Sheep Need Underpants, Kids Need Play… And You Need a Free Book

I am very excited to be hosting Lee Hull Moses today at The Blue Room. She is co-author of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People, available from Alban and from Amazon. Believe me, it’s good—really good. Smart and funny, eloquent and real. It’s John Wesley meets Tiny Fey.

We’re also excited to be giving away a free copy of this book. See the bottom of this post for details. And now, take it away Lee…

4766601577_93ec78a50b_b“Let go of your tongue!” the mother next to me shouts to her daughter, who is lining up with the other five-year-old soccer players in the middle of the field. The girl looks over at her, still gripping the tip of her tongue with her finger and thumb. “Let go of your tongue!” the mother shouts again.

The girl lets go long enough to shout something back, something about a hurt finger. Neither the other mother nor I can figure out what this has to do with her tongue, but then the coach blows the whistle and play resumes. The mom looks at me in exasperation: the things you never thought you’d have to say out loud.

(“Yes, sheep wear underpants,” I once told my daughter Harper, trying to move along the getting-dressed routine on the morning of the church Christmas pageant.)

This is our first foray into organized sports, and I have to admit, it’s not as terrible as I feared. I signed her up for this 8-week league partly out of peer pressure (all the other parents seem to have their kids in activities like this), partly out of guilt (she’s been asking for dance classes for years and we can’t seem to get that together), and mostly out of opportunity (a half-price Groupon offer showed up in my inbox.)

I thought she would probably enjoy it, but I didn’t think I would. It meant getting her to practice every Monday night, and games on Saturday mornings, and buying new equipment (and keeping track of it), and getting used to new schedules and people and procedures. I was wary of another evening commitment, and dreaded tying up our Saturday mornings – our only at-home family time. Also, there was this: I’m pretty awful at not being in charge of things. Most of the activities we do are related somehow to the church, and I generally know everybody involved and have made a lot of the decisions about how things get done. To be just another parent on the sidelines is a weird place for me to be.

So these eight weeks of practices and games and looking for the shin guards have probably been as good for me as they have been for her. And I have to say, I’m a convert. It’s been, well, fun. There’s something wonderful about 5-year-old soccer. Nobody keeps score. The teams are small so everybody gets to play a lot. There’s no ref – just the coaches, who nudge the ball back onto the field if it goes too far out of bounds. Everybody cheers when somebody makes a goal, regardless of whose team it is. I’ve heard the horror stories, of bad-tempered coaches and mean-spirited parents, but for us, it’s just been fun.

cover imageOne night recently, we were in the kitchen laughing, all four of us, in a few found minutes before the next thing happened – before I had to leave for a meeting, before bathtime needed to begin – and for once I was ignoring the pile of dishes in the sink and the mess on the living room floor. I don’t know what silliness we were laughing about but it doesn’t matter; I could see that Harper was watching us. She was laughing, participating in the silliness, but also she was watching. And all of a sudden I could see that she is hungry for this, this all-out fun we are having. This sort of moment is rare enough that she noticed, and soaked it up. More than any meal, this whole-family laughter feeds her, fills her up.

I forget that sometimes, I’m afraid. I forget that she needs us to have fun together, to know that we are happy.

I’m firmly in the I-won’t-martyr-myself-for-my-children camp. I like doing grown-up things. Reading books with more depth than the Berenstain Bears. Walking across the kitchen without stepping on smashed up raisins. Watching West Wing reruns after the kids go to bed. I like the work I do beyond my family, and often, I wish I had more time to do it. And sometimes – oh, I love my children dearly, but sometimes – the kid stuff, packing lunches and signing up for soccer and cleaning up the puzzle pieces for the eight-hundredth time, start to seem like chores that get in the way of what I’d rather be doing.

But my kids are not tasks we have to take care of, not items on the to-do list to be checked off.

My daughter needs those tangible things, certainly: food, shelter, clothes and shoes that fit. She needs me to sign the permission form so she can go on the field trip, and she needs me to remember to make her an appointment at the dentist. But she needs more than that. It’s her family, too. She lives here. It’s her life, and she needs me to help her live it. She needs me to listen to her stories. She needs me to ignore the dishes so I can play with her. She needs me to laugh, and mean it. She needs me to have fun, with her. She needs me to sign her up for experiences she’s never had and stand on the sidelines with the other parents and cheer my heart out, for her.

Turns out that sometimes, that’s what I need, too.


bromleigh-and-leeLee Hull Moses (right in photo) is the co-author, with Bromleigh McCleneghan, of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People. She is also the pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Rob and their children, Jonathan and Harper. She will be spending this Saturday morning cheering at the final soccer game of the season.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment, sharing your thoughts on this post and/or a similar sense of joy in the midst of the busyness of life. We’ll choose a winner Monday morning. Limit one comment per person per day.

Soccer ball photo credit: Great Beyond via Photopin

17 thoughts on “Sheep Need Underpants, Kids Need Play… And You Need a Free Book

  1. Susan

    I hate coming up with random comments in order to be entered into a drawing. But here is my random comment. I’d like to be in the drawing!

  2. Kristin Heiden

    Thanks for sharing this today! As the mother of a 5 month old and an associate minister in charge of family ministries, I am eager to read the book and share with my congregation. Just ordered it on amazon!

  3. becky

    Lee–I love your writing style–and I am right there with you. . . on it all–the fun of entering a new realm (kids sports), the need to retain my identity as a person right alongside my identity as a mom, and the sense that having the chance to have fun together as a family might just be the most important gift we can give our kids.

  4. Bob Braxton

    In Alamance County, Saxapahaw, I knew both sets of grandparents while growing up 1950 (first grade) through 1966 (college graduation) and now (near D.C., in Virginia, since 1984) delight in the Grandparent EduCarer role (Magda Gerber) – Wait, Observe, Enjoy – which I have been practicing since 2007 July 13, my “lucky day” – to have our one offspring and family close enough I can walk.

  5. Grace

    I’m with Susan! Random comment! But that was also a post I needed to hear today, so thank you, Lee.

  6. Robin R

    “I’m firmly in the I-won’t-martyr-myself-for-my-children camp.”

    I’m in the “don’t want to martyr myself” camp, but find that it’s pretty well expected of us much of the time, and I typically give in. And as much as I loathed sitting and watching softball and baseball and soccer games, I don’t mind sitting and watching martial arts classes. Partly because it’s indoors (I”m not a nature lover), but mostly because my son seems to be fulfilled in a way that the other sports didn’t do for him. And that makes it worth it to me.

  7. Rachel Heslin

    It was the middle of February. We’d had an unusually mild winter, so the snow left over from the weekend was rare for this year.

    I’d picked up Hunter from school, mentally tracking my ToDos for when we got home. I’m starting my own business, so in amongst my part-time job and the standard domesticities involving food and laundry and dishes and schedules, etc, it’s been a challenge for me to squeeze pieces of my new endeavor where and whenever I could. As I gathered my things out of the car and headed for the house, Hunter lagged behind.

    “Mama?” he called.
    I looked back at him. “Yes?”
    “Could we have a snowball fight?”
    Instinctively, I started to apologize: “I’m sorry, sweetie. Not right now. I really need to….”

    I stopped. Did I *really* need to immediately immerse myself in my projects? Yes, time was tight, and in some ways, even more than the time, the mental and emotional shift was the hard part.

    “I can only do 5 minutes,” I heard myself saying. “Let me get my gloves.”

    He broke out into a grin. I put my stuff down in the house, put on my gloves, and set my phone to chime in 5 minutes. And then we had a snowball fight.

    When my alarm went off, I told him that we could do 3 more snowballs each, and we made them count.

    Every night, part of our ritual is sharing what we liked about the day. We both agreed that the snowball fight was the best part of it.

    10 minutes, including preparation, and that connection, being present with my son, scooping up snow and throwing it at each other, became a radiating moment of light and warmth, illuminating not just the day, but our lives.

    Thank you, Lee. I needed to be reminded.

  8. Jenny Call

    It really is the simple moments that mean the most. My daughter asking me to tuck her in (again) and lay down with her; my son asking for a story. And the rare moment when they remember to ask me, “And how was your day, mommy?”

  9. LeahW

    My daughter is a junior in high school and after many years of fun rec league soccer, this is the first year since she was four years old that she hasn’t played. She signed up to play, but there weren’t enough other girls in her age bracket to make a team — the girls her age are too busy now. It seems things have come full circle.

    Thanks for the reminder to live in and appreciate the present.

  10. jennifer juniper

    Sometimes this goes both ways. We dont clock as much playground time now as we used to since my only is 10. But we had a couple of kids over today and I’d been inside all day on a gorgeous day so I made us all get our shoes on and go to the park. I thought I was doing it for myself and maybe the dogs, but even the big kids had fun running up and down the play structure.

  11. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

    Love these replies… don’t want to comment on all of them because it would mess up the numbering for the giveaway 😉

    Keep ’em comin’… we’ll take comments through Sunday.

  12. Kelly

    I was in need of this after a very busy week at work, a disastrous house, and almost no time with my sweet boy. Thank you!

  13. Mamala

    I love that you introduce us to other talented young writers every now and then on the Blue Room blog!

  14. Rob Dyer

    Sounds like a great book! We have a parents class that is looking for good resources. I will have to pass along info about this one!

  15. Louise

    Happy to find and read your blog.
    Your comments resonated with me. I look forward to reading more, here, and in your book.
    Meanwhile, I’m remembering 5 yr old soccer with my sons (now 22 and 26). Seems sports are more competitive in this area. In the rare case that a coach would be even handed, let everyone play, not stress about the score, parents would be pushy and/or the kids declared who had won even when adults weren’t making a big deal about the score!.
    But favorite memory about 5 yr old soccer is everyone on sidelines having to yell, especially after half-time, “Go this way! The goal is this way!!” 😉


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