Off the Mat: Spring Fever
The previous owner of our house loved lawn. Over the years, we’ve added trees, flower beds, berry bushes, a modest veggie patch which fed a woodchuck family quite well for a season. An even more modest kitchen garden followed, gifting us a few fresh tomatoes, herbs and greens. Each landscaping mission involved a vigorous effort to remove grass.
Lawn grass is dense. Difficult to penetrate. It’s necessary to disentangle a tough, tight knit system of roots and stems. But once you succeed in making a literal break through, it’s almost like peeling a banana. Large sections of inches thick turf lift away, revealing rich topsoil below, damp and wormy and ready to welcome new roots. New seeds. Spring provides wonderful metaphors.
“The true harbinger of spring is not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of the bat on the ball.” – Bill Veeck
Last spring, my kiddo flirted briefly with baseball. An experienced neighbor lent us a glove and a rice-filled balloon-turned-ball for fielding practice. Together, we enjoyed a few April mornings playing catch while waiting for the bus.
I was both gung ho and nostalgic; I went through a brief baseball phase of my own in third grade. That was back in the olden days before Title IX, in a time when third grade girls learned jump rope in gym class while boys played ball. All of this is a storied way to say I never learned to throw. The short way to prove this point was to hit my kid in the face – twice – with a thankfully soft ball.
So much for planting happy memories of playing catch.
My head and heart jumped directly to the phrase I heard all too often at his age: girls can’t throw. I didn’t want my son gleaning that message from our failed attempts. So along with apologies, kisses, and ice packs, I offered this explanation: no one taught me how to throw – or even thought I should know how to throw – because I’m a girl.
These are our then and now conversations.
“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
– Alfred Tennyson
Remember the Sir Mix a Lot hit, “Baby got Back”? Let me refresh your memory, I like big butts and I cannot lie… Yes, that one. I was reintroduced to this relic from ancient history, the 90s, at my kitchen counter as my 10-year-old sang out loud while working on his spelling assignment.
I considered scolding, save the bathroom words for the bathroom, please. But these weren’t bathroom words. I want body words to be fair game in conversation. I considered ignoring it, otherwise known as avoiding the conversation. But we’ve recently started the Unitarian Universalist Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum, designed to teach kids learn how to be emotionally healthy and responsible regarding sexuality. In the parent orientation, we were reminded to use these teachable moments to open conversation with our kids. So I gave it a try.
“Do you?” I ask with a smile. “Do you think big butts are sexy? You know that’s what the song is about, right?”
His eyes bulge in shock. “It’s by Alvin and the Chipmunks!” he protests, incredulous.
“Not the original. The original is talking about sexy bottoms. I thought you should know.”
“Oh” is his only verbal response, though I sense an unspoken thank you in his tone. He switches to humming fourth grade orchestra music. Writing this, I wonder whether that’s part of his growing interest in classical music: no lyrics to misconstrue.
“It is not enough to pull the weed; you must plant a flower in its place.”
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Chapter 2 Verse 33
There are protective roots, dense, matted, uniform, blocking vibrancy and variety that I work to peel away so my child can thrive: expectations of gender, class and race; shame-based morality and worth measured in achievement. There are also deep roots, like those under the ancient cedar out my window, family and cultural traditions I want to pass on. Those that help to make him who he is and honor the truths of our past. And there are seeds to plant every day, in every season: You are wanted. You belong. You are needed. You are loved.
[Photo credit: (cc) Jacqui]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner Ginny Hamilton teaches simple & proven techniques to release pain & restore energy in the workplace, group classes & private sessions. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. http://www.ginnyhamilton.com