I was at a party several years ago and got talking to a man whose children were school-aged. At the time, I was knee deep in babyhood – three kids, all in diapers. The man was recounting his young son’s sporting conquests. By the sounds of things, he had quite a little athlete on his hands. It was a lovely chit-chat until he said something I found very disturbing – he commented that, as the father of the most valuable player, he enjoyed watching the games more than the parents of the other players.
I was outraged. I told him that all parents enjoy watching their children, regardless of skill level. He stood his ground, trying to convince me that he was the happiest dad on the sidelines.
Fast forward a few years and my kid is off to her first soccer game. She’s a pretty athletic kid who played smart, handled and passed the ball well and scored goal after goal. It was quite remarkable to watch.
As I was cheering and beaming with pride, I gasped suddenly, remembering the conversation from years before. From my lawn chair, I looked around to survey other parents’ faces, expressions and excitement levels. The jury was in – I was enjoying the game more than they were. Certainly parents love to watch their kids shine, so maybe (gulp) that horrible man at the party wasn’t so far off.
Parents all have different competitive levels when it comes to their kids. I’m pretty low-key, but was again left questioning my competitive spirit at my daughter’s triathlon last week. The race director was giving instructions on the loud speaker and announced:
“If you get tired in the swim portion of the race, that is fine – you can just get out of the pool and move on to the bike portion.”
I turned to my daughter and told her to ignore that - her rules were that if she got tired, she could take a rest then carry on. There would be none of this dropping out business. You have to finish what you start – even if it takes a while and you get tired. As it turned out, one kid did bail halfway through the swim, but respectfully waited until the last swimmer got out of the pool before moving on.
It ended up being a great day, a fabulous event and it also gave me the chance to examine my competitive nature. Where do you sit as a parent – are you for full-on competitiveness, or do you like to see every kid on the team get a medal?
Fab photo of my little triathlete by www.ryderphoto.ca
My two girls with Glen Bernard Camp Assistant Director, Megan
Most credit their best childhood memories to summer camp. Many report that it was during those few weeks every summer that they learned skills to last a lifetime and made long-term friendships. This winter, I had three kids begging to go to sleep-away camp. I did my research, understood the many benefits and knew they were ready. But was I?
I decided I wanted my kids to have a traditional camping experience. My feeling is that since I’ve never been to Club Med, they should not be going to a resort disguised as a “summer camp”. Another decision I made along the way was to send them to single-gendered camps.
Sending my 11, 10 and 8 year-olds off to summer camp was a big leap for me. The two girls had each other, so I was a little more worried about my son who would be sibling-less.
The day came for the girls to go to camp. At one point that morning I was hanging over the kitchen sink washing dishes with tears streaming down my face. I knew I had to keep it together – my girls needed to know that I had confidence that they would succeed at camp, and also that I would be just fine without them.
When we arrived at Glen Bernard Camp we were immediately greeted by Ontario camping legend, Jocelyn Palm, and her superstar Assistant Director, Megan. The camp is beautiful and my girls were quick to send me off so that they could get on with it. As I drove away, I was shocked and relieved with how amazing I felt.
A couple of days later came round two of goodbyes when my son went off to Camp Ponacka. This camp has a fun history – it is owned and directed by husband/wife team Anne and Don. Anne’s father founded the camp 65 years ago. Don went to Ponacka as a camper many years back with no idea that he’d meet the girl of his dreams at an all-boys camp!
What was remarkable about Anne and Don? They came to my house to meet my son months before camp started. Yes, they drove for hours to come to MY house and meet MY son. Don spent time chatting with him while Anne sat down with me and said “Now, tell me EVERYTHING about your son”. Yeah, at that point I actually had to pinch myself.
While my kids are basking in summer camp glory, I feel pretty accomplished myself. Not once did I find myself up a tree just outside of camp boundaries, wearing camos and spying through binoculars.
I’ve previously mentioned that I’m not a big fan of throwing birthday parties for kids. Don’t get me wrong – I like the kids to have fun and it’s a day worth celebrating, but organizing the event doesn’t really float my boat.
Clearly, when you have six kids, there is no avoiding it. At last count, I’ve thrown 41 of the stinkin’ things. Recently our friends at the Marilyn Denis Show reached out to me looking for my tips and tricks when it comes to throwing a fun summer birthday party.
I was happy to serve up tips and share advice because I have lots to say on the subject. I enlisted the help of my friend Jenn, the “Party Mama” who organizes parties for a living. She covered all things creative and I was shocked to learn just how creative some mamas are!
You’ll notice that my tips are all about making this party throwing stuff less stressful for mama!
If throwing parties is not your happy place, get some help. I’ve had many parents tell me that they were so busy making their child’s first birthday “perfect” that they don’t even remember the milestone. As baby was cake smashing, mom and dad are running around fetching drinks and offering nibblies to guests. I prefer to have Jenn party plan so that I’m not exhausted before the party even begins.
With a backyard pool, I don’t do any kind of party without a lifeguard. If you don’t have a lifeguard, assign two adults to be on duty. Make them wear silly hats so that everyone knows they are responsible. When one steps away from the pool, the hat must be passed on to another responsible adult.
Keep it Simple
Avoid throwing parties during mealtimes and you’ll escape the daunting task of providing a meal. I prefer the party time slot of 2:00pm – 4:00pm. Admittedly, I’m no superstar in the kitchen so when it comes to the baking, I turn to another entrepreneurial friend, Eva, from Cakes With Attitude. I prefer to serve cupcakes over cake because no cutlery is necessary and we get to avoid hearing that whiney kid say “but his piece is BIGGER than mine!”
When it comes to getting the kids out the door, a simple gift (rather than a loot bag full of junk) is the way I like to go.
Special thanks to seriously crazy Party Mama, Jenn Sephton"