The Last Match

June 1, 2014 at 11:21 pm (Amateur Wrestling, high school, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Teenagers, Wrestling) (, , , , , , )

It has taken me over three months to get the courage to write this post. The post I’ve been dreading since the moment I started my little wrestling mom blog. This is the post where I tell you about his last match, and the end of his wrestling career.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my boys have played many sports and been involved in a myriad of things over the years. From gymnastics at age 3 because he needed an outlet for the inhuman amount of energy he possessed (and he was too young for soccer), to the other one wanting to try the violin and later the guitar, to one earning a scholarship to a fine arts camp for his artistic talent, to marching band and more. They’ve played soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse……and wrestled.

I truly think that only people who are close to people who have wrestled can know what this sport is really about. It’s hard for people who have no experience in it to wrap their head around the strong emotions it brings out. Most don’t even try. But those of you who get it, know. You just know, and it is you to whom I speak.

My youngest son, the sophomore, had a decent year; he improved on last year’s record in that he stayed eligible the entire season. That was cause for celebration in itself! He won some, he lost some, he wrestled JV. It was good. My oldest, my senior, also improved his record. I was just happy he was there; compared to last year, this season was going great even if he did not make it to state. He was alive, and wrestling, I think, is what made that possible. Last year was the most terrifying of all my years as a parent. I watched my son hanging on by the tips of his fingers to school, to wrestling, to life. I felt like this year was just borrowed time after that, and not much else mattered – win, lose, I didn’t even care. I was just blissfully happy that I was able to watch him do it.

Then along came Districts. Round One of eliminations on the road to States. Michigan is a pretty competitive state for wrestling, at least in my limited experience it seems so. We are no Iowa or even Pennsylvania, but you have to work your ass off to even make it to States. The kids that make it didn’t pick it up in high school, not unless you are a mutant freak with mutant freak talent who is a reincarnated gladiator from 400 B.C. The kids that make it are very good and have a LOT of mat time. The kids that win are the kids that took it up as 4 year olds and forgo all other activities in favor of wrestling until they are seniors. Ok I might be exaggerating, and I’m sure plenty of deserving “latecomers” get their chance at the state tournament, but I think the overwhelming majority have done it all their young lives. But I digress.

So, along came Districts. I had been so busy with my new job that the season just flew by and it seemed like just another Saturday at first. But about 15 minutes after I took my seat in the stands, I was overwhelmed at the gravity of it. My son had never made it past this round so far, and this was his last chance. But he was better. He was older and more experienced, and most of all he had his head on straight this year. I threw up a desperate plea to the Universe that he would please, just this day, make it through. Just….Please. Please show this kid that there is a reward for doing the right thing. Please show this kid that the thing that kept him going during his darkest hours was worth hanging on to. Please.

And then I let it go. It was all in the hands of the Fates now.

He won his first match with a quick pin in the first. I was over-the-moon thrilled! That meant he had to lose TWO MORE TIMES in order to get knocked out….yay for long days at tournaments!! He too, was thrilled.

On to the second match and a much tougher opponent. This second guy was from a school that just dominated all day long. He had taken third at state last year. So while my son was upset about this loss, he was still in it for Regionals, and had nothing to be ashamed of. The kid was a tank.

Third match, and at this point he’s at sudden death as far as what will happen next week. He had to win this one to stay in. He did. I couldn’t really feel physical feelings at this point. You know those colorful, wobbly rubber bouncy balls you get out of vending machines? That’s what I felt like. Except more fragile and neurotic. I wasn’t sure which way I’d bounce next at any given moment.

Honestly, I’d have to ask him if he had another match after the third one. I think he did, but being a wobbly rubber ball, frenetically neurotic, some of this day has escaped my memory. If he had one, he won it. That’s all we need to know.

His last match was a good matchup. It was the kind you like to watch from high atop the bleachers when it’s not your kid out there. Double overtime. Kids very closely matched in skill and strength. My kid happened to get stuck trying to use a move so as not to be called for stalling. The other lady’s kid saw it coming. This would not have been a loss to hang his head about, not even close. However…..

As I looked at my buddies the stats girls, tears welling up in my eyes, I tried to tamp it down. “Don’t look at them, don’t look at your youngest, and by any means neccessary, do not look at the young man out there who just wrestled his Last. Match.” I guess I said that to myself, but I can’t say for sure. That’s what happened, anyway. I looked in his direction, waiting to see in what manner he would exit the gym, but we didn’t make eye contact. I knew then and I know now, he couldn’t. I watched him push gracefully and calmly through the door, warm-up clothes in hand, and stood there as the blazing red door slammed in my face, as heavy gym doors do. But the slam carried with it the entire weight of the day.

I went outside into the harsh, cold, very snowy day to get some air. I collected my thoughts and shed a couple of tears. I knew I’d have to go back inside and eventually see my boy, but I knew he needed time.

For what seemed like hours, I couldn’t find either of my boys. My youngest had gotten knocked out of the tournament in the first round, paired up with another state placer from the same team that beat pretty much everyone that day. Usually I can find him at the food table. Eventually after a couple of trips from the food tables to the gym and back, I saw him. We saw each other across the cafeteria and started walking toward each other, and he had a look on his face that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It was pain and sadness, but it was also pain and sadness for what he knew his brother was going through. And his mother. When we met, we ended up three feet away from our cross-town rivals. He hugged me, and it just all came out.

Thank goodness he is a strong enough young man that he feels it’s ok to cry in front of his biggest “enemies”, because we both did. I was louder and sobbier, but he was sniffly too. Thank goodness he has big shoulders. Thank goodness he loves his family. It was a very touching moment. No words were said, because we both felt and knew the same thing-it’s over for him. Finally, I asked him where his brother was. He was still in the locker room with the other senior on our team who had also just wrestled his final match. I am very glad moms are not allowed in locker rooms.

When I eventually saw my Drew, he was sitting at the food table with a few other wrestlers and the stats girls. It was very gloomy over there. He wasn’t really ready to see me yet, but I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to see he was ok. He stood up and we hugged, and cried. This son is not as comfortable in public, and I knew he didn’t want to cry in front of his friends. There was just no stopping it or helping it. It’s hard to describe the feeling I had. I’ve never had this feeling before as a mother. Of course, I wanted to take it all away from him just like we want to when they’re little, but that of course, is impossible. No words we can find, no actions to divert attention, nothing can make it better. And I know that each time any of the three of us thinks about it in the years to come, even though life has of course gone on, we will remember that feeling.

I hope he never lives with regret that “maybe I could have tried harder, put more effort into it, not totally screwed my life up junior year”….regret is a bitch to live with. I hope he looks back and sees what could potentially be regretful and just realizes that’s the path he chose and he is who he is today because of it. I hope he’s got a Buddhist mentality about it; it is not good and it is not bad, it just is.

I love this young man very much. And I am sorry he didn’t get to fulfill his wildest dreams as an athlete. But I do know that he learned a lot about life participating in this sport, and a lot about himself. I know he made friends and did accomplish things many others could not. I know that he learned that only he controls his destiny with his choices, and that choices have consequences. He learned that the depths he needs to reach to pull out success, do exist in him, and how far reaching those depths are.

I’m so very lucky to have had the chance to ride along for this journey of his. The highs and lows of it; the tough lessons and the triumphs. At times it’s been the glue that held us together. When we had nothing else, we had this. I expect it might be different for a Dad, but I enjoyed it to the fullest.

Thank you, son.

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R.I.P Trayvon Martin

July 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm (High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Wrestling) (, , )

I am fascinated by big courtroom dramas when they broadcast them on tv.  When I was pregnant the first time, I had a job where I worked 3-11pm just a few days a week.  It left me all kinds of time to watch the O.J. Simpson trial.  I will not comment on my own personal verdict, but I watched every second I could.  Now that we have news networks going over the minutia of the proceedings all night long, I got to watch the Casey Anthony trial as well, as much of it that I could stomach, anyway.

When Trayvon Marton was shot by George Zimmerman, I followed it very closely.  I read and posted many comments about it on social media, and my heart breaks for his family and the senselessness of it all.  I even had some heartache for Mr. Zimmerman, wondering if he regretted taking a life in haste.  I have been keeping up with this trial as much as I could.  I have been making a bee line to my tv every night after work to catch up on what I missed, and frankly have made myself sick of Nancy Grace and the rest of HLN’s nighttime lineup.  But I almost feel drawn to it.  This one hits home.

It is with great sadness that I read the posts on social media, and there are far too many, that say “that punk got what he deserved”….”he was a thug/druggie/bad kid”….the derogatory comments are too numerous to remember, frankly.  And when I read them, my heart aches.

Some of you might remember after the incident a lot of people were posting pictures of themselves in a hooded sweatshirt holding signs that said “I am Trayvon”.  As I watch these proceedings, I will admit I have shed a lot of tears.  Hearing the 9-1-1 call from the horrified female neighbor, I don’t know how anyone could not cry along with her.  Listening to the fatal gunshot over and over, and watching a father testify about how he had to listen to his son’s life being taken,  knowing these people must feel like they are in a level of Hell they couldn’t have dreamed up in their worst nightmares….well, words really aren’t sufficient, but again my heart aches.

But the thing that keeps me up at night?  Is that my boys.  Are Trayvon.  My boys.  Have been suspended from school.  My boys.  Have posted pictures on Facebook and Twitter trying to look like a badass.    My boys have even been known to wear hoodies and make a snack run from time to time.  The death of a young person….it’s not natural, it’s not right.  It’s not the way the world is supposed to work.   Something of this nature could far too easily happen to my boys or to any one of their friends.  And that is terrifying.

We are supposed to outlive our parents.  We are supposed to get through all these teenage years fraught with angst and misbehavior and settle in to life.  College.  A wife.  A house.  Some kids and a dog, maybe.  At least that is my hope for my own two boys, that they settle in to life in the direction I’ve raised them, that they’re happy and that they’re good people.  That’s really all any of us are looking for, isn’t it?  To carve out our little niche in the world and enjoy it?

Trayvon will never get those opportunities.  He’ll never have the chance to make it to the other side of his teen years and come out on the bright side of it.  It is obvious that this young man had a good upbringing and a loving family, I have not one doubt in my mind that he would have been a productive citizen at the very least.  What balance has been disturbed by the incidents of that night?  What if Trayvon were cosmically slated to be the grandfather of the man or woman that cures cancer?  What if Trayvon were cosmically slated to just live as an “average Joe”, but be someone’s best friend, someone’s mentor, someone’s loving husband?  Whose life was Trayvon supposed to make a difference in down the line, in his 20s, 30s, 50s?  Whatever his destiny was supposed to be, it has been cut short.  Cut short at the hand of a human being who declared on national television that he thought what happened was “in God’s plan” and that he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

And every moment of that trial I watch, and as the world waits for the jury to make their decision, I cannot help but think “What if it were my son”?

My oldest has had his problems, I’ve blogged about them.  But things are really on the upswing for him, and I’ll blog about all that another time.  But I absolutely cannot get the thought out of my mind that on any given night, what happened to Trayvon could happen to my son.  And yours, too.

Trayvon didn’t “get what he deserved”.  What he deserved was a chance.  I hate it when I hear someone say this or that child is a “bad kid”.  That’s the most judgmental and unfair thing a person can say.  Once when some local teens died in a drunk driving accident, I got wind that an acquaintance said “Well, they were bad kids anyway”.   Had she said that around me, I might have asked her why it was ok for them to die because they were a little wild.  I might have asked her how she would feel in five years when her own kid got to be that age and a little out of control (and he did, get out of control….the horror!  She ended up with a “BAD KID”!).

I can’t help but wonder, if it were my son…how many people in my life would say he deserved to die because he wasn’t an all-A, starting lineup, cookie-cutter future frat boy?

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What Are They Thinking?

February 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm (Amateur Wrestling, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, sports, Wrestling)

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/t/story/wrestling-body-reacts-olympic-rejection-18477144?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fl.php%3Fu%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fabcnews.go.com%252FSports%252FwireStory%252Fwrestling-body-reacts-olympic-rejection-18477144%26h%3DVAQGa7HUxAQGAQ1el7X4GCpUIlUvEX9xlzI9cOZxBIf3gNA%26enc%3DAZO5vxheEaIw2X5fCncs7QijC8Z_ddKZX64k8YazxupHu9ws8qymfaVhOfKjYJva99rn1pIezLiDCKyJYnZwplPU%26s%3D1

I really really, REALLY don’t get this. And I am kind of surprised at the fact that it actually makes me sad.

I hope this doesn’t actually happen.

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To the Moon and Back, Part II

February 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm (Amateur Wrestling, Essay, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Middle School Wrestling, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Teenagers, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , )

Part II

I was just thankful that fall that he said he still wanted to wrestle, though there were a few times at the beginning of the season where I found myself asking him “do you even want to wrestle?’ because he wasn’t acting like it. He just didn’t seem to have the drive anymore. He wasn’t one of the guys volunteering to mop mats, wasn’t much of a leader with the younger kids, and most of all he wasn’t happy when he got home.

But he was, to his credit, not leaving every weekend to hang out with his friends. He was, to his credit, trying to un-bury himself from the horrible mess he’d made of his grades so that he could wrestle. That had to mean something, right?

He didn’t have a great season last year. He was struggling mentally, and this sport is heavy on the mental aspect. His coaches had high hopes for him, because he does have real talent, but he just kept beating himself and even though he won more than he lost, he was disappointed with himself and didn’t feel as if he fulfilled his potential. This year, his Junior year, was going to be “his year”. He has paid his dues and I know he was planning on redemption. But still, his heart wasn’t really in it.

Let me tell you, this is the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to watch. Knowing what he feels for this sport and how he feels about himself when he does it, and seeing it not bring him any happiness any more is painful. Every day I worried that today would be the day he’d just quit. And THEN where would we be? He needs this. He needs wrestling, and wrestling needs him.

Things did get worse before they took a turn for the better, and I will spare you the gory details of it, but suffice it to say that he hit “rock bottom”, hard, and I am ever grateful that he found a tiny spark of self preservation and re-thought the things he was doing and who he was doing them with before he made a mistake that couldn’t be fixed.

In the last few weeks, he’s got renewed energy for the things and people he loves, including wrestling. I credit some of that to a visit from a favorite coach from his freshman and sophomore years who has since retired, but found his way up to the wrestling room to light a spark under kids who were struggling with apathy like my son. This coach’s brand of motivation doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for my son, and it is with a tear in my eye that I say I will always be thankful to him for caring. I will always be thankful for his timing. And I will always be thankful that he took an interest in my son’s wrestling career from the first time he met him as an 8th grader at their end-of-year tournament. Always and always, thank you “Papa B”. Much love to you.

I am very much looking forward to the last few weeks of this season. We’ve got team and individual districts in a couple of weeks. It should be a great time, and regardless of his individual outcome in the end of year matchups for districts and beyond, I will be happy just to be there for it, proud and with a smile on my face that he is where he should be.

I love this boy to the moon and back, and I will do whatever it takes, within my means as an opposite-sex parent, to help him on his journey into manhood. Sometimes that means letting him fail, sometimes it means propping him up, and sometimes it means just being there and being a quiet presence in his life. I know that kids try some very stupid things in their quest to define who they really are and what their place in the world is.

But he doesn’t know what I already know. He doesn’t remember being the 4 year old who stopped what he was doing once on a Christmas Eve night, as we were walking out the door from a busy Christmas with my family to tell me “Momma? You’re the prayer of my heart”.

He doesn’t know that I witnessed one of the most selfless acts in recent memory and he was the one performing it, when he hid a birthday card he received in the mail from his father. He hid it and didn’t want to open it, because his father had forgotten his brother’s birthday six months before, and he didn’t want his brother to have hurt feelings that Dad remembered one of them and not the other.

He doesn’t know that I know he is that rare hard working teenager who when given a job, is one of the more impressive workers I’ve ever known.

He also might not know that the things he’s learning from wrestling will stay with him. Care about other people, teach them what you know and learn from them too, and help a guy up once in a while. Work hard. Make no excuses. Be proud but humble. When you get knocked down, get up and go harder, when you are fighting for what’s right.

He might not know these things right now, but it is my hope that someday he will understand and remember them. They are the very core of who he is, not missteps and skipped classes and the wrong group of friends.

Today my son was one of 8 conference champs on our team, who also took the conference championship. I haven’t seen him this excited in a very long time. I haven’t seen him this proud of himself in an even longer time. His journey has both been completed and is just beginning, if it can be both. He might be 112 lbs, but to me today, seeing him take this journey, and come out on the good side of it, my son is ten feet tall. Love you so much, kiddo.

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No good, very bad day

January 29, 2012 at 8:49 am (Amateur Wrestling, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , )

I hate to say it, but I experienced my first bad day at a wrestling event yesterday.

There was like a bad moon over the place or something.  Seriously, mass hysteria maybe.  Collective Asshole-ish-ness At Team Tournament the headline would read, if anyone wrote a headline.

Round One.  I missed half of the first round because of poor planning on my part and really shitty weather.  I literally walked into the gym as my son was starting his first match, and watched from matside my son get pinned.  I was also really bummed out to find out that I missed one of our boys achieve his 150th career win.

I found my place in the stands.  Not in the protective hive of our own fans, but on the fringe (A result of my late arrival….it brings back memories of walking into church late and having to sit in the front pew with the other people who don’t care enough about church to get there on time).  Luckily I found a couple of other fringers to sit behind.  Unluckily, as it turned out, behind me were the parents from the other team we were wrestling in the next match.  At so it began.

I have sat behind and next to fans from other teams for four years.  It’s usually ok.  The fans, in keeping with the conduct of the sport, are generally congenial and respectful, but not this group.

For round two, I had the pleasure of sitting in front of a gentleman who complained about the officiating during every single match.  Complain, complain, complain.  Bitch, bitch, bitch.  The final straw for me was when my own son was out there getting choked out illegally by one of their kids and he complained about the “hometown ref” that wasn’t awarding the choker a pin (when a pin was not had).  I was starting to fear my own Mama Bear reaction if I were to turn around and tell the gentleman off, so I just moved to avoid a riot in the stands.

Round three was ok, as we were wrestling a team that had a painfully low number of kids and instead of bitch, bitch, bitch, it was void, void, void.  Sad, but short and sweet.  I didn’t even see any parents there.  I never do for that team, so I did the usual and applauded all of their kids just so they would hear some applause when they won.  Poor fellas.

Round three.  Similar to round two, but multiplied by the fact that it was a home tournament for them, and they had quadruple the fans round two had.  How embarrassing for their school that these people act like such rude idiots.  I won’t get into details, but their fans are the perfect example of how NOT to behave.  Later in the day, two of these Moms actually yelled at our coach to get out of the way.  “Can’t you see we’re trying to watch a wrestling match?”  *Facepalm*

Maybe it was me.  Maybe the moron who brought the cowbell to an indoor function and incessantly rang it was getting on my nerves.  Maybe the fact that one of our own kids had an embarrassing fit of temper had me edgy.  I don’t know.  I’ve never seen our coach have to deal with something like that, but he asked him to shower and finish the day as a spectator.  It’s too bad, we really could have used him when round five got even uglier.  I fully support his decision.  I would have made him sit out too.  Except I would have thrown in a Mom Look when I sent him to the showers.  It was too crowded to see if coach did that, and I don’t even know if people with low estrogen can pull it off, but I kind of hope he tried.  I think the icing on the cake though, was that some total waste of brain cells left his dog in the car all day.

Round five. What a great, competitive matchup.  We led by two pins for most of it.  Then they started voiding us in the middle weights.  They were from the other side of the state, a team we’ve never seen before, but they must have had some spies eyeballing us during other matches, because they knew where we were strong and where they were not, and vice versa.  I have to admit, it was a brilliant strategy.  We tied.  How do they break a tie during a team tournament, you ask?  They review the stats and add up reversals, back points, pins, and voids.  Or something like that.  At any rate, one key void on our own part was what set them ahead by eight tenths of a point.  It was a nail biter and a heartbreaker.  We took fourth.

I was just glad it was over.  No amount of “great job today’s” can cheer a kid up sometimes.  You can’t convince some of the new parents that this was truly a victory and something to be proud of.  So, you just pack it up, head home, make dinner for your family, and try to put it behind you.

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Self-Defeating Wrestling

December 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Amateur Wrestling, Essay, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Middle School Wrestling, Middle School Wrestling, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , )

It has been said that wrestling is 20% physical, 80% mental.  I can see that.

How do you teach a kid not to beat himself?  I will use my son as the example for this post, but trust me, I saw it happening at dozens of matches all day long last weekend.

Kid looks to be more physically developed than opponent.

…..ankle cuffs……handshake….whistle.

Match starts and kid also proves to be more skilled than opponent.

Kid manhandles opponent for two periods, and is winning by a spread of 13 points.

Opponent throws a move that kid wasn’t prepared for, kid takes a minute to recover.

Opponent throws same or similar move, because he figured out it worked.

Something happens to kid and the crowd sees a visible change.  Kid starts looking like it’s his first day on the mat and gives up point after point.

Kid lets opponent catch up to and beat him at the buzzer by one point, or in some cases gods forbid, gets pinned.

What.  Just.  Happened?

I don’t get it.  Kid doesn’t get it.  Coach doesn’t get it for sure.

Why both of the coaches came up to me, the Mom, afterward and asked me what happened….I don’t know.  My job is to love and nurture and clap and blurt out things that don’t make sense.  My job is not to analyze.  My son is 16 years old now, I haven’t known what was in his head for at least 4 years.  And if I try to get in there, he more often than not shows me the proverbial door.

I try not to dwell on it, but I ask him to read an article I found on the internet about sports psychology and the High School wrestler.  He reads it, but he probably thinks it sounds like a bunch of baloney.  What 16 year old wants to learn how to breathe meditatively and visualize and all that psychobabble la-la?  (I hope mine does, because I think there’s a lot of truth to it and he might find it helpful…….but yeah.  Not holding my breath).

If anyone knows the answer to what happens in a kid’s head at the moment he decides he’s beat and how to turn it around, please email me.  Because this is one of the hardest parts of it to watch, and I am sick of watching it.

Did the memory of the brackets flash in his mind, where he saw that his opponent pinned his last kid in 42 seconds?  Did the name of the school on the singlet intimidate him once he realized the kid could actually throw a move on him?  Did he forget to breathe on the bottom like he is famous for doing and get dizzy?  All of the above?  Or is it something else?

I know the nature of the sport is someone has got to lose, but when a kid should not be the one losing, it’s just …… not cool.

I’m ok with watching my kids lose with dignity to an opponent who truly beat them with skill and strength.

But I am not ok with watching them lose to themselves.

And it’s so hard not knowing how to help them.

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Finding His Own Name

December 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm (Essay, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , )

Dear You,

You left me a solo parent when our boys were 2 months old and 17 months old, respectively.  Not a single parent who can rely on the other person to help with things like transportation, homework, sports participation fees and school clothes, but a solo parent who has to rely on friends, family, and most of all herself.  For everything.  EVERY.  THING.  It’s not like you dropped entirely off the face of the earth….there were the two or three months-at-a-time stints you tried to see your boys once a month or so for a couple of hours, sometimes even an overnight visit over the last 16 years.  They were mainly uncomfortable for both your sons and you, but it was a small attempt.  Then there was the three years you “connected” with them that ended just about a year ago, if you call connecting with them leaving them with your girlfriend’s kid to roam the streets and sit home alone unsupervised while you went out drinking.   I guess they weren’t truly unsupervised, because they called me all weekend, every weekend, while you were busy.  But three years of that does not make up for you making plans with them one day and them arriving at your house excited for a fun weekend with Dad, only to find an abandoned house and a new life with no Dad for the next four years, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that it does.

For me to write about the trials the boys and I have gone through over the years due to your selfishness and absolute inability to be in any way connected with reality would take weeks.  You will never know how terrifying it is to face the prospect of raising two boys all on your own.  (Seems kind of silly for me to point out the obvious…of course you’ll never know it, you walked away from it).  The days when they were simultaneously in diapers, sleeping in cribs, and drinking from bottles are far behind me now, but I’ll never forget them.  The fears of those days were a little more basic.  We’ve moved on now to more philosophical issues.  Am I doing the right things to teach them how to be good husbands?  Good fathers?  Good citizens?  How am I going to teach them how to shave and clean a fish and tie a tie?  (Thank God for Youtube, we got the fish cleaning and tie tying down).

Then there is the deep stuff, that I try to keep a little close to the surface with them, but not so close as to basically ruin every fucking day for them.  Things like “Don’t let his behavior define who YOU are”, and “I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s got nothing to do with you”.  They listen, but it’s hard for me to tell if they believe me when I tell them that they really do deserve so much more than you’ve offered them.  My biggest fear, and something I spend time every day on, is attempting to block the self-defeating behaviors that so often happen with kids who are abandoned or unloved by a parent.  If they don’t deal with the issues they have with you now, the issues will kick their asses when they leave my home for the first time, or maybe when they find themselves as fathers.

I did everything I could to foster a relationship for the three of you.  Remember how I used to nearly beg you to see them?  I rarely said a bad word about you, though I have many.  I never kept them from seeing you, though that’s what everyone now thinks because you aren’t man enough to tell the truth.  I did my job and your job all these years, and have a few more to go yet.  I overcompensate because I have to, so they have a chance at an emotionally normal adulthood.

Oh, I’m sorry, do I sound bitter?  You bet your damn ass I’m bitter.

I don’t let it consume me, that would be giving you entirely too much power (another lesson I try to teach them).  But wrestling season has started.  You might remember that you were the reason they both started wrestling.  Our oldest because it pleased you, and our youngest because he thought that maybe you’d come watch him like you did with his brother (which didn’t happen).  I told them both that if you were the reason they were doing it, it was the wrong reason, but they didn’t listen and now it has taken on a life of its’ own in our house.  I’m thankful for that, because it has opened new doors for them physically and mentally.  It gives them a sense of balance that they are lacking with your repeated absences over the years.  It will serve them well, if they leave you out of it.  But they haven’t left you out of it, at least not yet.

Our oldest son received his copy of the team photo the other day.  He looks amazing.  He’s matured and he’s chiseled.  He’s been working hard and is going to go very far this year.  That night, he broke down sobbing because he misses you.  He wants you to see him wrestle this year.

I do what I can to be supportive of their wrestling, and the minute I think I couldn’t be more excited about it for them, a new day happens and I’m more excited about it for them.  But I’m a Mom.  I’m not a male.  I never wrestled.  I never went to State.  And these boys didn’t start this sport because of me.  Or even because of themselves.  They did it for you.

And all they have in return from you, after giving their unconditional love and desperately seeking your approval, are homemade birthday cards from jail with a few words trying to manipulate them into worrying about you or writing you back.  Well guess what?  They don’t know what to say to you.  They are too busy trying to live their own lives and trying to make sense of this unfair bullshit to worry about you right now.  They are not little anymore.  They see right through you and that’s something you can’t handle.  A part of me thinks they are not writing you back to spare your feelings.  But don’t insult their intelligence by thinking they don’t know what you’re all about now.  That must really suck.

Your son went 5-0 at Varsity at his first tournament yesterday.  Your son is starting to get his name in the paper.

His name.  Not yours.

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The Tao of a Wrestling Mom

December 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm (Amateur Wrestling, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve had a really crappy week, one for the books.  I cut loose (for the second time) a would-be suitor who I was not very well suited for; had a surprise bill empty my checking account, battled with my youngest son daily to get his homework done (and lost), and work has been sucking the life out of me.  I have been in tears every night on the drive home.  It’s either cry or run someone over with the car, and who wants blood and guts on their undercarriage?  I hate it when I get all frickin’ fragile like this, but it happens from time to time and sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

One day was particularly stressful.  After a life-sucking day at work, I had to:  deliver bottles to the wrestling room to pour the hospital grade antibacterial soap we ordered in them and meet the lunchroom staff to purchase some apple juice before they left for the day which was the SAME time the band ladies left for the day and I had to get in there and get my son’s band dues paid and make sure I didn’t get there too much before the coach arrived so he could let me in the equipment room AND time it all just right so I could pick up my little anti-homework delinquent from detention!

A conference call and then my boss tried to keep me at work past my scheduled time and succeeded.  Knowing the after work schedule I was up against, I thought,  “Here it comes, I’m about to lose it….look out, bitches”. It was an insubordination near miss if I ever had one, but I kept it together.  After purchasing the apple juice and finding some wrestlers to bring it upstairs for me and paying our band dues, I ran into coach in the hallway.  The soap hadn’t arrived yet. “I almost wonder if we should get a big bottle of Dial for them to use until it comes in”, he said, but what he meant was “Will you please go to the store and buy them some Dial so they can use something besides Axe and risk skipping our first tournament next week due to an impetigo outbreak”?  Of course I said “I’ll go get some and bring it back before practice is over”, when I really wanted to say “pass the tissues”.  I decided to throw the juice in the fridge before I left for the store.  Denied.  The thing was full of mold after sitting idle for seven months.  Gross.  So I had another thing to add to the list…..whatever.

I arranged for Grandma to pick up my homework-hating detention dweller, so that took some of the edge off.  One of our injured wrestlers made me add him as a contact on my phone so I could call him if I got locked out of the school.  And when I returned from the store, I was met with a sincere “Aw, cool, soap!  Thank you!”.  Ok yep, I was feeling a bit better now, how could I not be?

As I sat there on the floor, de-skanking the fridge, it dawned on me that my son was practicing just a few feet away.  I love watching that kid wrestle.  I’ve never sat through an entire practice just watching like the Dads are “allowed” to do.  Bonus for me!  Being that I was in the equipment room, I got to visit briefly with about five of our young gentlemen who were looking for nasal tampons.  I got to mother them a little bit by helping them with their bloody noses and making sure they were biohazard-free before they went back out there.  They so readily accepted my help I have to wonder who takes care of them when no Moms are there?

They were so glad to see that they had juice for after practice I had to dash out of the way of the stampeding herd.

You’d have thought that after the day from hell and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, including cleaning mold – yuck – that by the time I got home I’d be even more stressed out.  But I had a slow realization that I was….happy!  I was refreshed!

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would find peace in a wrestling room, I would never have believed them.  But there’s something so basic and honest about the sport and the kids who do it, it’s kind of hard not to find yourself grounded after spending some time in their midst.

In a week where the recurring thoughts in my mind were “Oh my God people need to just get the hell out of my head!”, and “Ok where did I see that chocolate wine being sold?”  I had finally found sanctuary.  In a stinky, crowded wrestling room with the cheer team screaming and giggling over the top of the thuds and grunts of the wrestlers, I had found the elusive zen moment I had been so in need of.

The three jewels of Taoism are:  Compassion, Moderation, and Humility.

Compassion, check.  Moderation, check.  Humility, check.

I’m so damn lucky.

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The Faces Of Wrestling

November 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm (Amateur Wrestling, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It is interesting to me to observe the boys as they finish up conditioning and gear up for the official practice season to start.  I have such love for our team, each and every kid.

The freshmen, with the ‘deer in the headlights’ look on their faces and on the faces of their parents, both who will need coaching, mentoring, guidance, and friendship.   Most of them did not participate in youth wrestling, and one or two short middle school seasons is all they know of how this goes.  They know they love the sport or they wouldn’t be back.  What they don’t know is that High School wrestling is Middle School wrestling’s, insane, ugly, angry, big brother.  They haven’t yet finished up a practice where the whole team has been worked to the breaking point, where they thought in their drama-laden teenage minds that they might truly die, and are listening to coach’s after-practice talk panting for air, faces red from exertion and sometimes tears.  They haven’t yet gotten a glimpse of their future opponents and the skill level and strength they’ll be going up against.  They haven’t stepped into a tournament circle and had to shake hands with someone they know is going to mop the mat with them, but they have to try to stay alive anyway.  But they’ll learn, just as all their teammates have learned before them.

The seniors, who’ve seen it all and just have that ‘senior’ air about them.  They personally know the kids they’ll be going up against, because they attended camps with them and have been wrestling against the same kids for the last three or more years.  They know their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and their opponents know theirs.  It never fails to amaze me how these boys can do it; converse, joke and laugh with a kid like he’s an old friend while they are warming up to do battle with each other.  But that’s also one of the many reasons I love this sport.  There’s a special look on the faces of our seniors.  It’s one of excitement for this to be their most memorable season, a little bit of cockiness knowing that they are top dog, and hope that they’ll leave a legacy talked about in the locker room for years to come.  I’m confident this look will change by seasons’ end, to one I don’t care to think about right now.

The juniors, who look and feel a lot like the seniors.  There is wisdom there, but they also know they are still paying some dues.  The juniors are fun to be around.  They are the most jocular of the group.  They are not “green”, but they have not yet reached alpha status, either.  And it’s all good with them.  There’s no pressure to be the leaders, and they’re not at the bottom of the totem pole.  They’re just happy to be there.

And last but not least, the sophomores.  I have a special place in my heart for the sophomores on our team.  Maybe it’s because my son is one of them.  My post The Season From Hell (How Our Team Learned To Swim) gives some insight into the tough year our sophomores endured last year.  I have seen them walk in to the practice room with new resolve.  They know something this year that they didn’t know last year.  Some of them stayed active in wrestling and did summer camps, some of them didn’t……all have grown, both physically and emotionally.   You can see it in their walk, hear it in their matured voices, but most of all you can see it in their eyes.  There is no more fear, no more uncertainty, only knowing.  There will be no surprises this year for these sophomores.  They know they can handle whatever comes their way.  And I have every faith that they’ll handle it all with grace and style.

I’m so excited for the season to start, and I hope that the look of a loving mother and ardent fan supports them in the ways they need it the most.

Wrestle smart, gentlemen, wear the look of pride and victory.

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Why I Do It

September 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As I sit here exhausted,  making plans to schlep a heavy table and two chairs, a cash box, and varied “spirit” items to a football game in 95 degree heat plus humidity that surely will ruin my hairdo, to raise money for our proposed wrestling room, I ask myself “Why?”  “Why do you put so much time and energy into this, when you have so much else on your plate?”

As a single Mom who works full time, just being a mother, working and trying to keep up with housework are quite sufficient to keep me occupied.

During the first parent meeting of my son’s freshman year, a woman was there that was asking some of us new parents if we would like to help out the boosters, they had some open board positions they wanted to fill.  Treasurer was one of them.

I thought, “How much work can that be, someone asks me for a check, I write it….easy!”

Right?

Wrong!

As treasurer, and subsequently the person holding the checkbook, it was my job to pick up apple juice and apples for the team.   So I’d go after work about once a week, sometimes twice if I calculated incorrectly, and stop by Walmart for the cheapest apple juice I could find, then another store for some fresher-than-Walmart apples.  I had to haul said apples and apple juice up a long sidewalk, and up a flight of stairs to deliver them to the wrestling room.  Sometimes I found a wrestler or two to help me, sometimes I didn’t.  “I need the exercise” I would tell myself as I huffed and puffed and struggled and slogged a cartful of juice, units falling off randomly, through slush and snow and rain.

This was the beginning of the snowball effect which was to become my life as a booster.

I became the team photographer, the website administrator, and one of the tournament organizers.

All this occurred during the very busy high school wrestling season.  My youngest son also had middle school basketball season happening for part of this, and then the middle school wrestling season.  And did I mention I work full time?

I am unable to rely on the other parent in this family dynamic for any of the running around getting my kids where they need to go.  That’s just the way it is.

I am, however, able to rely heavily on my other two boosters.  Our tiny booster board also boasts a President and Secretary, both of whom are as hard working as I.

There were times when I was so tired I walked around zombielike, a total fried-brain feeling, and sometimes I wonder how I managed any of it.

There has been a nice break during the off-season, with tasks and duties kept down to a dull roar.

But tonight, here I am again, with a work project on a tough deadline causing much welcomed overtime, and not forgetting my band parent duties, which are a whole other world, I’m sitting here feeling the familiar fried-brain feeling from lack of sleep, and getting ready to slog through another task, and asking myself “Why?”

Why do I do it?  Especially when some parents don’t seem to care, some parents don’t know the difference between headgear and footwear, and some parents even do their best to run the program into the ground?

I do it because some parents don’t seem to care.  I do it because some parents don’t know the difference between headgear and footwear, and I do it because some parents do their best to run the program into the ground.

Our wrestlers need this.  Not just mine, yours too.  Our wrestlers deserve to have their own space in which to practice and grow.  They deserve to have someone willing to spend a cold winter day driving them to a college 3 hours away on terrible roads so that they can attend a clinic and get some team building time.  They deserve someone willing to spend hours on the computer to post the pictures of them dominating an opponent to show their friends.  Basically, our wrestlers deserve to know that we give a shit about what they do.

Wrestling is a team sport, but it is also highly individualized.  I am quite confident that the most driven of wrestlers would wrestle whether no one was watching or he had a world-wide audience.

But something in my Mama’s heart, some nagging little maternal instinct, tells me these boys appreciate someone championing their cause.

I have since come up with some workable solutions to the apple juice conundrum, and we have gratefully admitted two new board members.  Next season won’t be so taxing, I’m quite sure.

But even if I was all alone in my cause, I’d still work as hard as I could, and be happy to do so.

Why?

Because they call me Mama E.

I don’t think that needs explaining.

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