The Last Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, son.

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sports Stuff

June 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm (High School Wrestling) (, , , , , , )

I was talking with someone the other day who I thought was a lot like me.  Single mother, teenagers, having some problems with her teens, etc etc and so on and so forth.  I was telling her about how I was very upset that my youngest son wasn’t playing baseball this season because he messed up his grades.  I was telling her how much I missed it and how sad I was that he cheated himself out of his Freshman season.  I quickly found out we had nothing in common when this mother looked at me dead in the face and said “I’m so thankful I never had to go through any of that sports stuff with my kids”. 

~Cue needle being dragged across a vinyl record~ 

She said “sports stuff” with the tone of voice you get when you step in dog poo.  It was almost like time stood still for a minute.   What?  How?  Why?  Who ARE you?  

I don’t really get where she’s coming from. If it weren’t for all this “sports stuff”, I wouldn’t feel like I had a place in my boys’ lives at all, save my duties as a maid and chauffeur.  At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, that’s pretty much all I feel good for some days.  

My boys are 16 and 17.  They are trying to figure out who they are and their place in the world.  They don’t really want me around for that.  They are going through the rituals and rites of passage of the American male teenager…you just don’t let your Mom tag along for that kind of stuff.  My youngest got in a fight to prove himself against some kids who were pushing him around.  He did it on his own.  I was mortified when I found out of course, and that’s why he didn’t let me find out until later.  My oldest is having some issues with girls.  What would normally (normally being pre-15 years old) be something he came to me for advice on, he’s working out himself and with the help of his buds. 

 They don’t really want to share anything with me these days except my food and my vehicle. 

But for some reason they love it that I’m involved with wrestling.  When my oldest was going through a tough time recently and I thought he’d quit the team, I told him I might as well quit too.  I think that was the only time I saw tears from him during what he was going through.  “You can’t quit, Mom”.  Which was loudly seconded by my youngest son.  For several weeks. 

Maybe someday when they are grown and have some distance from all the teenage angst, I’ll find out why they were ok with it when they usually didn’t want me around for anything else.  I have made some amazing friends throughout the years and we have shared memories of our kids doing amazing things.  My boys and I have had many, many car rides to faraway lands back and forth to their events.  And every parent knows the car is the best place to talk to your kids.  We have basked in the glow of their victories and I have nursed them through painful defeats.  

They have learned some things about how to be a man and how not to be a man from the myriad of coaches they’ve had over the years.  They’ve made great friends who they will always remember.  They’ve made friends with kids from other schools, taken road trips to places they would never normally go, and learned a lot of important life lessons out there on the fields and in the gyms.

 Now and always, I will treasure every soccer goal, every inning pitched, every play of their football games, every wrestling match.  Every.  Single.  One.   It’s totally worth all the work for wrestling, all the hours spent watching football and soccer and baseball in EVERY kind of weather, all the miles put on my car and all the Saturdays spent.  

They do have other interests like drawing and music and long boarding, but I have to say, all this “sports stuff” has been really good to me.  I can’t really imagine what our lives would have been like without it.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Three Little Birds

February 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm (High School Wrestling) (, , , )

Three Little Birds

Just cause I like it.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink 5 Comments

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »