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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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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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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Just Breathe

August 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm (Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I learned to breathe when I was in my late 20’s.  Really breathe, and make it work for you, not the automatic breathing that keeps you alive. When I had my kids, I discovered through the miracle that is Lamaze, that focusing on your breathing will get you through nearly anything.  I’ve used it ever since to get me through anything from a tough day at work, to relaxing enough to turn my mind off for sleep, to avoiding a tearful breakdown during the Puffs Plus commercial.

My oldest son is smaller than most.  He weighed in at 86lbs dripping wet when he tried wrestling for the first time as a 7th grader.  It had been a couple of years since he’d been involved in a sport, because the size differential got to be too much for football.  Baseball bored him, even though he showed promise there.  So I was relegated to watching his younger brother play baseball and basketball, sighing resignation that my oldest might not play sports anymore.

I encouraged him several times over the years to try youth wrestling, because I knew he was scrappy and had a good temperament for the sport.  He declined.  I let it go.  Then he wanted to check it out as a 7th grader.

I thought I knew what I was in for.  I watched a few wrestling matches in high school, and even kept score for the team as a sub on a couple of occasions.  I felt well versed enough to venture into this new world with him.

I would pick him up from the practices, and watch them doing their drills and super-tough conditioning, and was impressed in an “I don’t want to know too much about this” sort of way.  I was, after all, a single Mom who was trying to let her son go through the rite of passage of the Men’s Locker Room on his own, without too much Mom-volvement.  I knew the coaches would take care of him, and not push him past his limit. They wouldn’t do that, would they?  That crazy neck exercise that I can’t bear to watch is good for him, right?  Just breathe…..Coach has it covered, Mom.

What I would later learn was that his first match would nearly be the death of me.  Not him, me.

He was struggling with his grades, as many 7th graders do, and missed the first couple of dual meets.  He got his grades up, but for the next two, he wasn’t able to wrestle because there was no one in his weight class.  I missed one or two for work, and the short Middle School season was nearly over.  Talking it over with Coach, he mentioned that there was a tournament coming up, and he assured me I’d be able to watch my son wrestle then.   Finally!! And then, a sigh of relief!

I was so excited as I was preparing for this, what I was sure to be the best day of my sports Mom life in recent memory.  I knew how hard my son was working, on his grades and in the wrestling room.  I happily made my dish for the “team table” the night before, charged up the batteries in the video camera, and packed my first ever Wrestling Mom Tournament Bag complete with Advil, a good book, and granola bars.  I was ready!

I found my way to the school on the frozenMichiganroads, and was just this side of literally chirping with excitement.

I walked into the huge gym, full to the brim with screaming people and wall to wall wrestling mats.  What?  How was I ever going to find my son?  When does he wrestle?  (No one seemed to know).  Where do I find out what time he’s going?  (No one knew). Howcome no one can tell me when he’s wrestling? (Because they just can’t?).  This was not what I expected, at all!  You’d think that with such a big tournament there’d be a little organization!  How can there not be a schedule?  Just breathe, you’ll find your way around, and it will all work out.

As I was wandering around confused and disoriented, like I had entered a different dimension, I wondered how I’d ever make sense of this.  Then, I saw out of the corner of my eye, my son’s father jogging toward me.  (This man never hurries.  For anything).  “He’s getting ready, he’s going to wrestle in about two minutes!”  He huffed.  “What?  Where?  What?  Where do I go?”  I felt so helpless!  I followed him blindly to a seat with a perfect view of my son’s upcoming match.  Where is he?  Oh, there he is, at that table….ok, good.  Excitement is returning at this point, and I breathe another sigh of relief.  Knowing how I get at my boys’ sporting events, I told myself to keep calm and not scream.  We are indoors, after all.  I even asked my son prior to this day if I could cheer for him.  “No” was of course, the answer.  Keep calm, don’t scream, don’t embarrass him.  Got it.  Be calm and breathe.

After my son and the other boy put on their ankle cuffs and lined up, the ref blew his whistle and the two went at it.  They circled each other a couple of times, and then wham!  My son took his kid down.  They fought.  And they fought.  And they fought.  The other boy never got up, or what I would later learn to know as an escape.  My son ended up pinning him after wearing him out with some hold I still don’t know the name of, the Butcherman’s Passout-Choke Hold of Death I believe.  (Kind of illegal, my son told me later, but the ref didn’t call it, and it was working).  Mm-hmm.

As it turns out, I didn’t need to remind myself to verbally behave, because I was having a hard enough time reminding myself to breathe.  About 30 seconds into the match, I realized I hadn’t even taken a breath.  I thought I might pass out myself!  I was white knuckling my purse and about all I could do was blurt out my sons’ name every 10 seconds or so.  ANDREW!  ……..ANDREW!  This of course was extremely helpful.

I have still to this day never experienced anything quite like the intensity of a wrestling match.  I feel like a seasoned wrestling Mom now, after three seasons, and keep checking the calendar to see if it’s November yet, excited for my fourth.  It’s almost inexplicable, the feeling you get when watching your son wrestle.  Whether he’s winning or losing, it’s always the same.  It’s a crazy mixture of fright, adrenaline, pride, agony, happiness and/or sorrow.  And you run that gamut over and over; anywhere from 20 seconds (or less) to three long, agonizing periods that could last the longest nine minutes of your life.  That’s your heart and soul out there on the mat, giving his whole heart and soul, and not much else in life compares.

And even though I’m a self-proclaimed “seasoned wrestling Mom”, I still have to remind myself to breathe.

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