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These top sports museums charm even non-fans (like me)

Basketball Hall of Fame carpoolcandy.com

As the mother of three little jocks and wife to one big sports fan, I’ve visited many a sports museum and stadium.  Before I met Wilson, I was as likely to spend an afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame as I was to perform a triple axel in the Olympics.

But we do crazy things for the people we love, so I’ve actually been the one to plan trips to several sports museums.  I recently wrote a travel piece about the best ones which ran on FoxNews.com. You can read the full story here.

The story will give you the facts on the Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Football Halls of Fame, but this post offers my opinion.

My boys love anything sports-related but they generally resent museums. Each of these Halls has the requisite history of the sport, the evolution of uniforms and equipment, and tributes to the best players. But modern facilities have wised up and added lots of interactive exhibits to engage kids.  Here’s the inside scoop:

Kids at baseball hall of fame  carpoolcandy.com

baseball hall of fame kids carpoolcandy.com

Baseball Hall of Fame  (Cooperstown, New York)  is Wilson’s and my favorite of the four. The history of baseball is really the history of America, and I enjoyed learning about its role in pop culture. There are also great tributes to women and minorities in the sport. A letter from an angry bigot to Hank Aaron when Aaron was poised to break Babe Ruth’s home run record and his brave response brought me to tears. I also loved the art gallery on the first floor with works by some huge names, all focused on baseball.

basketball hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

basketball hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

Basketball Hall of Fame  (Springfield, Massachusetts)  is the most modern, high-tech museum and my kids’ favorite. The structure looks like the Guggenheim in New York, with a winding ramp taking you up the three floors of exhibits, overlooking a full basketball court on the ground floor.  There are tons of games and interactive displays, plus a media center where kids can record their own sportscast.

hockey hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

hockey hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

Hockey Hall of Fame (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) We’re not huge hockey fans but while in Toronto, why not, eh? You can take a picture with the Stanley Cup, see the first skates ever worn in the game, and hockey uniforms from countries all over the world. Highlights for the kids were the replica of the Canadiens locker room and the interactive shooting games.

football hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

football hall of fame with kids carpoolcandy.com

Football Hall of Fame  (Canton, Ohio) We visited this one on a Midwest road trip. While it’s mecca for football fans, it’s extremely out of the way. Wilson liked the historical exhibits and I liked the bling on the Super Bowl rings. The kids loved running around on the Pro Football Hall of Fame field across the street from the museum.

If you find yourself in one of these cities, these sports museums are worth a stop.  The Baseball Hall in Cooperstown is definitely one of those places you should see before you die, even if you can’t appreciate a double play or a perfect game.

Would I still rather look at Monet’s “Water Lilies” than Shaq’s old shoe?    You bet. But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Watching kids come into their own

One of the things I like best about summer is that our light-speed pace slows down a bit.  That gives me rare one-on-one time with my boys and the chance to notice special moments.

I was driving home from a baseball game in another town recently when we hit a roadblock. The directions I usually follow were now useless and I had to find my way back home on my own. I don’t love driving on a good day, so getting lost with a car full of kids as it’s getting dark was extremely anxiety-provoking.

13-year-old Jacob was in the front seat and snapped to attention as soon as I voiced my concerns. He began to talk me through several turns, predicting which landmarks were coming up so I could get my bearings. I was so turned around and edgy I doubted him at first, until I realized he completely knew where he was going and decisively led me back home.

Kids growing up

If Jacob had not been in the car, I would definitely have gotten flustered and either gotten lost, or pulled over to call Wilson or look up directions on my phone. (We don’t have a built-in GPS in the car because Wilson refuses to use one and calls it an unnecessary “crutch,” but I digress.)

I was wiping my sweaty palms on my shorts and rubbing the ball of tension out of my neck as the road ahead of me became familiar again. I smiled and looked over at Jacob.  A physical rush ran through my body of love and pride as I saw him at that moment with fresh eyes.  He was so grown up, so self-assured, so in control.

Last week, I took 10-year-old Aden to the zoo with some friends. He’s wild about animals and led us around the grounds with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader, and the  knowledge of an encyclopedia. He recognized scores of animals and rattled off distinguishing characteristics and behaviors, as if they were his pals.

Aden feeds a bird at the zoo

Aden feeds a bird at the zoo

He knows all this because he’s constantly reading books, watching shows, and studying animals. Watching him in action, speaking so authoritatively, was pretty cool.

We took  7-year-old Eli to a party Friday night on our street. The party hosts have younger kids so my older boys didn’t want to go.  I figured Eli would know several neighborhood kids there but wasn’t exactly sure who would show up. As always, Eli’s eyes lit up at the mention of a party, and he grabbed his shoes without ever asking a detail about guests, food, or how long we would stay.

Eli’s one of the most confident people I’ve ever met. He’s always taken on any social challenge with glee and gusto. New school or camp? No problem. Tagging along to watch his brothers’ games? He’s in. Attending any social event– from  dinner with friends to a giant party with no kids his age?  Bring it on.

That’s not how Wilson or I rolled as a kid. Heck, it’s not even how I roll now. I still don’t like going to new places or parties unless I have peops I can lean on.  I’ll do it, but it’s out of my comfort zone.

The whole world is Eli’s comfort zone. He has a big personality and has coasted on charm, no matter whom he encounters.  It’s fun to watch.

Click here for video of him at Jacob’s bar mitzvah, dancing in front of the entire room. Not a shy bone in his body!

Eli gets down at a recent party

Eli gets down at a recent party

I’d love to say it’s all because of my fabulous parenting. But let’s face it, I’m not a strong or experienced driver, I know nothing about animals and I still get nervous going somewhere where I don’t know people.

My boys are becoming their own people, with strengths and traits that have little to do with me or Wilson. As much as I hate how quickly they seem to be growing up, it’s aha moments like these that make parenting big kids gratifying.

Smells like teen spirit

My oldest son, Jacob, recently turned 13.  Since he’s my first, I’m always excited to see what each stage of development will bring. By the time my middle son gets to a new phase, I have some experience and can prepare for parenting challenges.

My 7-year-old is not allowed to grow up at all, as far as I’m concerned.  Every time he hits a new phase, I mourn the last one. I still tuck him in every night when he’s asleep, stroke the velvet skin on his cheeks, and breathe in his sweet smell.

There’s no sweet smell coming  from Jacob’s room. The pungent odor of sweat and feet that lingers in there keeps my visits short. He likes it that way, because then I can’t nag him about the mess.

There are other teen behaviors emerging. He eats more and sleeps later.  He spends more time in his room, on his phone and iPad. All developmentally appropriate signs of maturing that I can accept.

What I can’t stand is  “whatever, Mom.”

Typical teen behavior

Jacob has slipped into the inevitable yet loathsome phase of believing that every member of his family is a dunce. He barely listens to our conversations, unless they’re about him– because we are clearly not worth his time.  When he does grab a detail he deems worthy of his attention, if he doesn’t approve, he snarls his lip, squints his eyes, and cocks his head.

He stares incredulously with contempt and I can only think he’s wondering how he could be related to people so moronic.

When we tell him to do something– anything, really– from flipping a light switch to completing a term paper– he sighs loudly and shrugs so deeply I’m surprised he hasn’t injured his shoulders.  We’re such a burden, I don’t know how he tolerates us.

When we don’t agree on a given subject– say, my objection to his 20-minute showers or staying up late on school nights– his teen-ism comes out in ugly force.  He argues, gesticulates, exaggerates, and then rolls his eyes and grumbles “whatever, whatever, whatever!

It makes me want to take my widest, heaviest All-Clad frying pan right to that sweet, boyish face.

I know this is the classic pubescent role. I know it’s just a phase. I know it’s not about me. Sometimes I remember all that and laugh it off. But if I’m short on sleep and/or patience, that whatever can send me right over the edge.

I still see glimpses of my little boy… and of the amazing  young man I know he will become. When we can pry him away from his friends for more than a few hours and he settles into our family dynamic, he turns human again. It’s almost like the teenishness melts and we can see the soft center inside. It’s comforting to know he’s still in there.

Many of you who have teenagers or raised them already are thinking I should buckle up, it’s going to be a while.  And before I know it, he’ll be out of the house and I’ll be wishing he was home, even if only to talk back. I know that.

One of the many great things about Jacob is that he’s a busybody and a talker. So far, despite his teen inclination to withdraw, he still winds up telling me stuff.  The less interested I act, the more likely he is to spill, which often leads to a carefully choreographed dance around each other until the truth comes out. I hope we never get to the point where he completely shuts me out, so I’m working overtime to stay calm and aloof whenever possible.

It’s also nice that he still needs me for rides, clothes, and spending money. Every once in a while when he’s sweet-talking me into one of his grand plans, I make him squirm before I comply. Sometimes I even shrug my shoulders dramatically and say ….“whatever.”