Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just what the hell is it with skating, anyway?

Can someone please explain to me what it is about this sport that makes people insane?

Every parent harbors dreams of greatness for their little ones. It's just something that parents do. Every scribble on the back of the placemat at Waffle House indicates a future Rembrandt. Every discovery with Legos and Tootsie Rolls means he's Einstein in the making. Parents don't need any help fostering unrealistic expectations upon their children, yet when it comes to Figure Skating, the general public is more than happy to chip in. (For good and/or bad.)

I take the train home, and every so often I run into a nice guy and we chat. It had been awhile since our last meeting and so we spent the time catching up. He asked me how the skating was going. I relayed the Tale of the Waltz Jump and my surprise at the lesson. He waggled his brows and said, "Maybe there's some Olympic Potential there."

It was all I could do to not shake him and yell, "STOP IT!!"

This past weekend we spent some time with the extended family, who were all happy to hear that K was skating. I told them what he was learning, and there was the suitable chorus of "ooh's" and "Ah's". Then some douchebag who we're not related to said with a waggling brow, "He'll be in the Olympics!"

I sighed. "I'll be happy with some success at the local competitions. I'm happy when he's happy," I calmly stated. But my hand clasped my beer bottle with a set of white knuckles, resisting the impulse to bash him over his thick skull.

This whole skating thing already feels like a freight train out of control, and I'm desperately seeking a way to bring some order and pacing to it. My mom already is over the top, my husband is being sucked in, I am easily suggestible, the last thing I need is random comments from relative strangers.

Let's put things in perspective. My co worker's kids play baseball, both of them. Lots and lots of baseball. They play baseball much more than K skates. No one mentions MLB to him or his kids. Maybe they do and I'm not privy to it, but if you could see these pop-tart addicts you'd know that MLB is not going to happen for them. It's just not. I'm not being cynical or mean, I'm being honest. I simply don't believe in fostering unrealistic expectations upon the innocent. The elder boy's team finished their season 4-11. I know everyone has bad days, but when Dad stopped talking about the games midway through the season, we had an idea of how well things were going.

How do you think those kids felt, to know that they had gone from the Golden Children to the Children of the Scorn? This is why unrealistic expectations are bad. Children, despite their capacity for bumps and bruises, are fragile. When mom and dad are disappointed, their world collapses. That's why mom and dad need to save their disappointment for the big things, like shoplifting or drug dealing. Little shit like baseball or music practice, they need support through all of it; good, bad, stellar and not.

Then there's a flip side. Being a Skating Parent, there is an expectation of me that I am a Stage Mom. There's a broad idea that I AM wanting and expecting Olympics. When word got out that I had a Private Coach, (at PRE-ALPHA) other moms around me raised their eyebrows and gave that "Oh." You know the one. That "oh" that your mom gave you when you cut your hair funny, that "oh" your husband says in response to a bad dress choice. That "oh" with a million unspoken words behind it. I was immediately in a defensive position, and there was no good response. I was THAT MOM.

Not every kid who picks up a violin will play Carnegie Hall. Not every kid who takes Ballet is going to dance with the Moscow Opera. Not every kid who performs with the Community Players is going to be the next Julia Roberts. I should know, I was one of those kids. I was involved in drama in High School, and I auditioned for every play between my Sophomore and Senior years. Seven, not including one-act festivals. Guess how many plays I was in? Three. One of those I was "chorus" which means "stand here in costume and react to the real actors."

One of the girls who WAS in every play and who everyone thought had a shot at "real" acting someday, she is still an actress. She lives in LA. She's done some Indie films, commercials, and a few soap operas. Is she Julia Roberts? Nope. Not by a long shot. I'll bet when she's not acting, she's doing something very mundane like the rest of us. Sorry, but that resume is too short for five years worth of sustainable work, and "Cheerleading" is simply not a credible skill for a woman in her thirties. (Yes, I am still bitter, and you HAVE to find this as hilarious as I do.)

I'll be the first to admit, when K started skating and showed some enthusiasm and promise, I was excited. I began envisioning the best. But now we're six months in and discussing competitions. I see what we're up against and I see the odds. I see them very clearly because I have faced them myself, and the odds won. Do I hope for Olympics? Not really. Not anymore. I hope for Olympics in the same way I hope for my own private Island; it would be really fucking awesome but the logistics of such a thing would completely overwhelm me. (Not to mention poor K.) All I'm hoping for now is a happy kid with a trophy or two to be proud of.

Once during Group Lessons, a coach asked the kids at large, "Who wants to be a high level skater?"

K raised his hand.

Well then, that's what we're shooting for.

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