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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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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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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The Season From Hell (How Our Team Learned to Swim)

August 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My favorite Uncle was a Marine who served in Viet Nam, and who, when he returned from war, went into law enforcement.  He was a gruff man on the outside, but loving and very protective.  He taught his two kids to swim at the tender age of five by walking them out to the end of a pier and just throwing them off.  It still sounds horrifying to me, and I could never wrap my head around the concept when my cousin would talk of how she and her brother learned to swim.  “But”, she says, “we didn’t sink, and he was right there to help us if we struggled”.  “And……we learned how to swim”.  Indeed.

Last year was my oldest son’s freshman year of High School.  His Middle School coaches were a gym teacher and a former football coach (from MY time in the same Middle School, 25 years ago), neither of whom were wrestlers.  They meant well, and taught some basics, but our freshman team came to the High School very unprepared.

Our Class A school, who has more wrestlers on “Trophy Row” than any other sport, had a wrestling team of 15 last year.

We started out with a few more, but three upperclassmen quit the team before the first meet for personal reasons.

One of our heavyweight upperclassmen was ineligible to wrestle all year long, until the very last tournament.  He was over weight.

The night of our first meet, one of our other heavyweights broke his leg during warm ups.

At one of our first tournaments we had a boy break a cervical vertebrae and another suffered a concussion, within minutes of each other.

It seemed our poor gimpy team could endure no more.  I think we lost every one of our team meets, because we were so empty in weight classes, there was no way we could catch up to some of the schools with bigger teams.

I think very highly of our High School coaching staff.  They are top notch, and have extremely impressive credentials.  You couldn’t help but feel bad for them as much as the boys, given the circumstances of this season from hell.

Not only did these coaches have a shrinking team of ill-prepared Freshman, the kids had to share their practice room with the competitive cheer team.

That’s right, I said…… Competitive.  Cheer.

The boys kind of thought this was a good gig at first, until they started actually trying to hear what Coach was teaching them.

Despite the bumps and bruises, and what was stacked against them, (literally, in pyramid form), they had promise. They had raw talent, and they had heart.  And if they didn’t have heart when the season began, they sure had it by the end.

Our Coaches had no choice but to throw these kids off the deep end.  The only other option would have been to drop out of the events we were scheduled for, which was of course, a non-option.  Wrestlers wrestle.  So out they went, every Saturday morning and some Wednesday nights, getting torn to shreds.

I’m not going to pretend like we had this amazing “come from behind to win it all”, season that would make a perfect cheesy Hollywood script.  I’m not even going to pretend it was easy to watch.  In fact, it was downright torturous at times, watching these kids go up against bigger, stronger, older and far more experienced kids match after match after match.

They lost, and lost often.

A couple of times, it was all I could do to not let my son see  tears welling up in my eyes for him.

Our wrestlers were learning how to wrestle just like my cousins learned how to swim.  Coach walked them by the hand to the end of a pier, and threw them off.

And just like my cousins, they didn’t sink.  And just like with my cousins, the one who led them to the edge and threw them off was right there to help them if they struggled.

At the end of the season, these boys held their heads high as they ALL received their first Varsity “letter”.

This year shows much more promise for a winning season.  We’ve got a lot of new freshman coming up, who had some very good coaching last season by new coaches at the Middle School.  And thanks to  a deal made by our Senior state placer, that if he went out for football, the football players would come out to wrestle, I think our numbers will be up as well more to where they should be.

But I don’t think any of this small group of now-Sophomores will forget what they went through last year.

I hope they don’t.

 

 

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Right in Front of Our Eyes

August 20, 2011 at 11:48 pm (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

There’s an emotional growth that happens in kids when they wrestle.  And it happens right in front of us.   It’s one of the more painful things I’ve endured as a Mother.  You might wonder why it’s painful…..and you might not be a wrestling parent.

Anyone who’s ever loved a wrestler knows how this works.  We see, from the outside, our wrestler struggle not only with his opponent but himself.  We see him walk off the mat after taking a brutal beating and can only imagine what is happening inside his heart and mind. He doesn’t want to share it, and it’s really not our business.

We watch as he retreats into a place where only he knows what goes on, and we can only imagine the turmoil that goes on in that dark place.  There is no consoling him, no ‘fixing’ it for him, no amount of Mothering that can be done here.  It’s all on him to work out, on his own.  And it’s hard to watch.

These moments don’t visibly happen in the baseball dugout.  They don’t seem to happen on the sidelines of the basketball court or football field.  They don’t happen in any place other than a smelly gym when the mats are on the floor and the sweat is so thick in the air you can feel the dampness from twenty rows up.

I’m sure baseball and basketball and football players come out of their Little League, Jr. High and High School sports careers with great memories, and talk about how these sports and their coaches, and perhaps their teams, shaped them.  But I think it’s more of a look back than anything, a reflection.  But in wrestling, these emotional growth spurts happen on a daily basis, right in front of us.

There are also the moments when you son wins.  We can more actively participate in these moments, because we are allowed to cheer for him.  He’s usually too far away to be embarrassed.  He’s also sometimes too far away to even know you saw him.

We might be acting like fools with the other parents in the section, jumping and clapping and hooting and hollering.  We know how important this match was to him, and we watch excitedly as he overcomes an opponent he never thought he’d beat.

We watch as he shakes the hand of his opponent with a poker face, and then we watch as his arm is raised, and all we see out of him is a satisfied half-smile.  He doesn’t seek you out to lock eyes with you, silently asking “Did you see me, Mom?”, until he’s off the mat, had his talk with the coach, and got his warm ups back on.

Though you’re glad he’s not out there being a cocky little sonofagun, these winning moments are a little tough to watch as well, because you know how hard he’s worked and would love to see him really celebrate.

When our kids take their first steps, it’s a very bittersweet moment, because we know that they are growing up, and someday they won’t need us anymore.  Watching your kid wrestle is a lot like that.

I have come again to a bittersweet realization, the realization that these are the moments when my son is becoming a man, right in front of my eyes.

My heart nearly bursts with pride during these defining moments. And heartbreakingly, he’s never showed me more how he soon won’t need me anymore.

Despite the heartache, I’m so glad he chose this sport.  He’ll be a better man because of it.  And I’m so glad I get to be part of this wonderful transformation of his, even if it’s from across the gym.

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Things I’ve Learned-Advice For the Curious

August 19, 2011 at 6:41 am (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It was suggested to me that more Moms need to learn how to get their kids on the mat.  So if you’re thinking about letting your son (or daughter) wrestle, here’s what I wish someone would have told me when I was new:

Nutrition: 

Your son will learn more about nutrition than any career dieter you know.  He’ll know exactly how many calories or grams of food he can consume and in what time frame.  Let him do it, as long as it doesn’t get unhealthy.  Harping on him will only make him carry this out in secret.  Better to be involved as an objective observer.  It’s another part of wrestling.  While this is not one of my favorite parts, we’re not going to change it.

Tournaments: 

First, know that schedules are useless.  Tournaments rarely start on time, and there is no way to predict when you’ll be leaving.  Don’t expect to know when your child is wrestling, because he’ll go when it’s his turn.  That’s all.  You can sometimes figure it out by what weights are wrestling at the current moment.  But don’t quote me on that.  As a structured person and lover of schedules, this was probably the most difficult thing for me to contend with at first.

More on Tournaments:

Don’t bring a book, you won’t read it.  I still always carry one in my bag for an emergency that might stop the action, but I have not opened it in all the tournaments I’ve attended.  You will be too busy rooting on kids you don’t know nor ever will.  After every tournament I come home and empty my bag and think “Why do I keep packing this?”  Yet in it goes, every Friday night.

Do bring:  Tylenol, Aleve, Tums….it’s good to have a general sampling of everything that’s in your medicine cabinet.  Hey, it’s a long day, you never know what could happen.  There will be someone who needs something you brought.

You can spend your free time at the food table, eating, catching up on gossip, or cleaning up after the kids who’ve eaten.  You’ll do a lot of cleaning.  You can also spend time studying the brackets posted on the wall.  (Haha….I joke.  I can’t figure them out either.  Just ask the nearest male.  They always know how to make sense of these.  I truly feel there is some kind of estrogen filter applied when they create these).

A little daunted by the prospect of a tournament?  The dual meets make up for it.  They are easy, fun, and short.  They start out with a different weight class every time, and while I have no idea how they decide who starts, at least you know when your kid is wrestling.  My kid’s at 103.  If they start with 119, I know he’ll be second to last.  Easy!

It will be difficult to watch:

It’s hard to watch your kid out there being twisted up like a pretzel.  It is also hard to watch him inflicting pain on another kid.  If you don’t have the stomach for it, I don’t know what to tell you.  He’ll be ok, that’s all I can say.**  My Mother, who never misses any of my sons other sporting events, has never been to a wrestling match.  She can’t handle it.  As a mother, you will just have to put on your big girl britches and deal.  We’ve done harder things.

**Wrestling is actually a pretty low-injury sport.  I know some ER nurses and doctors, and they tell me they see very few wrestlers, because they are so well conditioned, and the injuries are not usually ER-worthy.

Off season:

Your son (or daughter) might want to attend camps and clinics.  Let them do as much as you, your child, and your checking account can handle.  Trust me on this one.

What else can I say to someone who might be interested……support your coaches, get to know your fellow wrestling families, and let your kid educate you.  My son has taught me a lot about what he does and why he does it.  It’s awesome bonding time.

Above all, enjoy it.  Toward the end of the season you might be asking yourself what kind of psychotropic meds your doctor can hook you up with to deal with this one more week.  But when it’s over, you’ll miss it.

Here’s a nice page to look through if you’re still on the fence: http://www.yeshivawrestling.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3#dangerous

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Here Goes!

August 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Thank you for stopping by my brand new blog!

I am a single mother of two teenage boys who wrestle.  They do other things too, but wrestling, and everything that goes along with it, mesmerize me.

The team dynamics, the personalities of the coaches, the incredible effort I see my boys put forth, and how it’s changed them.

I subscribed to deegee’s b&b because he has great wrestling posts that I share on our team’s facebook page from time to time.  I felt there was something missing though.  I thought the place needed a woman’s touch!

He very kindly offered to post something I wrote as a guest post.  It was fun; I was a little nervous though, I’m kinda shy like that sometimes.  After reading his comment that 500 people had read my post….well come on.  Even the most humble among us would immediately start searching for how to start your own!  I thank you very kindly, David!

I hope my posts about wrestling honor the appreciation I have of the sport, the community, and the athletes.

 

MM

matmom@rocketmail.com

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