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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Mrs Married and Milestones

June 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm (empty nest, Essay, graduation, high school, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, Teenagers) (, , , , , , , )

I have been a solo parent for seventeen years, six months, fifteen days and forty eight minutes.

Wow, I’ve never drilled it down like that. But I felt it was necessary to give some gravity to what I’m trying to say here. Sure I’ve had some help from friends and family over the years, but it’s been just me and the boys through the good, bad and ugly. It’s all I know as a parent. I barely even had to share them for holidays…maybe three times over seventeen years, six months, fifteen days and forty eight minutes.

I don’t feel different than a married mom. I don’t look different than a married mom. And I don’t love differently than a married mom. Granted, I have never walked in the shoes of a married woman, so I guess I can’t say for sure things are different for them. But some people in my life act like I have the word SINGLE tattooed on my face in bright, neon colors. They just can’t get past it. “Next holiday, bring someone with you” say my family. “Don’t you get lonely?” Ask acquaintances. “We need to hook you up with a nice guy” say friends. I know, I know, they all mean well.They are coming from a place of caring. But today, someone (a co-worker) who REALLY can’t get past my single-hood said something to me that I just don’t understand.

This woman married her Jr. High sweetheart about five minutes after graduation. 35 or so years later and they are still blissfully happy. Good for them! They are very lucky to have each other and I’m happy for her. I’ve known her for seven years, and at least three times a year she will say some crap to me that is totally inappropriate. She is very preoccupied with how often I have sex, for one thing. (Which i dont divulge…I’d have to be fucking crazy to tell her things like when I get laid). One time she even told me I better find a man soon cause my “stuff” would all “dry up” if I didn’t start using it soon. She’s not always that crass. But she also likes to tell me how every parenting decision I make is wrong. I have recently stopped confiding anything in her. Who needs that shit.

Today the subject of graduation came up. We started talking about how my oldest is now officially a senior…then I started seeing this imaginary, futuristic movie reel playing at hyper speed. It showed me senior pictures, my last trip on the mat on the arm of my eldest for parent night at a wrestling meet. It showed me his friends that we’ve known since Kindergarten that are now young men and women, prom, caps, gowns, grad night. This little movie lasted just as long as the wink of an eye. But sometimes what you see in the wink of an imaginary eye can tug at your heartstrings enough to make your real eyes fill up with tears.

Normally you’d expect that three women standing around talking about something that one is finding very emotional would give each other a knowing pat on the shoulder, and maybe you’d hear “Oh, I know, I did the same thing”. Not this crowd. Mrs. Married and Ms.Thank God I Never Had To Go Through Any Of That Sports Stuff couldn’t believe why I was emotional. Seriously, they didn’t get it. They said that they were happy for their kids to be moving on to college, and/or just growing up and giving them an empty nest. I told them that I was excited for that stuff too, but I just found it very bittersweet. Sniff sniff. Blank stares.

Then Mrs Married piped up with her solution! “I honestly and truly feel that you’re so emotional about it because you’re single!”. Um, what? Did you really just say that? Apparently she feels that my life is so wrapped up in my kids that I’m terrified of being alone when they leave and that’s why I was emotional. Sorry honey, wrong answer. Because I won’t be alone. Being the only one in the house on a cold February night with a 7 month old who’s spiking a 106 fever and you have another little one sleeping in the next room and you have to drag both of them out in knee deep snow to the emergency room, that’s alone. Being someone like my kids father who has to face the fact that he created a strained relationship with his kids and knows they have little to no respect for him because of they way he treated them, that’s alone. I’m not afraid of being “alone” in the form of an empty nest. I’ve been through way tougher shit in my life than having no mate. That’s small, small potatoes. And who knows, maybe I’ll just focus on getting my groove back when I have more free time.

This woman pities me because I’ve raised these kids on my own. It hasn’t been easy, I’m not gonna lie. But maybe I’m actually lucky for having done it. I do have to assume 100% of any blame for their not-so-great behavior when it happens, but I also get 100% of the credit for the good stuff. And I am wildly fortunate to have received 100% of the love. For seventeen years, six months, fifteen days and forty eight minutes. I know I won’t miss them when they leave, because I know my boys will never be far from me, even if we are hundreds of miles apart.

So I got emotional and a tad weepy at the thought of my child, my heart, approaching this milestone. You don’t understand why I did. I don’t understand why you didn’t.

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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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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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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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