Tough love.

Dear friends,

I’ve got tennis fever. It’s that time of year so I can’t do anything but spread my disease to you. Forgive me, won’t you?

Here’s the first cool thing I want to share:

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My girls won their match 5-0 last weekend and now they’re headed to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix.

So am I, by the way. My plane ticket is purchased, my rental car is reserved and my hotel room is booked. I’ve done everything but pack my bags, which will happen on Sunday. I leave on Tuesday, and the girls start play on Wednesday. They will play every day until they lose.  I will scream loudly every day until they lose, or until I fry in the Phoenix sun, which with recent highs of 100+ might come sooner than one thinks. Either way, I’ll be in heaven even if the temps feel like hell.

Did I mention MY GIRLS ARE GOING TO THE SWEET SIXTEEN?!!!!

Oh, sorry. I’m suffering from a kind of Tennis Tourette’s and I can’t stop blurting it out.

Here’s another cool thing: My boy’s doing pretty good too.

We’ve lost track, but he’s won something like 12 straight matches. Recently, he served 11 aces in a single match. At 6’7″ tall, his serve is formidable. His doubles partner is about the same height, but weighs a good 30 pounds more than Parker. To say they are an intimidating duo at the net is an understatement.  I’ve heard tell some of their opponents are skeered. Don’t blame ’em a bit.

The other day, one of his less experienced teammates was so awed by Parker’s serving display he later asked “Has anyone ever returned one of your aces?” I don’t mean to poke fun, but we sure got a belly laugh out of that one. You see, by definition, an ace is an UNRETURNED serve.  (So the answer is no.) You gotta love the kiddos that are working hard to learn the game.

While I’m in Phoenix following Kate’s team in the National Championship, Mr. Mom will be home following Parker’s team in District and Regional competition. Both are rough assignments, but we’re the kind of parents that don’t shy away from the hard jobs.

I know they’ll thank us some day for our tough love.

With gratitude {for two kids who make me proud every day to be their mother, not because they happen to be terrific tennis players, but because they happen to be terrific souls who also play my favorite sport},

Joan, who resisted the headline “by the time I get to Phoenix” because quoting Glen Campbell ages her more than she cares to admit

My current excitement level.

Dear friends,

I’ve had a less-than-lovely April, mostly due to a demanding work schedule, but here’s two things that have happened in the last 24 hours that ratcheted my excitement level way, way up.

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Kate has recently gotten interested in the West Wing. I love every single thing about the West Wing, especially CJ Cregg, who I fancy I could be if I tried. Today Kate tweeted that some episodes were “wayy” over her head. To which I suggested that we should spend our summer watching the series together so I could explain the context. To which she agreed. To which my inner political nerd squealed. As if I wasn’t already soooooo ready for summer to be here (it snowed today, for Pete’s sake!), that totally sealed the deal for this television-loving, poly-sci junkie mom.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to amp my excitement meter, Kate’s college tennis team received an at-large bid and #2 seed in the NCAA Division II Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament. Holy smokes that’s cool!

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Because of their favorable bid, they play their first match at home on Saturday. You can bet your left arm I’m making the trip. As a Freshman reserve, Kate is unlikely to get a match, but it matters not to me. I love these girls, I’m a rabid fan of the team, and I’ll be there cheering loudly.

By the way, the winner of Saturday’s match advances to the round of 16 in Phoenix, Arizona on May 8. Have I said holy smokes that’s cool?

So April may have given me a wild ride, but I cannot complain about the destination.

With gratitude {for plenty to look forward to},

Joan, who wishes President Josiah Bartlet was around to save the day

Putting on your big-girl panties.

Dear friends,

This is a photo my CupKate posted on Twitter Friday night of her tennis team.

I wish I could tell you they were dressed up for a happy occasion, but that’s not the case. Instead, they were going out to dinner with their coach to tell him goodbye.

Not long after Kate arrived in August for the start of her freshman year, it became clear there were issues with the tennis program. I’m not going to air dirty laundry that’s not mine to air. (In fact, I know very little. One thing you learn quickly after your child goes to college is that parents have little-to-no rights to information.) I’ll simply say the fall season was cancelled and the coach is leaving following an NCAA investigation.

It was a shocking development to say the least. Kate and I spent all of last year touring eight different colleges. I had pinned my hopes on a private Jesuit university several hours away, but Kate chose her current location — a small public university in our home state — because she instantly bonded with the coach and with these girls. I adjusted, and to say we both set sail with high hopes is an understatement.

But you know what? The universe immediately handed Kate a difficult but valuable lesson, chiefly that life doesn’t always work out like you planned. Two weeks into what Kate imagined would be an idyllic college tennis career, life smacked her upside the head with a big dose of adult reality: humans makes mistakes, institutions are fallible, and life goes on. I’m proud to say Kate put on her big-girl panties immediately and has been dealing with it in the most admirable way.

Kate is the only American player on her team. The other seven girls hail from Morocco (the girl in purple to the right of Kate, who is Kate’s roommate), France, Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I don’t know if cultural differences have played a role, or if it’s a matter of youth, but I can tell you Kate’s teammates were having difficulty navigating the complexities and uncertainties of this very difficult situation.

So I sprang into action. If there’s one thing I know how to do and do well, it’s how to navigate administrative and organizational hurdles. Some would say I’ve made a career out of  making bureaucracy work to my advantage. I became the team’s ombudsman, advising them, scripting them, helping them prepare and organize their inquiries and responses and, hopefully, calming their nerves. The girl nicknamed “Frenchy” started calling me “the Tiger” (la tigre).

When Kate told me this, I laughed out loud. If you’ve followed the controversy over author Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, you know I’m more of a laissez-faire kitten-mother than a tiger. Still, I knew the name was offered with affection and gratitude and I pledged to wear it as a badge of honor (despite the Asian stereotype). And I couldn’t help but think of the seven other mothers, thousands of miles and four languages removed from their daughters’ situations, and hope it would give them comfort knowing one of us is well positioned to help.

None of us have any idea what the future will bring. A new coach, certainly. How that will affect these girls, their tennis careers, their college experiences and, ultimately, their adult lives is anybody’s guess. I advised Kate to ride out the year and see what unfolds — and she’s doing that with her famously mature approach.

The truth is — she had a drawer full of big-girl panties before she went to college so I had nothing to worry about.

With gratitude {for a girl who can roll with the punches with the best of them},

Joan, aka la tigre du tennis meres