Friday, September 24, 2010

Of Sevens and Tops

K is currently hating skating class. I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the brief Reign of Terror by Coach L, and whether his attitude towards lessons will improve with the new, younger, more active Coach. To be honest, I'm not sure.

He's also not currently thrilled with the Privates. Coach Y is a good coach. She challenges him with things he clearly can't do yet, like the Waltz Jump. The thing to remember is that K is seven, and I've learned a few things while reading about seven year olds. They are low on the self-confidence scale, yet they have high expectations of themselves, and they are ashamed of failure. This is not a winning combination for learning a very difficult sport like Ice Skating.

I can only think there are three things going through K's mind as he sees another student perform a flawless Waltz Jump: "I can't do that, I should be able to do that, I'm going to look so stupid when I fall on my butt because everyone else can do that and everyone will laugh at me."

Add these three statements together in a mind that doesn't understand "practice," "patience," or "instruction," and you get a System Overload leading to Shutdown.

We have hit Shutdown on occasion. K's System Shutdown has occurred when he's whining, dragging his feet, complaining about everything, or generally being a complete pain in the ass.

When System Shutdown occurs at the rink, (which is often, because this is a frustrating sport) I feel the glaring spotlight of being THAT MOM. That mom who forces her kid to keep practicing, that mom who cajoles and bribes, that mom who is clearly harboring visions of greatness on a kid who doesn't want to cooperate.

Last night I was sewing beads onto K's competition vest. I told him I'd probably be done with it this weekend. He got a little smile, and began twirling on the floor. When I asked him what kind of buttons he wants on his blue lame skating shirt I'm about to sew, he replied "the fancy ones." Out on the ice alone, he does his own little performances for his imaginary audiences, only occasionally looking to me for applause. (Of course I clap.)

It's incredibly frustrating when there are kids K's age who "have their doubles." It does make me feel inferior when I run into the mother of some little mite of a girl, who is jumping and twirling all over the furniture in the lobby while her mother counts skate coupons and plans out the litany of private lessons in a giant three ring binder as though she were planning the invasion of France. (What's even more fun about watching this family is Mom asking Dad's opinions, but Dad has this amazing expression because he knows he isn't really being asked, but rather merely informed.)

Then I see the kid in K's class who skates like a broken Transformer toy, permanently bent at the waist but lacking knee joints, and I think K's not doing so bad.

It's bewildering when I hear other Coaches praise K's potential, because then I think he should be more advanced. Perhaps I should pony up for more lessons, more ice time, more gear. You get the idea. Yet I know if I did that, K would hit System Overload every time, and eventually it would be permanent. More than that, I can't afford it.

It's completely maddening when I see older girls progressing seemingly at light speed, because they are self-motivated and don't need someone following them around with bribes of candy and pizza. Why can't K be like that? Why can't he shake off this fear of embarassment and try harder things?

I have this little top that K won at Chuck E.Cheese. It's supposed to light up when it spins, but it only lights up when it's spinning at precisely the right speed, at precisely the right angle. Otherwise it's just an ordinary top that you're spinning in the dark waiting for something to happen. I think a Seven Year Old Boy learning to Ice Skate is a lot like that. When conditions are precisely right, the light goes on and it looks fun and amazing. Otherwise, I'm just some crazy mom in the dark waiting for something to happen.

Here's what I keep trying to tell myself; If K is as talented as he seems to be, and as others think him to be, then that talent will still be there when he's ready to reach up and claim it. In the meantime, I have to be here to suffer through the Shutdowns and Overloads and keep him skating at a pace he's comfortable with. Through it all, he does enjoy it and he does have fun on the ice. He once told me that I will never be a famous ice skater like he will be, because I can't do a T-Stop like he can. His ambition is quiet, but there.

I also have to learn to pay no mind to what other parents and their kids, and what they're doing. Their activities and progress are irrelevant to us and where we're at in this sport. Neither are their opinions. If they could see what I see, which is the little smile of excitement and the twirls at the prospect of a fancy skating costume, they'd know I was making the right decision.

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