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Nov 11 2014

My Daughter, The Hebrew School Dropout

By at 11:57 am

Hebrew school dropout

“My daughter, the Hebrew School dropout.” Those weren’t exactly the words I had in mind when I enrolled Hannah in Hebrew school when she was in kindergarten. And all went well for a few years…until there were some rumblings in 5th grade. But I gamely ignored them, and we soldiered on.

And then middle school hit like a tsunami. Hannah was normally a fairly calm, methodical kid. Not anymore. Her anxiety levels spiked as her secular school workload increased. She placed high expectations on herself, expecting straight A’s every marking period. I remember begging her, “Get a B. Just get a B in something and you will see that the world won’t end.”

Add in a long drive to Hebrew school and an extra two hours of class once a week, and Hannah was on the verge of cracking. When she came home from Hebrew school she would sob in my arms. She didn’t connect socially with her peers and she wasn’t learning anything new. She would stay up late at night to finish her homework and then do cartwheels and handsprings in her bedroom to calm her nerves. It was wearing both of us out. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 19 2014

For the First Time Ever, I Want My Boys to Watch Football

By at 10:32 am

Ray-Rice-and-Kris-Wilson
I am not a sports fan. I might even describe myself as the anti-sports fan. Occasional viewing is fine, and so is mild fandom, but for many years I neither encouraged nor approved of sports-obsessing. (In my mind the only things worth obsessing about are politics, Springsteen tour dates, and the odd celebrity scandal). It all seemed silly, pointlessly aggressive, and boorish (sports, not politics. OK, maybe both).

When I first got married I made my distaste for sports-watching immediately known–and no sport was more disdained by me than football. I must have read a New York Times editorial at some point in which I learned that domestic abuse cases spiked on Super Bowl Sunday. I would stand in between my husband and the game on the TV and announce this fact each time I found him watching. He wasn’t really enough of a fan to overcome the power of my withering glare and incessant preaching. Eventually, football went away.

It went away until my boys found it and brought it into our home with passion and glee. At first, I tried the same tactic that had worked so very well on my husband. I had no luck. A trusted friend advised me: If you can’t beat them, join them. They are going to watch it anyway; if you don’t get involved you’ll be cut out of the equation. I suppose this argument could be made to all sorts of things that I am not about to try watching with my boys (ahem), but for football, it worked. I watched. I followed. I encouraged their insane fandom. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 18 2014

How Do I Explain to My Sons That Some of Their NFL Heroes are Criminals?

By at 10:01 am

Adrian-Peterson-Vikings

Football is a big deal in my house. Between my husband and three sons, there are seven fantasy football teams to root for. We have two Jets fans, one Giants fan, and one (ever hopeful but disappointed) Raiders fan. As you might imagine, it is not a quiet house. Especially on Sundays.

My 9-year-old son has a huge collection of football jerseys; he wears one to school each day, selecting it with care to coordinate with his fantasy players for the week. Recently, as I was hanging up his laundry, I perused his jerseys. Many belonged to players whose names I didn’t recognize. And then I came across three that I did: Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Michael Vick.

The jerseys were purchased when these players were football heroes on the field, before we knew of their (alleged) crimes against their wives, children, and animals. My boys looked up to these football stars and were proud to wear their jerseys. Unfortunately, these players instantly transformed from esteemed athletes to abusive criminals when their shocking stories were revealed.   Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 15 2014

That Time My Son Felt “Like a Goy”

By at 2:44 pm

baseball-vizel

My 8-year-old son Seth and I were out at a baseball game on Saturday when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Mom, I feel like a goy.”

I was horrified. It never, ever occurs to me not to feel like a Jew. I feel like a Jew the same way I feel like a woman–it’s who I am. When I left the Hasidic community three years ago, people called me a shiksa and said that wasn’t Jewish anymore, that I looked like a goy. It had no meaning to me. It was like telling me I’m not a mother. You can’t tell me that. You can’t tell me I’m not who I am. In fact, since I left Orthodoxy, the more I’ve learned and expanded my horizons, the more I identified with the Jewish feminist movement, the Jewish progressive movement, Jewish literature, Jewish humanism, Jewish values, Zionism, and the Jewish yentas at my Jewish gym.

So I nuzzled Seth’s hair and said, “Honey, why would you ever feel like a goy?”

Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 19 2014

My Kids Are Pretty Much Average

By at 12:01 pm

c-plus

A few weeks ago, I was at a 3-year-old’s birthday party, and I put my 6-month-old son down next to another baby. The other child effortlessly rolled across the blanket, while my son, a few weeks younger, mortified his mama by crying, in place, on his tummy. Oh no, I wondered, is my child not going to be a gifted athlete? Maybe he won’t be as flexible as his brother? Are these early signs of some kind of processing delay? I panicked. Will he be popular, or an outcast among fast-moving little boys? And the terror took hold.

Have you had that fear about your child? The fear that bubbles up when you notice they are not particularly good at singing, drawing or academics? You retaliate by frantically signing them up for soccer, karate, and music classes. You become certain that if you keep trying to find it, the prodigy in your child will emerge. You talk to other parents, trying to gain reassurance that all children are special at something. The other parents may even soothe your anxiety by pointing out how smart your child is because he knows 50 more words than the average kid his age. You placate your own worries by repeating that old idea that everybody has a special talent they excel at. Surely your child will find theirs at some point.

At the birthday party, my friends pointed out the benefits of a kid who doesn’t move: fewer worries about baby-proofing the house and those lurking dangers at the park. They referenced other children we knew who didn’t move until after a year (oh gosh!) but who were doing just fine on the playground now. Many also pointed out that while he may not be able to move, my son was so gorgeous and smart.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 29 2014

Mazel Tov! Bachelorette Andi Dorfman Picks Jewish(?) Athlete

By at 3:05 pm

andi-dorfman

The first headline I wrote for this post was “Bachelorette Andi Dorfman Chooses Handsome Dumb Jock–Again!” Will we girls ever learn?

Throughout this season of “The Bachelorette,” which ended Monday night, we watched ABC’s first-ever Jewess fall for former Wisconsin Brewers ball player Josh Murray as he pleaded earnestly, “Don’t stereotype me; I’m really not like that.”

Murray was out to prove that he is not a player like the other athletes Andi is used to dating–and he succeeded. Andi chose Josh over nice midwestern boy Nick Viall. I just rolled my eyes; we’ve all heard that one before, right? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 24 2014

Is My Daughter Confident or Cocky?

By at 9:56 am

Rita-collins-cocky-kid

I’ve always wanted my daughter to be able to shine and feel good about her personal accomplishments, and so, like many parents who put their children into copious amounts of activities, I too have done that for my 7-year-old. She has tried soccer, tennis, piano, and competitive dance. In the academic arena, I have placed her in multiple summer school courses and I have her doing extra reading, writing, math, and even some educational documentaries thrown in for good measure. My hope was that her involvement in these activities would make her well-rounded and build her self-esteem.

But, what if I am creating a “cocky” kid?

Recently at my daughter’s Open House she was showered with praise for how well she had been doing in school, but her teacher also told us that she was being bossy with the other kids and sometimes acting in a “superior” manner toward them. When she was asked about it, she said, “Well, I’m smarter than they are.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2014

Drag Your Kids To Summer Camp

By at 11:20 am

archery

I recently read a New York Times article about one woman’s unfavorable experiences in summer camp and laughed out loud.

Like the author, I was not much of a joiner and hated sports. I also disliked getting dressed and undressed in a roomful of strangers. My first summer, I was the only girl still wearing undershirts so I’d change clothes in the bathroom. (Not that I fooled anyone. And most of those gals didn’t really need bras, either.)

I sucked at anything involving a softball, volleyball, golf ball, basketball, fencing foil, or bow and arrow. And unlike some other kids who might have also been less than stellar athletes, but who discovered at camp that they enjoyed drama, music, dance or even carpentry, I didn’t. My favorite “activity” was shiur during which we learned Jewish subjects. Unlike most kids (but also like the writer of the New York Times piece), I actually liked school. Read the rest of this entry →

May 1 2014

For Now, They’re Teens in California, but Soon They Will Be Israeli Soldiers

By at 10:12 am

Roi-outruns-his-mark-3-15-14

“Hey Ima, you know, the college scouts come to see the U16 games.”

I felt shivers up and down my spine, the same sort of chill that gripped me in early fall while watching my 14 and 15-year-old sons play together in a competitive soccer match in San Rafael, California. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching them play; or at least I used to.

Both boys are passionate about the game, playing at a high level of competitive youth soccer. Every weekend during our stay in the San Francisco Bay area, I watch them play–two, three, or four games. I spend hours and days gazing at their strong, rapidly growing bodies, their lean muscles, tanned skin and their incredible agility as they chase a ball on a soccer field, somewhere in sunny northern California. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 7 2014

The Disturbing Reaction to a Certain NY Mets Player’s Paternity Leave

By at 1:47 pm

daniel-murphy

When NY Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy, got word that his pregnant wife’s water broke on Sunday night, March 30th, he traveled from New York to their home in Florida, arriving in time for the birth of his first-born child, Noah, via C-section. Murphy then took the three days paternity leave permitted for Major League Baseball players to be with his wife before returning to the team. He missed two games including the Mets home opener.

Murphy has now come under fire on a few radio shows for choosing to be with his wife instead of immediately rejoining the team.

I immediately felt a fire within myself when I heard this criticism. Read the rest of this entry →

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