Ten Things I Want My Future Daughter to Know

I do not have kids and nor do I intend on having kids for a while but as a coach I feel like I have this responsibility to treat every kid I coach like they’re my own. Coaching is a very sad life at times because of this. You pour all your energy and attention into this person and at any moment they could just walk away. As someone who predominantly coaches girls I feel the connectedness of the coach-athlete relationship is so strong. Girls are all about the connection, but, like any coach-athlete relationship it can change in a heartbeat. Whether it’s that they find a new coach, better club, changing family situation, or they have had enough of you all the energy you put into them can be gone and you must start again. With that being said, I think I have gathered enough points that I would want my future daughter to know about. I have been the caring temporary guardian despite knowing the harsh reality of my job that it is so bittersweet.

She Will Know This

1) Being female is just a label. It is no different than saying you are tall or short. Looking at the bigger picture, how you treat people and the impact you leave on their life will define you more than being female ever will.

2) If you end up being gifted like me, it means you have potential. You have more potential but it is not guaranteed. I failed math, a lot. I had the potential but no desire to work it more than it had to in that subject and I faced the same reality as any other kid who doesn’t try. But you will achieve greatness if your mind and heart is set on it.

3) School matters-and it doesn’t. I cannot give you an honest answer as to why it is confusing this way. All I can say is that what is written on paper is a marker as to how you are performing but it is not to say how you will end up. The first step is to show up, and the second step is to work your butt off.

4) You are never too old or too young. I was scolded once in elementary because I wanted to read books that were above my grade level. The real truth is that the book has no age limit (just a recommendation) and age didn’t matter then, it doesn’t matter now. Except legal stuff of course. So if you are the youngest in a class or the oldest on a team it doesn’t matter. If you’ve read older books or done young things it doesn’t matter.

5) Friends are important. I do not want you to be like me. You probably will have some characteristics of me but I hope you’re better than me. In order for that to happen you need to surround yourself with people who believe in you, fill you with only the best energy and make you feel like you are important and worthy. You will give them this same grace in return.

6) Be generous. Always be generous. Even if you do not feel like it and you want to rip everyone’s heads off. Everybody is going through something and generosity will pay off. You will live a fuller life and feel better about the world too.

7) Being intelligent is really cool. Small people will try to make you feel like it’s not. Knowing your stuff and being proud of it will take you really far. Being intelligent doesn’t always mean knowing everything either though, but it means knowing how to solve problems and having the courage to figure it out on your own.

8) Confidence is cool. It will shine brighter on your face than any other trait and combine it with intelligence? Awesome. Add kindness and generosity? An unbeatable combination.

9) You’re not alone with your problems. Whatever happens to you has probably happened to someone else. It is like they say though, the best way to make someone feel completely powerless is when they’ve been made to feel completely alone. They’re less likely to fight back (I might have paraphrased Luna Lovegood’s speech to Harry Potter a little) You will never be alone. Don’t keep it inside. Burdens are manageable when shared and the people who care about you won’t mind sharing.

10) Advocate for yourself. You want something bad enough? Then the world is going to have to see it, hear it, feel it. I will not be your personal billboard stating all your goals and dreams. I’ll be an obnoxious advertisement but not a billboard. You will need to learn to find your voice and I realize I might be setting myself up for failure because your voice may in fact be stronger than mine. I’ll get it though…one day we will both get it.

I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t mind if you went to University or dropped out of school. I really want you to go to University. But I can make this really ambitious request because I don’t know any better. The truth is, as much as it scares me, I think I will be okay with whatever happens. So long as you followed those 10 things if that all leads to you dropping out…well…we will cross that bridge when we get there.

These ten things I preach to “my kids”, the ones who might eventually move on and find different waters. However their embodiment of these ten things are what made me proud of them so I cannot imagine it being any different for the girl who will never leave me when the time comes.

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Life is a Sport

Life is interesting. The people we meet in life ultimately can change our fate. All of those talks about being able to do whatever you set your mind to are not accurate. Much of what we do is because of other people, whether intended or not. You might be wondering why such an elusive post. I am wondering the same things too, I might not even post this actually. As of yesterday my life story became more interesting, not as interesting as those directly involved but I am a witness nonetheless. All I will say is that my 20s have been roaring. It makes me wonder if history will find its way in my life and repeat the dirty 30s. Everywhere I go I have been touched by lives that I could so quickly choose to forget about but I don’t. Every adventure, every person I meet gets permanent estate in my mind and heart. Perhaps it is because I fear letting go, even though Pinterest so avidly suggests it’s necessary. Maybe it is because I am afraid people will forget me and, I will be just other face to a name.

I saw the flip side of what it means to live today. I liked to imagine that whatever life you’re given you have a duty and responsibility to fulfill it and make it even grander than how it was presented to you. I “liked” to imagine this. Reality has set and I realize that not everyone takes that duty as their own. Some people do give up. It is what sets champions from the average, the elite from the normal. Without the comparison, a lot of us would have nothing to live for. Some people do give up. Some people come back. I can agree with Pinterest when it says that it is not the number of times you fall but how many times you get back up after your fall. This seemed so simple to me, especially as an athlete. Life is not a game, it’s a sport. It is not always about you versus the world. But life, life is a sport that knocks you down and there are no rules, instructions, equal fights, timed penalties or coaches. You could go majority of your life training wrong, you could go your whole life training right and still end up with a red flag. How many of us actually think about the penalties we set up for ourselves? How many of us spend our life trying to play on a one man team? How many of us keep getting penalties without thinking that there might be a time limit that will end our sport forever? How many of us have yelled at the referees in our lives just trying to keep us out of trouble? Life is a sport, it is meant to be continuous. Life is not a timed game with match-ups and heckling from the sidelines.

If we lived life like a sport we would realize its sacredness, it is an opportunity denied to many. If we lived life like a sport we would all be athletes of a community doing good for each other. We would be training for individual goals but collectively working for society’s outcome. We would spend less time self-loathing and more time keeping up with what is really important. In a game, somebody always loses. In a sport, everybody is winning for the right reasons. This world I am describing sounds like a fantasy, but the world I live in has played one too many games.

As I Jump in With Both Feet

I have always had dreams about what it would be like reconnecting with my past. Some of these thoughts have been dark, while others have been happy. Mostly happy. I daydream a lot too, even at 20. I am betting I look very ridiculous as I drift off into my own little world imagining scenarios that might not ever happen. What goes through my head?

I think I would have made an awful sister when I was younger. I had a lot of needs and a lot of goals. My parents had their work cut out for them. I did not like younger children or children my age very much. Was it because intellectually I felt superior? Or was it because growing up all I ever knew was adult interactions since I had no siblings? Regardless, the few times I did have to share my life with another kid I did a pretty bad job of it. That’s not to say I did not have friends; I had friends, a good number of them, but I did not have to live with them. Looking back I think I would have been one of those cool siblings at 12 or 13. I would have been a colossal jerk any younger though. It was around 12 that I got involved in volunteering at day camps and stuff so my interactions with young people were sort of mandatory.

I think about all of the things I should do if ever there is a day I meet my biological family. What if they’re poor? Should I start a fund now for the rare occasion that they may need it? If I never find them at least I will have extra cash for a splurge of some sort. What if this do not want to meet me? Is that even fair?

The reason for this spur of thoughts; I have been connecting with someone Thai…in Thailand, who may or may not be related to me. Part of me is happy that I am getting answers in some form, but another part of me has never done this before. You get gut feelings about things, I have one of those gut feelings that thinks this connection is closer than it appears to be. Almost like there is something that needs to be said but is being held back for whatever reason. This gut feeling could be completely or it could be the very thing that changes my life.

That Time I Pretended I Knew Thai

It’s no surprise that lately I have been trying to track down my biological family, digitally. The whole purpose of this blog was to follow the journey from the idea to the finished result-if there even is one. There were several bumps along the way, including my own resistance to the very purpose of my posts. Yes, at one point I did not want to find my biological family. I did not want to film a soppy reunion that would be posted on YouTube for the world to marvel over. I wanted a few years of my life to be everything but adoption because it seemed much of my young life was spent basking in it. This has since changed. I have gone into overdrive, creeping Facebook profiles and desperately using Google Advanced Search to connect pieces of my old life together. Crazy perhaps? Absolutely. Could I end up finding nothing? Absolutely. Is it even worth it? I don’t know.

During one of my Facebook creeps I came along what was almost a perfect match to my birth mother. The city she lived in, her birth date and her name were all on par. So what do you do when you come across this, which, in closed adoptions, can be very rare? I summoned the help of those who spoke the language I resented as a young child. Thai people. What do you write to someone who is going to receive this message and think either, “What the hell?” or, “Oh my god…”? 1) Apparently you add a lot of exclamation points, because when you add those in any sentence it immediately stops being so serious! 2) You try and keep it simple, who knows what this will sound like as it’s translated. 3) You try to be persuasive but not forceful, there was a reason why you were adopted in the first place after all. 4) “Friended” is not a word. I just realized this. I’m majoring in English…that is concerning. 5) Keep it short. This may be her first impression of you. Don’t traumatize the poor thing.

“Hello there, My name is Ornmadee Baxter-Lovo and I live in Canada but I was born in Thailand in 1994. I friended you on Facebook because right now I am trying to find my birth parents and your name is similar to my birth mother’s. I am hoping that I can locate with one or both of them or at least connect with family that might know their whereabouts. I do not know Thai but have many Thai friends who understand the language and are helping me translate messages. I would be so happy if you were a possible relative of my birth family but I also appreciate your friendship on Facebook even if you are not!”

The message sends and I am thinking a few things right now. I have heard of stories of families reconnecting, this is the best case scenario. I have also heard stories of local people charging people in search of their families a monetary fee for their services. That’s not happening, I can hardly afford gas money let alone a family reconnection service.

For parents of adopted children the take away message is this: I am twenty years old and I am just now getting completely interested in this whole seeking out the parents situation. Your kid might want to do it when they’re five, or forty, whatever. The important thing is that it is their perspective that the message is being sent from. This post will be the first time anybody other than myself has read the message I sent, my parents included. I’m not keeping a secret, but I am not explaining it a thousand times either.

I receive two messages back. One is in poor English, but she’s tried to explain that she is not my mother but there are three people who share the last name and she knows them. The second message I send through Google translate:

“Hello, my name is Jason’re happy and beautiful.”

Maybe I should have taken my Thai lessons a bit more seriously when I was a kid.

To be continued…

Adoptee: A Testy Label

Presumptuous title, I am aware. Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be adopted and how it is different than someone who is not. Now I have posted many times about the things we feel and experience and how someone who has not been adopted could not possibly relate. It is true that there are things that could not even be comprehended. For starters, there is loss and grief. This loss and grief is not just of human bodies taken from your family tree but of your own identity and everything you were supposed to grow up to be but are not because you are adopted. What would my life have been like if I had not been adopted? Would I be wearing too small of clothes, living in a shack, would I have gone and finished school? What kind of values would have been instilled in me that would change the course of my life?

You can read all about how I thought and think these things in the many posts throughout the years but I wanted to focus particularly on the label, “adoptee”. I have actually never introduced myself as an “adoptee” to a person, more like a person who is adopted. I’ll say, “I was adopted from Thailand” or “I am adopted”. Yes, I am aware that my blog subtitle does in fact say “adoptee”, but that was a different time when it did come with some feelings. The way I feel about the term is that “adoptee” feels so official. It feels like you now belong to a standard definition. It almost feels (to me) like having the word “loser” stamped on my forehead. Is that too harsh? Saying that you are adopted is a much more gentle approach and makes me feel less of a victim, more of a teller of great experiences. The term “adoptee” based on reading so many adoption blogs seems to come with a great negative connotation; feelings of being broken and shattered, identities stolen and abused. While I have no doubts that there are indeed thousands, possibly millions of people who feel this way, the negative stereotype associated with the word “adoptee” seems so permanent. “I am adopted” seems more experiential and personal. You can come from broken places but you can heal too. The statement, “I am adopted” seems to foster more about your journey as a person growing up in different circumstances, rather than as a victim of a helpless process.

So what was the purpose of this post? That is a very good question. It was a random thought and I do not think it was bias necessarily, but I do hope it gave some insight on the idea that I saw a difference between the two introductions.

Does the term, “adoptee” spark you as being factual or does it come with some baggage? Or are you like me you who just avoids the label all together (except to subhead my blog) and would rather spend the extra few seconds stringing this sentence together, “I am adopted from…”

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Depression is More Than Being Tired

I have not posted since December and for good reason. I have been deciding whether or not this is even something I should be posting, you know, too much information that no one wants to hear. Then I remembered that nobody forces anybody to read stuff and you do not have to read it if you do not want to.

A month ago I became concerned about my mood and overall unwillingness to participate in what used to be really fun things for me. Those around me noticed really great mood swings and it was effecting my judgement a lot. My blood pressure was constantly low to the point where I felt like I was close to fainting. Being someone who admires perfection, including mental stability I sought out the doctor and we both came to the conclusion that I was depressed. I hated that. I also hate using the word hate. But I hated the fact that the very thing I was scared of becoming was in fact my reality. As much as we like to say that we are beyond the stigma that depression is for messed up, damaged people, a lot of us (myself included) deep down still believe that depression is all in the head and you create depression for yourself. Realizing that I have it makes it more of a nightmare because it does not go away over a good night’s sleep or by reading a good book. More so, the medical “cure” for it, makes you feel even worse for many weeks before it gets better. Not everyone understands your journey and people will forever remain convinced that you created it for yourself.

While much of this blog has been about my joys and funny interactions with people unfamiliar with adoption, only a few have really been about the struggles. I will honestly say that all throughout my life any little bouts of emotion have been managed. There was a darker period in High School but that too was resolved. The idea that I could become depressed definitely did not thrill me. At the time I had no concept on what depression did to a person, I only knew what it looked like. Depression sucks.

If you are not familiar, take a field trip into my brain. It is a gifted brain I will have you know, and that does not necessarily mean it is fired up with the latest invention ideas or mathematical formulas.  My brain enjoys looking at the preciseness of a well cut-book, and the great colour choices of a newly built home. It cringes at poor grammar, both spoken and written and gets overly emotional over characters in sci-fi movies and can leave me emotionally numb for days. Giftedness, as told by Janneke Frank (http://calgaryherald.com/storyline/the-dark-side-of-being-a-gifted-kid)  is, “a tragic gift, and not a precursor to success”. So now that you know that I will let you know what it feels like to have depression invade its already complex state of existence. I did not realize that you could literally feel a mood coming. It kind of feels like a daydream, you are really content and satisfied with your life and then for about thirty minutes you physically watch yourself become irritated, pissed off and cold. There is nothing you could do about it. They became more frequent. Eventually they make you sleep a lot. Not sleep as in turn on NetFlix and watch your favourite series and doze but sleep for hours and not even feel hungry or like you need to go to the bathroom. It was easy for me to slip into this too, it is not like anybody comes and forces you out of it as if you were a kid. You deal with this on your own. My depression is more than being tired. It is knowing that you are affecting people, people who both understand and maybe criticize you, people who do not know you or know too much. The worst is you cannot control it and it pushes people away when you so desperately need them closer than before. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, I do not think it is anybody’s cup of tea. Lack of control when you’re physically injured sucks. But you can control how much pain you put yourself through by how much you choose to rest or how much you move your injured ligament. You cannot turn off your thoughts. People cannot see a bandaged brain.

I used to think people who were depressed were just mentally unstable lunatics. Then I became depressed and realized that we just process our problems in the most excessive ways possible, and for myself and my overly active brain, it is now working on over-time. I won’t tell you that you need to feel sorry for people who suffer from mental illness because I sure I did not. But I guess I am living proof that it happens to even the most deniable of it.

http://calgaryherald.com/storyline/the-dark-side-of-being-a-gifted-kid

Not Another Coaching Post

Divert your eyes if you do not wish to hear me rant about coaching, again. It is something I am passionate about and so it certainly does belong on this blog but not necessarily in your mind.

As a coach of primarily girls I sometimes catch myself standing at the back of a boat in disbelief and frustration as a group of talented, hard-working individuals lily-dip their way through a practice. The emotion I feel? Disappointment, frustration, even anger. I have caught myself mid-sentence about to speak from the heart realizing that they’re just kids. It stops there. Despite that, the beginning sentences of my speech still linger in their mind and I am regretful. Coaching was really about sharing what I love. The expectations I have for athletes are high and not all fit that niche. It is through realizing this that my speeches become more and more sparse as I learn that those who are passionate will pull through. The others simply need someone to support them along in their experience until they too find something that they love.

Recently I have immersed myself in a different kind of culture. One that beams with Canadian pride and is the trademark of Canadian children; hockey. I have watched kids come from hockey to paddling and vice versa. I have watched the experience from the outside looking in. What follows is an anecdotal tale that, I am sad to report, highlights so many things that needs fixing in youth sports. Out of control coaches, over-bearing parents and confused, passionate children who just want to play. A toxic tornado of passion, envy, ignorance and lack of education. Now this is not to isolate hockey itself, this happens in every sport. That is the point, why does it happen in youth sports? Hockey is a sport that encompasses thousands of children each year and yet still things go under the radar.

I have cried because of bad coaching and teaching. The crying was not because I was fearful or because I felt that I knew better in a world of adults. The crying was because I loved my sport so much, yet felt so worthless, yet wanted to keep going. I was conflicted. The crying happened because the system works in a way that exhausts the complainer and punishes the athlete. The first thing on every kids mind is, “What will happen to me if I say something?”, “What if they do not believe me?” . Mine was especially, “Oh good Lord, what will my parents do?” (you have to understand my parents got shit done). The truth is, that second question is highly common. I got in the habit of writing things down, mostly because apparently people cannot just take the truth for what it is, you have to document it. It does not matter whether you are in Grade 3 or in Grade 8. You become a writer because you have to.

The worst thing I have heard as a coach is a parent coming to me and justifying their daughter’s emotions. “She cries about a lot of things, just keep pushing her and she’ll get over it.” I am not saying I am the expert on coaching girls but as a former female athlete dismissing tears and upset is the last thing you should do. Must you comment on it every time? No. Must you find the source of the tears? Absolutely. Practices ending in tears are not simply forgotten. They build up and eventually lead to the major breakdown- the one a lot of people blame on over-training and overload. Yes, an overload of unresolved emotion.

This brings me to the point of this post: You have to coach girls differently. You have to discipline differently. Just like I would have to learn how to coach boys more effectively the same goes for male coaches taking the time to learn how to coach girls differently.

It does not matter whether or not girls have played their whole lives in boys sports. It does not matter whether or not she “acts” more like a competitive boy. She is a girl. She sees and thinks things differently.

Tone is everything. Scream at your athletes and that is all they will hear, anger and upset. They have to believe that you want them to succeed. The level of which I am talking about is quite competitive and they are older which is why it is even more important to be wary of the way one coaches. Girls will drop-out and at the age of 13-14, that is the last thing we want to encourage.

There will always be a social aspect. This does not mean women or girls want less competition, they just have a superior understanding that their relationships are important in competition. Pre-practice/race/game rituals that have stuck for years must continue. We always had dance warm-ups, as ridiculous as that sounds, it was important to us.

Girls lead differently. They not only have a strong willingness to lead, they have a desire to connect with everyone. I was once told to not be so available to the girls I coached, they needed to crave my attention. Having the girls know that I was there to chat alongside coaching was the height of our coach-athlete relationship. So obviously that piece of advice was not followed.

There will be emotion. A lot of it. I touched on this earlier but I will discuss it more. Female athletes usually do not just cry because they feel like it. Admit-tingly, the reasons behind the crying might not be too logical but they are still reasons. The problem is that in the flurry of emotion and just trying to get on with the day sometimes conclusions are drawn up by coaches even before talking with said crier. I have believed, “Oh, she’s just tired.” “She’s probably just mad at me.” I have heard, “Trust me, I know my kid, she’s just crying like she always does when she’s mad”. Alright, but who actually asked her directly?  The conversations I have with girls often are very different than what I have been told and change the dynamics between us founded more on building a solution together than building a solution for mom and dad or the other coach.

So where does this end? Understanding the responsibilities of coaches, empowering athletes to speak up without fear that their athletic careers will be jeopardized, and providing families with an effective disciplinary protocol. Education. Knowledge is power, know your athletes, know yourself as an athlete, know your child as an athlete-not just as your child, know your rights. Do something.

Anybody can be a coach which is the scary reality. However a coach’s job is to provide a safe environment above all else, and based on how youth sports go these days, not everyone is capable of that responsibility.

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I Am Not a Foreign Exchange Student

Oh I do not know but I have heard this statement too many times this month. Is it my strikingly long, black hair? Or maybe it is my Asian-esque face gracing the streets of Nova Scotia? Perhaps it is my very Calgarian accent that throws people off…whatever it is it has gained a lot more attention than it needs.

I have always wondered how having a different colour of skin mattered when it came to introductions. For example, I usually do not ask Caucasian people if they are from Canada or Europe because of their pale skin. Or if they are part of the Swedish community. I however have been asked if I was part of the Filipino, Native or Foreign exchange student community. This question coming from people who I have only just met I might add. The common response I have received from people who discuss this matter with usually begin with, “Well you are different looking than what most people are used to.” What I find funny is that I have never felt this way when meeting someone of a different race and this response usually comes from Caucasian people.

Oh god. Don’t even get me started when they ask where my parents are from, as if that might help solve the ethnicity puzzle.

Tell me I’m not crazy for feeling this way.

Why Girls Need Sports

“I think sports gave me the first place where this awkward girl could feel comfortable in my own skin. I think that’s true for a lot of women—sports gives you a part of your life where you can work at something and you look in the mirror and you like that person.” Teri McKeever

As I think back to when I was a relatively new and young athlete, I like to think that I was part of something incredibly special in my sport. I believed this because I never faced the same social obligations that girls nowadays do when it comes to being athletic. We did not do sports to impress (well, maybe a little) or to use simply as a means of having something to post about on instagram, but we did sports because of the way it made us feel. It made us feel strong. This was not so long ago. In fact, the social changes that I observe now in female athletes is so shocking because of how quickly things have changed. Girls have been heavily involved with sports for a long time so rather than discuss why some girls choose not to do sports, I’d like to discuss some of the challenges associated with encouraging girls to excel and go above and beyond reaching their athletic goals.

I became a coach because I knew two things; one was that I liked to teach people new things. I enjoyed the challenge of explaining what to me would be a simple task. Second, I felt I made more of a contribution to the sport as a coach than an athlete. Being inspired by many female role models it was important that I do the same with my athletes. Our biggest “ah-ha” moments usually happen because somebody opens your eyes up to something that you did not see before. That is what coaching is about, helping athletes find “ah-ha” moments all the time. Focusing on female athletes alone I discovered so much potential and so much powerful energy but it was being held back by this unknown, yet strong barrier. This is what I have been working on, breaking down this barrier and making sports something that girls can go to, give their all and know they are powerful.

What are the supposed challenges?

Social Challenges: Girls in particular are socially oriented. We learn this early on in coaching, in order to build a team you have to build the relationships. Many girls will opt-in or out of a sport solely based on what social interactions they are provided with. Likewise, the effort they put into the sport will be largely based on the effort that their peers exert into it as well.

Quality Challenges: It is no secret that there is an underlying crusade to build up girls self-esteem and make them feel “pretty” or “accepted”. Girls know this. They know that usually if they are in some program geared towards only girls the topic of body-image and self-confidence will be heavily discussed, even more than the actual activity. Not all girls want this. The idea with sport is not to make girls feel like they own this inequality or issue, but to provide them with a program that will challenge them regardless of this and provide them with independent role models.

Opportunity Challenges: Similar to above, opportunities for girls to empower each other are few and far between. This could be due to a lack of qualified female coaches and/or a lack of athletically minded girls themselves.

Girls who are strong together are strong themselves. All three challenges tie together and feed off of each other. So how can we encourage girls to reach their full powerful potential in sports without creating an environment that assumes low self-confidence and weakness?

Strong girls lead strong girls: From the first moment you put on the jersey or pick up the ball or line up at the start line, girls are role models. We are all role models. Whether we are five years old or fifty years old, the responsibility to be a strong role model lies within all of us. An environment rolling with strong and independent women will create even stronger girls. Strength means acknowledging failure and triumph equally. This environment will encourage hard work and perspiration just as much as it will encourage positivity and humility.

Opportunities that are not there must be made: Creating the foundation for a girls program is difficult and is met with several challenges, some which we have little control over. These can include financial, demographic and geographical issues. However despite this there is support in this area if you know where to look. Dedication to the research associated with beginning a program is what coaches are all about, but can be made even more meaningful if young people take it upon themselves too.

Encouraging families: Parents imprint a lot on kids. I have met athletes who choose to only meet the bar because if they go past the bar they know their parents will become overly involved and kids know that this is not right and it will no longer be about them. On a more unfortunate note, some girls are made to believe that sweating or having muscles is not feminine. Often it is through subtle comments by parents that we realize this. Kids pick up on this stuff. Setting fitness goals as an adult is important. Encouraging your girls to keep at a sport is important.

Expect accountability and responsibility: From an early age explain that being on a team or in a sport is a responsibility. Sure, it is about fun too but what ends up happening if emphasis is only made on this idea? Kids will quit when it stops being fun for a moment and they meet a challenge. You are registered on a team, see it through to the end of the season. It does not matter your skill level. When a parent lets a child opt-out halfway because of insecurities, they are indirectly supporting their child’s doubts and this teaches the child that the answer is to stop.

Being part of a team and belonging to a sport can take girls a lot of places. They will travel and learn independence and build life-long relationships while doing it. They will learn how to manage conflict and work with people. Most importantly, they will be role models. Encourage your girls to keep at it even through social challenges. Having a heart for sport is a beautiful thing and embracing it will only grow a stronger young woman with confidence and ability.

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Dear Only Children

Let me tell you what I learned in school today:

An “intentional family” are two or more people who are not related by blood or marriage but call themselves a family and usually share much of their lives with each other.

Today I am sharing with you my intentional family. As I have ended up in many places over these years I find I end up with a lot of intentional families, you have probably already heard of some of them but I do not want to try to recall which posts those would be in. It could be a scavenger hunt for you though, if you are up for it.

After deciding that Dal was not my thing and taking some time to consider what I wanted, I was offered a room to rent, food to eat and a family to call family. Thinking about it now, I actually did not know much about these people. The only way we were connected was through paddling, I worked at a place, they paddled at a place. Bam. Intentional Family. Little did I know that within…months of being part of this family I would feel like I had lived there forever. In just a little over 3 months time, it will have been a full year that they have had to deal with me :-) I say that with humor…hoping they take it that way too.

Without giving too many details about this group of people, I think they deserve the privacy, I will tell you this: Most people do a great job of making a house a house. Once you become part of this “house” you feel as though you have a place but usually no purpose. Then there are those who make a house a home. In this home you feel like you have a purpose, not just as the person who sleeps there. You have your values and beliefs and you can be proud of them. I will admit, I am a ball full of high expectations for people and that is likely not to change any time soon. I am a handful when I have problems and I usually do not shut up about it until I am certain they will not return. In THIS home, you feel like you were meant to be there all along. Sure, nothing can change the bond and understanding between a parent and their daughter but I like to think that you can come pretty close. That is my naivety shining through, always thinking that people care as much as you do. I am optimistic enough to believe that my struggles and re-directions happened for a reason and that I was meant to end up in a family who have equally as high moral expectations of me (even when I sometimes do not want them). To be apart of something that has taught me more about family in a short year than I have experienced in my lifetime is rare. I say this because I learned how to be an only-child in my family and while my parents (from what others have said) did a decent job of not making a classic stereotype of an only-child, I still was very much alone to my thoughts and was in my own world.

So, what have I learned about not being an only child…

1) “Yours, Mine, Ours” is a very real thing.

My only ideas about what it was like to have siblings came from watching a few brief episodes of 19 Kids and Counting, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The Brady Bunch and the famous, “Yours, Mine and Ours” (the old version with Lucille Ball). The plus to this is that I now know who my clothes are going to, the downside is I get to watch my once favourite clothes be worn by someone who wears them much better.

Also, “hand me-ups” is a thing now.

2) “It WAS clean” is something I end up saying in my head a lot.

Growing up being the only young person to do chores means you watch your own work. One minute something is there, you remove it, it is now gone. Being in a slightly larger family, one minute something is there, you remove it, the empty spot is replaced with something else by someone else. Trust me, it took me awhile to figure out this strange magic.

3) You have to label things.

Or colour coordinate them, shower poofs and tooth brushes are great examples of things that should not be shared.

4) I can get laundry done a lot more.

Rather than having to wait for a whole load of only my stuff to be ready (which, when I was at home could take at least the week), the perk is someone is always laundering something so…do you mind throwing this hoodie in too, please?

5) Coordinating weekends is not a one person show.

I use to wonder how odd it was that parents would get all their kids signed up in the same activity, close to the same time. “Where’s the freedom in that?” I would think. Extra time is freedom, people. For example, in one weekend, there was a double sleepover, a 5-hour long college shopping adventure, a paint store adventure and a shopping mall extravaganza.

6) Competition exists everywhere.

Maybe this is just unique to this situation but I find myself hanging from a chin-up bar a lot more often than I used to. Or competing against a husky during a run is a lot harder than it sounds.

7) More people, more opinions, more dinner conversations.

This comes in handy when writing research papers. What is your take on the evolution of childhood?

8) Asking “How was your day?” is a long process.

The day of someone who works, someone who studies in college, someone who studies in University and someone who studies in grade school can easily set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Whereas previously asking the question took as much time as answering it.

9) I thought I needed an alarm clock. Having other people who get up earlier than you do will do just fine.

If for some reason you have overslept your allotment of sleeping hours, someone will always make sure you are not too comfortable in the warmth of your bed.

10) You are almost never alone.

While I enjoyed my early days sitting in my room imagining worlds and creating the next vaccine to cure stuffed animal cancer (which was really just over stuffed parts of a toy sheep), I think I secretly longed for company. I will tell you straight up that the thought of associating with another child disgusted me but yet I feel like I had always missed something. It is the idea that though you may not be doing the same thing together, the comfort of human warmth surrounds you everywhere. It is something that I never really felt up until these last few years.

What I am describing to you might just be your ordinary every day living. But, to someone like myself, your ordinary is far from my ordinary. It is amazing the power that family can have on you. Family you are born to, family you acquire. I am enough of a realistic person to know that I cannot reach every person that I meet, but I do think I hold enough optimism to try and give it a go anyhow.

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