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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

It's 96 Degrees Outside And I Can't Find My Long Undies!

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      The morning sun is putting up a pitched fight against my central air conditioning this morning.

      It looks and feels as though this Sunday is going to feel just the way yesterday did--hot and sticky.      I treat days like this the way I handle those where the mercury peaks at ten above zero--hunkered indoors.

      And, that's where I'll be today, swaddled in my winter finest--Hot Chilis, two pair of socks, long pants, fleece, Timberline boots.

      I, and other skating parents, will spent a good chunk of July 8th, the final day of Summerfest, indoors at M-S-O-E's Kern Center, helping run an ice skating competition.

     Sports are no longer seasonal--figure skaters and hockey players aren't just on the ice when there's snow on the ground, no more than basketball players are.       Camps, clinics and tournaments are a year-round reality, turning our kids into one-sport specialists at an earlier age.

      And, our kids no longer get schooled on the playgrounds.     Activities are organized, with coaches, clipboards, arranged practices with no wasted moments.     It's no longer shirts and skins (where I was always the last kid picked).     Everyone plays.     The best move on to club sports.      The rest of you?    

      How do you like violin?

      And, as I drove home this afternoon, I passed diamonds and playgrounds and backyards...most, if not all of them devoid of kids.    No one playing "500"...or catch...or tossing a football back and forth.     They must be tired from all those practices, or honing their X-box skills indoors.

      What's the end game?     A better shot at varsity or j-v?     A scholarship, perhaps, or at least a partial ride to college?     Some kids even speak of Olympic opportunities...others dream of a pro contract.       At the very least, they got to compete, play and learn at levels we never had when we were growing up in the 60's and 70's.      We could at best hope for a shot at Little League, school sports or maybe some CYO action.     Otherwise, it was off to the schoolyard where you made your own fun, at least until the street lights came on.

      As parents, it's up to us to keep all of it in perspective, to look for signs of burnout and to understand when a kid says enough is enough.      I've seen more than one parent's hopes go crashing through the floor the day when a kid walked thru the door to announce they were dropping a sport they'd played for years, saying simply that it wasn't any fun any more.

      I don't regret for a second the time we've spent with our kids and their sports.     We've met great families--people we never would have had the chance to know had it not been for time shared at practices, games and competitions.     Sure, there were some knobs, but far and few between.       They helped build character.

      What I really miss is the time in the car, shuttling to a practice or a game.     It's quality time with your kid that is forced up you by your coach--enjoy it for all it's worth.     It's just you, the child, and the road.      If you're really lucky, you get to take a bunch of kids.     Turn the radio on, pretend you're listening, and eavesdrop to your heart's content.      You get a earful of your kid interacting with others, an opportunity you wouldn't get otherwise.      You'll also fall into some pretty sweet gossip.      

       Yes, it feels strange tossing my long underwear into the washer tonight and I'm guessing I'm the only guy with a fleece pullover tumbling around in his dryer in all of Southeast Wisconsin this July evening.    Except, of course, for all of the other parents who spent a 96 degree Milwaukee day inside an ice rink, watching kids perform in ways we could only dream of when we were their age.

      It's not bad being a child these days...and, it's pretty much fun being a parent, too.


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