island Teenagers Harold Feinstein

relax with family,

Courtesy Getty Images

Courtesy Getty Images

get more sleep,

Courtesy Bored Panda

Courtesy Bored Panda

and take that necessary break.

And I’m pretty sure the adults in their lives would come to welcome the change.

Perhaps if these young people had scaled back schedules, their schools would not have to revamp homework policies like in Fremont, delay start times to accommodate the sleep deprived like in Seattle, and implement mindfulness training to battle the growing epidemic of childhood anxiety and depression as did New York City.

While the educational system has a responsibility to promote childhood wellness, we parents and guardians do as well.  Children schlepping from class to practice to workshops and back again offsets the effort made by teachers and administrators and puts additional stress on kids and families.

Still, my under-scheduled fantasy is a daunting reality for this worried mom.

What if my boys are the only ones who opt out?  They’ll feel excluded and alone.

What if they lose a competitive edge?  How can they impress college admissions let alone make any high school team?

Doesn’t formal exposure to the arts, technology, and team play breed well roundedness?

It’s healthy to take risks; sample new and different things.

Besides, Bubbe and Skootch seem happy when they are busily in the mix.

But their childhood is not mine, nor is it about my parental goals, expectations, angst or insecurities.

With that, I marked the registration emails as unread and approached Bubbe.

“Here’s the deal,” I explained.  “You know school and band are a given.  Think about the three other activities you participated in this time last year.  Rank them.  Keep the top two.”

“I definitely want my tennis lesson,” he said.  “And I’d like to try baseball again.  So I guess I’ll stop CrossFit for now.”

I cringed.  Bubbe nixed the one extra I believe physically and mentally benefited him most and chose a sport that requires a greater weekly commitment.  “Okay,” I said.  “Sounds like a plan.”

Gaining a free afternoon may not reflect the childhoods of yesteryear, but it’s a start.

Let’s bring back rest, play, and old-fashioned fun.  This season resolve to take away one.

Menomama3 SAID WHAT? …Between

person with a question mark

Menomama3 SAID WHAT? …Between

With The Skootch soon celebrating his 5 finger birthday and Bubbe starting to walk home from school with friends instead of me, I was reminded of Menomama3’s post from her blog, Life in a Flash. It stayed with me long after I read it.

About Menomama3:
Sweaty and swearing, I am a post-menopausal mama staggering through the days, sleep deprived and cranky. I sound off, reminsce, ruminate and sometimes rant. And make stuff up, too.