Yesterday afternoon I stood in ankle deep slush and watched a toddler in rubber boots stomp and soak her flannel pajama bottoms. Her mom stood a good twenty feet away and talked into her iPhone. Five minutes and soaked up to the knees later, children began oozing out of the school doors.
Stitch came bolting out to my spot under the pines where he designated I must wait, and tackled me with a hug.
"How was school?"
"Good," he replied nebulously. "Where did you park?"
"Oz. I need to find your teacher." I wanted to speak with her about the tumultuous battle homework has become.
Stitch seemed to know what this was about and hung his head.
Teacher and I spoke briefly, and she told me that Stitch had been "distracted" (ie, not paying attention) during Math. She asked me what I might do, and I replied I was about to ask her the same question. She didn't have any good answer, so I said I'd speak with Stitch about attentiveness.
I spoke to Stitch in the car, reinforced that when Adults are speaking, he needs to pay attention. He said he just wasn't in the mood for math that day. "Too bad," I say. "Mood or not, you do what your intructors tell you." Another fight. I'm really getting tired of fighting.
We headed to the rink. Gordon's mom waved at me, Gordon already clonking around in skates. I put Stitch in his costume, just to give a last check of fit and comfort on the ice. Surprisingly, the costume seemed to lift his spirits. He strutted out and went for his skates.
Gordon's mom was now anxiously pacing by the ice door. "Coach isn't here yet," she said. Gordon was on the ice, wearing leggings that she had just pulled the tags off of. Have I mentioned that little boys look ridiculous in leggings? Pants, please.
"She'll be along. I know she comes right from Rink Across Town. Just let them stroke around for awhile." Stitch and Gordon were doing just that, following the flow of traffic like good boys.
And of course, Coach arrived brandishing the schedules which had been emailed the day prior. Gordon's mom grabbed it and began fretting. I waved it off. "Got it. Eleven. We'll be there."
I headed up into the stands, watched Gordon's mom as she kept up her nervous pacing. She was driving me nuts, so I invited her up to sit and relax and enjoy the slight warmth afforded by the elevation.
She sat, but she didn't relax. Her hands worked the clothing tags from Gordon's dancewear into tatters. "I hope he does well," she sighed.
"Of course he will. They both will."
"Oh, no. Stitch is so much better. He's much more relaxed."
I gave her a sidelong glance, curious about that line.
They did their routines a few times, no falls, taking breaks to go work on individual elements every so often. Gordon's mom chattered away. "I think Gordon would do well in ice dance, because ice dance is good for skaters who don't jump well. If they can't get the Axel, you know. I've already had several girls approach us, saying to call when he gets to freestyle."
"The footwork seems more challenging than the jumping," I said, my eyes never leaving Stitch.
He ran his program, came ice right for his three turns, hit his lunge, and as he looked up he looked right for me. I smiled at him, "good job!" He smiled back. I felt reassured. Gordon ran his program, stumbled his crossovers and balked on his spin. I could feel his mom wince. "I'm so nervous for him."
"It's just a little competition. Not the end of the world," I really wished I hadn't invited her up here.
Coach slid up behind Stitch, took his arms up and practically pressed her knee to his back in an effort to get him lower yet keep his chest and head high. I cringed.
Gordon's mom kept talking, yammering on about how nervous she was and Gordon couldn't spin and she didn't understand why. "All those other kids make it look so easy, why can't Gordon get it? Stitch can spin really well, maybe he can give Gordon tips!"
"How often does Gordon skate?"
"Oh, I don't know, he does so many other things. He does swimming and dance, gymnastics, basketball and *insert ethnicity* school, in the summer he does tennis. I can't keep track anymore."
My head rattled off an answer of "Pick one. If you're going to compete, pick this one." But instead I gave her the public ice schedule, rattled off from memory.
She wrung her hands anxiously as Gordon tried a two foot spin, fell, and sat. "He has to get around three times, was that three?"
"That was two. He's almost there." I was trying to be encouraging, but Gordon looked as small and lost out there as a goldfish in the Atlantic. Three times around for it to count, and Gordon was barely making a slow two. "It'll be okay," I said finally.
Gordon finally got up and completed his program, but he had to be yelled at to do so. "It'll be okay," I repeated to myself.
At that point Coach called the boys down to the Zamboni door where they worked on three turns for awhile, crossovers and then Waltz Jumps. Gordon's mom tightened her lip. "Why aren't they working on the program? She should be doing the program."
"If she beats it into the ground, it'll do more harm than good. Let them do something else for awhile."
"I guess you're right."
"At this point, it's just about as good as it's going to get. Just relax. It is what it will be."
"Of course you're calm, Stitch can skate. He's so good."
Gordon's mom didn't hear Coach bemoan Stitch's crossovers and three turns to me on Sunday. She also didn't hear her play up Gordon like he was a much more serious skater. I was starting to think that was a bullshit line as Gordon, without a word to Coach, left the ice to complain of cold hands.
"Moooommmm," he whined, looking up at us with a pitiful expression. "My fingers are cold."
She coaxed him back onto the ice with a jacket and the ubiquitous "two more minutes" that parents extend and contract to suit their purposes. "Look at me, trying to compete with you on costumes. I bought him that top at the dance store."
"It looks nice, but he should be in a jacket. It's cold out there." Gordon's shirt was lightweight, great for dance, not so much for skating. Sigh.
Five minutes later, Gordon left the ice again, without a word to Coach who just looked after him and didn't chase him. She was busy forcing Stitch down into low lunges again. He just walked right off and out the door and into the lobby. "Where is he going?" Gordon's mom asked to no one in particular.
"You going to go get him?"
"No, he probably just wants to warm up."
There was an awkward silence between us as Gordon's mom realized I found both his action and her inaction unpardonable, but now she was committed to it so she sat there. Fortunately, Gordon came back. He looked up and whined some more, and Mom plied the "two more minutes" again.
When the ice monitor called for everyone to clear off, she rushed down to grab Gordon and yammer at Coach. Me? I was bemused. Stitch looks good. Real good, and I think we've been doing him a terrible disservice insinuating otherwise. I sauntered down, and patted Stitch on the head. "Good work out there, that was some serious fancy skating."
"Do you feel better about this now?"
"I think you'll do well. Don't worry about it anymore."
Gordon's mom was fretting over the schedule, and if she could get in just one more practice, but the Saturday that Coach had available was just too early, wasn't there something later in the day? And where was the CD, did we get the CD? What about Sunday, is there ice on Sunday? On and on she went, round and round.
Coach was being much more patient than I could ever be, and I just followed the boys out to help them with skates. Gordon went right for a hand held video game and Stitch emptied the ice chunks dislodged by the lutzes out of his pockets. Coach came out, Gordon's mom following like a puppy and still fretting over moot points, running herself in circles with worry. God, just let it go already.
Coach looked at the boys; Gordon absorbed in his stupid game and Stitch sorting his ice chunks. "If you fall you have to get back up," she said pointedly. "No one will be around to help you, and the music keeps playing. Get up and keep skating."
"Stitch, you're being spoken to," I chided.
Stitch looked up at Coach dutifully. Gordon played on.
Once Coach got done with pointers for the boys, Gordon's mom began her nervous tirade again. You'd think they were coordinating Cancer Cures on Sunday. I took off Stitch's skates, handed him his Real Boy clothes and got sucked into the conversation. I told Coach I'd speak with Stitch about practice.
That night, Stitch did his homework and then we played Scrabble. Go figure that on the first draw I could have played "menthol," but I didn't think I could have convinced Stitch that was a real word. I let him go first.
Despite my words to Teacher and Coach that I'd "speak with him," we didn't talk about skating or school. We just played Scrabble. Stitch played "false" and "die", and I coached him into "runt." I just let everything go for the night.
I tucked him in with his MP3 player. "You did real good today. Don't tell yourself any different, and don't let anyone else tell you either."
Tomorrow is another day.