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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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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