Hand-me-down clothing quirks

Some families pass down brains and musical talent from one generation to the next. Others pass down angular noses and strong jaw lines. Ours passes down clothing quirks.

When our oldest daughter was a toddler, she had issues with socks. She’d go berserk over socks with seams across the toes.

“What’s wrong with your kid?” another mother would ask.

“Socks,” I would say.

The mother would nod and say, “Corduroy.”

That meant she understood the sock problem because her kid had the same problem with corduroy. Probably couldn’t stand the ridges or the sound it made when it rubbed together.

We shared a duplex with a family whose youngest daughter absolutely refused to wear long sleeves. It could be the middle of winter and she would be wearing sleeveless or a tank top.

One of our grandbabies has issues with pants. She can’t stand it if her pants don’t stay pulled down over her socks. She pulls her pants legs over her socks and then when she bends her knees up, her pants come up. So then she pulls them down, and then they go up, and then she . . . and there goes a Tuesday.

We can hardly wait until summer to see how she responds to capris. Shorts will be completely out of the question.

When our son was young, he had issues with shoes. He often did a mix and match thing with his tennis shoes. I figured as long as the kid could still walk, it wasn’t a matter of life and death.

His dress shoes he loathed. I looked out the kitchen window one day to see him digging a hole and burying something. He had put his dress shoes in a plastic bag and was sending them to that great shoe rack in the center of the earth.

I was thankful he had bagged the shoes and not thrown them directly into the dirt. A mother takes progress wherever she can find it.

Not too long ago, I picked up a new shirt for the husband. This is something I do every five years or so even though he claims it is completely unnecessary. It was a sharp looking shirt with small black and white checks. He wore the shirt once and said he was never wearing it again because all those checks in his peripheral vision drove him nuts.

As for my quirk, I can’t stand a button-down shirt under a pullover sweater. I will fight, claw and chainsaw my way out of such a claustrophobic situation every time. It’s so bad that when I see someone else wearing a button-down shirt under a sweater I want to rip it off of them, too.

So far I have restrained myself.

By the way, if your kid has issues with seams on the socks, buy some socks without toe seams in them. It’s not spoiling your kid; it’s a couple of bucks in the interest of mental health.

It only took me 30 years to figure that one out.

Kids at play new endangered species

There are six—no wait—make that seven boys playing in the street on this Saturday afternoon. A football is rolling downhill, one end over the other. Two of the boys are on skateboards, several are on bikes and the others are zigzagging across the street, running through yards, laughing and shouting.

signA mom comes out of a garage, stands in her driveway and surveys the action. She returns to the garage and reappears with a large, round pillow that she tosses down on the driveway. A brown mutt appears and curls up for a nap. The woman goes back in the house.

The boys, ranging from ages 7 to 12, are now dribbling basketballs, generating the sounds of play that draw you to a window, cause you to look outside and smile. The odd thing is that there is no obvious direct adult supervision. What an anomaly.

You wonder if the parents didn’t get the memo that you must never let kids out of your sight. We live in a world that thrives on pumping suspicion and fear.

Not that we didn’t teach our own children about stranger danger and cultivate a healthy awareness. And now we keep an eagle eye on our grands.

Yet here these kids are, a throwback to childhood of years gone by, playing hard in suburbia.

We let our kids set up a produce stand at the end of the block when they were this age. (This was before cities began cracking down on crime, busting kids operating lemonade stands without business licenses.) I checked on the kids periodically, but I didn’t sit with them.

One of our grown kids asked if we would let kids operate the Champ Produce stand today. It’s a good question.

A family around the corner lets their daughter have a lemonade stand. (Please don’t tell the city.) She’s personable, responsible and sharp. She is also in the sight line of the family’s front door.

Maybe I am relishing watching these boys running free because it smacks of a more care free time. Nobody’s dad is checking names on a roster and nobody’s mother is running behind them dragging a cooler filled with snacks.

In the simple act of play, these boys are learning to take risks and problem solve. They are finding out who has the best throwing arm, who is fast on a bike and who can balance on a skateboard. They’re also looking out for one another. A vehicle drives up the street and one of the older boys yells, “CAR!” They scatter and the car slowly passes.

They may even be forging community. Should one of these boys be bullied on the bus next week, he well could have a small platoon rising to stand beside him.

We have to be smart today, that’s for sure. Kids need to be savvy and on guard, but they also need the freedom to be kids.

The good, bad and the bossy

Dear Miss Bossy Pants,

You might not remember me, but I was one of the girls you bossed around when we were kids. I was the short one, kinda quiet, a little shy. I was one of the girls you mowed down in the lunch line, barreled over in gym class and dictated what games we had to play at recess.

I even had a jacket with your footprints running across my back. I was the one you interrupted, talked over and looked straight through. You were the one who designated yourself as in-charge. Even the teacher was afraid of you.

You were Lucy from the Peanuts gang and Margaret from Dennis the Menace. Bossy, bossy, bossy. Yak, yak, yak.

We’re not supposed to call girls like you bossy anymore because we could hurt your self-esteem. (Like that was ever in short supply.)

You must be pretty jazzed to have someone like Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook launching a Ban Bossy campaign on your behalf. Sandberg says calling girls bossy can keep them from their dreams of executive leadership. My dream was to get the ball back from you so I could play four square.

Sandberg was called bossy and look how it damaged her. She’s worth more than one billion dollars.

Sandberg has a lot of rich and famous women on board, including Condoleezza Rice, Beyonce, the head of the Girl Scouts and Yahoo. It’s a pretty downtrodden group all right. If their dreams of leadership were squashed, they sure recovered well.

Anyway, about banning this word bossy. I’m against it. I’m anti-censorship in general. I’m a freedom-and-liberty kind of gal. I’m not going to be hitting the like button on this one.

The thing is this, if someone calls you bossy, why not think about it? Maybe you are. And if you are, maybe you need to change. Maybe you’re not the only one with some ideas. Maybe you can be overbearing, obnoxious even.

And if you’re not bossy, let it roll. Don’t make a federal case – let alone a website, buttons and a social media campaign.

Sure, it’s not always kind to call someone bossy. But consider the options: domineering, controlling, aggressive, overbearing, self-absorbed or simply “the girl who hogs the tempera paints.”

Banning bossy won’t empower little girls, it will only victimize them. One more thing they are to be offended by.

And the argument that little girls are being held back has more holes in it than my kitchen colander. (I have a house now. Does that surprise you?) The average ratio of female to males entering college is 56 to 44. Females graduate college at a far higher rate and the latest Fortune 500 listed more female CEOS than ever before.

I will say I enjoy the irony of the Ban Bossy campaign—wealthy, powerful, successful women telling the rest of us what we can’t say.

I should have said it years ago, but I didn’t, so I’ll say it now: You’re not the boss of me.

Sincerely,

The short kid with curly brown hair

What to expect at gender reveal parties

The first gender reveal party I attended was in our front hallway. It was what you would call low-key. Our expectant daughter-in-law arrived with a box of homemade cookies. She’s not a baker, so my antennae were up.

Baby outfitThe cookies had pink frosting. I got it. Very cute.

The rest of the family just helped themselves to the cookies and said thanks.

Gender reveal parties are far bigger events these days. Some hire professional photographers, stream live video and make the big announcement with a fireworks display. All of which makes you wonder what they’ll do when the kid passes kindergarten. Surely a coronation will be in order.

Women of my generation had the big reveal in the delivery room. Our party guests were masked medical personnel. The party theme colors were hospital green and more hospital green. The only drinks served were ice chips and appetizers were strictly forbidden.

It was a good system. Most of the time.

When our second baby was finally born, I said, “Oh, it’s another boy!”

The nurse-midwife said, “No, it’s a girl.”

“But it looked like a boy.”

“That was the umbilical cord, dear. You had a long labor.”

Confusion happens.

Our middle one knew the sex of their twins early on because they do ultrasounds every 10 minutes when you are a high risk pregnancy expecting multiples. They knew it was two boys. Or maybe a boy and a girl. Or maybe two girls. And they were. Two girls.

She didn’t want to know the sex of their third baby. She wanted to be surprised.

Our youngest is the first to have an actual gender reveal party. It was a small family affair. We were to choose a blue or pink clothespin when we entered to signify our guess as to the baby’s sex. Nobody’s going to make me vote against a grandbaby before the baby is even born. I took one of each and prepared for a win/win.

A family friend had been given the ultrasound technician’s note as to the baby’s sex and bought an outfit, which the expectant couple slowly pulled from a gift bag. The first thing I saw was black and white stripes.

That’s different, I thought. We still don’t know if it is a boy or a girl, but apparently the baby is a convict. Ultrasounds have sure progressed from my day. Then they pulled out the entire outfit and it had bright pink trim. What a relief. Turns out it’s going to be a girl.

Our daughter, a kindergarten teacher, took the gift bag and little outfit to school the next day to share with her students who had been asking if the baby was a boy or a girl.

“Who can guess what I’m going to pull out of this bag?” she asked.

A little girl yelled, “A BABY!”

If only it were that easy.

Why, yes, I do box

When someone asks you to go boxing, it’s not the sort of invitation you accept without asking questions. I had two: “Are you going to hit me in the face?” and “Will there be blood?”

Lori BoxingThe retired United Methodist minister who invited me is congenial, witty, and not the sort of man you would picture taking a swing at your face and breaking your nose, but all the same I felt better asking.

As it turns out, nobody in Marvin’s boxing class hits anybody else. They box heavy bags, speed bags and practice with two female trainers—one a three-time world champion boxer.

Oh, did I mention that all the boxers in the class have Parkinson’s?

Marvin was diagnosed at 61, a few months after he retired. Seven years later he’s still boxing, working to stave off the progression of Parkinson’s.

With any affliction, challenge or brick wall, when the determined ones can’t pass through, they hunt for a way around, under or over. It’s called grit.

Grit is what they develop at Rock Steady Boxing. It’s an intense 90-minute workout. They start with warm-up exercises in a ring that used to be a backup ring at Madison Square Garden years ago.

After their warm up, they hit the exercise machines and after that they don the gloves. Then they box against the heavy bags and the speed bags. Periodically, a trainer yells to drop and give her three pushups. Some shake, some tremble, some falter, but nobody quits.

The drill with the jump rope is fascinating. One man jump ropes the length of the gym, others lay the jump rope on the floor and practice jumping over it, back and forth, back and forth. Making the feet move is hard for people with Parkinson’s. There is something about seeing a line that encourages the brain to tell the feet to step over it. Maybe it’s the same effect as signs that say “Wet Paint” or “Don’t Walk on the Grass.”

And then there is the drill with the focus pads. Focus pads are the baseball gloves of boxing. Trainers put a focus pad on each hand, and boxers punch into them, working on speed, endurance and agility. A trainer calls out a large man with an unsteady and halting gait. He turns toward her and nearly loses his footing. He hesitates. He doesn’t say anything verbally, but it looks like a body language no.

She calls him again. He lumbers over, raises his gloves and throws a punch. His stance is uncertain. She yells and he throws another punch. Then another. Left, right, left, right. She demands more of him. More and more. She’s pushing him hard, and if he falls it won’t be easy getting him back up.

He throws faster and faster, harder and harder. He has found a rhythm that moments ago was beyond reach, or at least beyond my imagination. She slowly raises the focus pads higher and higher still yelling, challenging, encouraging. His punches follow her moves with a fluid grace. Her arms are extended as high as they will go. He reaches high and throws hard in complete and utter defiance to the forces working against him.

Determination 1, Challenges of Life, 0.