Friday, October 28, 2011

Our Jump Rope is SubPar

At this point, Stitch is pretty well outfitted as a skater. He's got the pants, the jacket, the Zuca, the guards, the soakers, a billion gloves, thin socks that he always loses, and some trophies.

His jump rope, however, is apparently not appropriate.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to locate a simple, reasonably priced jump rope for a child? Not a "yoga" jump rope or a weighted jump rope for adults, but a simple child's toy.

I wanted this.

I do not need this.

I searched Target for what seemed like hours, before giving up and going to World Market for some wine. We actually found one there, a playful business with little children painted on the handles. Sure, why not.

On arrival at Practice Ice one day, I handed Stitch his jump rope and told him to go at it. Stitch starts jumping and Other Kid is on him. "Why do you have a jump rope? You don't need a jump rope until Freestyle five!"
Stitch ignores him, so Other Kid hits me.

"Our Coach says differently, that's all. So he has a jump rope. If your Coach says you don't need one yet, that's fine, too."

Other Kid is flummoxed and starts asking Stitch if he can try it. The two of them start goofing off, and some other Cute Girl Skater comes over with her jump rope to join them. Her Jump Rope is more professional, red plastic and no kids painted on the handles. She notes Stitch's jump rope, and says he needs a better one.

Stitch, eight year old Stitch, thinks this is insane. "It's a jump rope! You jump it! Does it matter?"

Cute Girl Skater insists that it does.

I'm overhearing all this and laughing.

No matter what you've got, someone else has something better. As the song goes, it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Curse of The Mummy's Back Spin

Stitch has a really good spin. It's one of his strongest elements, which is good in that it is so good, but bad in that he often relies on that to save him in competition. (And it frequently works. Judges, please look at everything, not just one thing.)

It's also turning out to be bad in that he's so strong in his forward spin, that his Back Spin seems cursed. I watched them work on it for a solid ten agonizing minutes of complete trainwreck before moving on to something else. He and Coach had some kind of chat after all that was done, leaving me wondering what all that was about.

It was a good lesson overall, and a good practice. I was giving directions on the sidelines, Stitch kicking the boards when I took too long. At the end I gave him the eighty cents I could scrounge from my pocket. He came back with a Push Pop, which I knew cost more. "I didn't give you that much."
"The guy behind the counter took a dime from the tip jar to pay for it," Stitch explained.
I immediately got a dollar from my wallet. "Go put that in the tip jar!"
"WHAT?" Stitch's sense of justice is outraged. He wanted the dollar.
"When you work for tips, you'll understand. Now GO!"

I was getting ready to leave Coach a note, thinking she'd gone already, when out of the office she came. We settled business, and I said Stitch was on for Friday. This made her happy. "The back spin," she lamented. "He needs so much work with it."
"We'll get there. In the meantime, he'll be here Friday, but he's yours. The babysitter will be dropping him off and leaving him."

Coach was fine with this, and in fact, this is something she's offered to do for awhile.

"I'll be here as soon as I can be," I continued. "But hopefully this will help that spin a bit."

She agreed and we went our separate ways. I had some other people to speak to about Friday, but I was confident things would be just fine. With a little "looking out for", Stitch would be fine on his own at the rink.

We picked up some frozen Chinese food on the way home, as both of us were famished, and as we walked by the bakery case I noted the fancy cakes and pies.
"Stitch, let's make a deal."
"When you get that Back Spin, I'll buy you whatever cake you want out of that case, and I'll let you eat it whole with a fork."

Stitch was intrigued by this notion, gravitating towards some strawberry lemon affair. We pinky swore on it, and went home.

"What were you and Coach talking about out there?" I aske casually. I didn't really care, I was just curious.
"Oh, just Halloween. What we were going to be."
"Did you tell her about the Mummy Outfit?"
"Yeah, and I was praying the entire time she didn't say to just wrap me in toilet paper. She didn't."

One of the points in the USFSA book on how to be a skating parent is that one about "Sharing your child." I don't know why, but Coach asking about Halloween seemed like some kind of encroachment on my turf, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I know very well that Stitch skates a lot differently for Coach than he does for me, and I know he values her opinions, takes her more seriously, and the two of them have a vibe going on. Even as he's disciplining the cat in her accent, he respects her in a way he doesn't with me. I don't think "Sharing" is the right term. I don't know what is.

Yes, the Mummy outfit is complete. I blew through it in a day and it was an absolute blast to create. Using thin gauzy scraps from the remnants table, I basted on layer after layer of wrappings on the arms, legs and trunk. I did Greek Key decorative stitching around the arms, and while I know Greek is not Egyptian, it's Halloween and Dark, and if anyone challenges it I'm walking away.

Mommytime, I hear what you're saying about the bigger neck and armholes, but I think the size I cut is going to be fine, given that the fabric doesn't stretch. When I basted on the strips, I negated the stretch of the base fabric, so it mimicked a nonstretch fabric pretty well. Actually, the arms may need to be cut a hair larger, as The Mummy's arms are a bit snug. We're going to do a lot of fitting this weekend, just to be absolutely sure before I cut anything. Worse, I may need to learn how to do a buttoned cuff sleeve.

Stitch changed his mind on the music, but the design I have in mind will still work. I set my countdown clock today.

We're eighty days out. Plenty of time.

On an unrelated note, upon trying on his costume for the first time, he immediately began clinging to Dad, moaning and growling. Dad dragged him around, Stitch firmly affixed to his leg, and said, "Mummies don't hang on people!"
"The ones in Legend of Zelda do!" Stitch says defiantly.
It's true. Those Mummies in the Shadow Temple are freakin' terrifying.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time to get Crackin'

Whenever Coach doesn't talk to me I feel a bit bereft, but then when she does I feel overwhelmed. Today after lessons she found me and gave me the comp packet for January. Already? I told her we'd narrowed down music, and I'd cut it and see what she thought. This also made me realize that this year's comp outfit was going to be a challenge, and I needed to get going.

There's no boy's skatewear on the market, unless you count the black velvet uniform, er, shirt. This is expensive and boring. And boring. So let's make one.... it's not all that hard.

Tonight I did the first steps. I know that the fabric we liked doesn't stretch much, but I hate the way knits look on the ice. They don't look crisp. Boys need to be crisp. So my plan of action is to cut the shirt a size or two too big, and alter from there to allow room for movement yet give me the look I want. And yes, there will be bead embellishment. Beads go on before the shirt gets pieced together. So, to put a fine point on it, I only get one shot to get it right.

I've decided to try this plan first using the Halloween costume. Let's see how big that shirt turns out, and we'll see if it will work for the not so stretchy fabric later.
Let's get out our Jalie pattern, shall we?

Oh that's confusing.

What you need to do is match the size you are to the size on the pattern. So go measure your subject. Stitch is technically a size 7 with the waist altered in, but today I'm going to cut a Size 9, or pattern size M.

Wait! Don't cut this pattern! You're going to trace your size, saving your pattern paper for another day! Get out your tracing paper, which is about $14 a roll from your fabric store.

Now, even though I'm not going to do the gathered sleeve, I'm still going to cut out the whole pattern for it, just in case I can reuse this later. I'm also marking the short sleeve cut, since I think the compulsory outfit should be short sleeved. Transfer all markings, fold and grainlines. Also mark which piece this is, how many to cut, and what size it is.

Finished? Great. Now cut everyone out. Again, even though I won't be using the cuff or some of the other pieces, I cut them all the same, just in case. As this is a size too big, I may be able to use it later. Here is tonight's finished product, bagged and marked and ready to go. Tomorrow we will cut fabric for the Mummy costume, and see if the "slightly bigger" plan will work!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Strange Days

The rink has felt awkward lately. There's just a general awkward, strange, silent vibe going through the building. I think people know what happened, or have some clue, but no one wants to acknowledge it. Those that have details aren't talking and those who are in the dark probably want to stay there. Honestly, as someone who seems more in tune to emotional undercurrents, I've been dreading going to the rink for the past week.

But I've always lived by the "fake it till you make it" mantra. None of it affected us directly so what really do I have to complain about? So things are awkward, so what? Keep going.

I talked about things with my Neutral Third Party (who knows no one at the rink) over lunch on Tuesday and I felt better. The waiter brought us the House Salsa and some on the house beverages to wash the hot-as-lava vegetable mix down, and all was right again. (Carrots should never be that hot.)

Newly resolved, Stitch and I went to Practice Ice last night.

And we had fun. I talked with my rink friends about the upcoming show, Stitch had his lesson (lots of sit spins and jumps), we laughed a lot and wasted a fair amount of time, but I felt it was okay in light of how weird the past week had been. My rink friends are determined that I be in the show. I assured them that it would be a cold day in hell before that happened, then I remembered where I was.

Stitch and I headed home, and as much as I have high hopes for evenings after Practice Ice, both of us are too shot to do much but drink hot chocolate and watch TV. So that's what we did; watching Esteban, Zia and Tau search for the Mysterious Cities of Gold on Netflix.

This morning I found two wet little boy socks in my jacket pocket, and an errant glove. Now that I know his number, I'll put Stitch's rehearsal schedule on the family calendar, and this weekend we may be cleaning the Costume Room. Or, at least we need to before work starts on Winter Show.

Literature, movies, TV shows, they all have us spoiled by their endings. The Ends are always neat, wrapped up nicely and clearly defined. But in real life, that doesn't happen. It doesn't happen that way because nothing ever really ends. It just keeps going, for better, for worse, like it or not, one foot in front of the other.

My Rink Friend expressed some desire to see me step up more at the Rink. I said I'd do whatever was needed of me. Again, for all my crabbing on this blog, I wouldn't be doing this if I truly hated it. I really do like spandex and glitter, wet blades, bad spills, high egos and drama. If it weren't for the crazy in my life, I'd be pretty bored. And let me tell you, Rink Life comes pretty darn close to working the exotic animal show when it comes to the ridiculous factor.

I still miss the exotic animal show. Lion pee, possum puke and all.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spooks and Specters!

Yesterday while Stitch was in lessons, I was in the lobby with two of my fellow skating moms, selling costumes. Yes, the bagged glories of prefab dance outfits could be yours for a paltry ten dollars each. For a halloween getup, or an addition to a girl's dress up closet, or even a low end competition dress they were a steal. Most tutus come with a leotard of some kind, but we did have a box of "orphan" tutus in various colors.

I hate tutus. Yet, there I was, looking like the planet Saturn in a red tutu, hawking spangles and glitter, trying to talk seriously about the merits of marabou. I consoled myself by thinking that when I was twelve, this was the look I'd dreamed about; Cyndi Lauper in "Girls just wanna have fun."  Lesson for the day, be careful what you wish for.

The boys came out for the break, with Stitch eyeing me like I'd lost my mind. I threatened him with a superhero cape and told him where his snack was. He and Other KId enjoyed a moment of giggles at the sheer number of spangles before heading back in for lessons.

Tot costumes were the first to go, with moms hauling off armloads of outfits to try them on their squirming kids, endlessly flummoxed by the cryptic sizing system, and constant searches for "just one other size" of some outfit they really liked but didn't fit. Sorry, cash only. No, no credit cards. Please put your Amex away, and there's an ATM around the corner.

Girls were making does eyes, dads were drifting off, moms were fluttering. Moms of boys were looking sad as they realized the pickings were nothing but an assortment of red plaid shirts. "But what about the boys?"

I realized I should have brought Stitch's old things and sold them on consignment. (I'm still loathe to part with that Pink Panther Jacket.)

The boys came back out as lessons ended, and Other Kid comes traipsing out with this mischevious look on his face. "I want to try on a tutu."
"You do?" I was laughing.

I've been around enough performers to know when one of them is going to give us a show. "Take your skates off."

So he goes and gets his shoes on, and he picks out the spangliest tutu of them all. And he puts it on and flounces through the lobby, much to the delight of all the girls and boys, everyone laughing as Other Kid spins and twirls. "THIS IS SO EMBARASSING!" he's laughing, too.

Anyone who knows boys knows that boys will play around in girlie clothing, just to mess around and have fun. And this is what Other Kid was doing. He had the rapt attention of every girl in the place, he had us all smiling, and it was a great joke.

But against the wall was a dad making this expression of sheer terror. The blood had drained from his face, his lips curled back, his eyes wide, the only one among us not laughing at this terrible affront to all things masculine and holy. While everyone else was giggling at Other Kid, I was laughing at this guy.

Other Kid took his tutu off and things got back to "normal," but I wonder what kind of nightmares that guy had last night. I can just see him, clutching his infant son in the middle of the night, crying and in a cold sweat, "It's okay, Johnny," he sobs quietly. "Daddy won't let the tutus get you. Daddy will protect you from the glitter." And somewhere from the corner of a closet he imagines seeing a wisp of organza, and he shudders again.

I've beaten gender conformity to death in this blog, so all I can do now is laugh at it. Girls can play hockey, speed skate and figure skate. Boys can play hockey or speed skate. No Flouncing allowed, not even in fun. Nothing to see here, folks. Please move along.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stop talking about Axels!

Last night in the stands, I was looking for one good toe loop. The boys were doing great, but MsV kept asking, "Is that an Axel? Are they learning Axels?"
"No, looks like a toe loop."
"How can you tell?"
"It's got a toe assist. Watch."
"When do they learn Axels?"
"Freestyle five. Not for awhile. All the other jumps come first."
"Oh. Why is that?"
"Axel has a forward entry, so it's a rotation and a half. It's a half rotation harder."
"What about double Axel?"
"Two and a half. Then they can start triples. But that's not now." Or possibly ever.
"But olympic boys do quadruple jumps, right?"
"Yes, some olympic men have quads."
"Is that a triple Axel?"
"No. Triple Axel is three and a half rotations."
"Do girls do quadruple jumps?"
"Some can, but not many."
"But they all do triple jumps."
"Yes. Anyone who is serious does triple jumps."

At that moment one of the Primo Skaters flew by into a double or triple jump. "He's so good," said MsV wistfully.
"His jumps aren't high enough," my mood was soured. "Watch. He's not getting high enough in the air, so it borks his landings and screws up his combos."

Sure enough, Primo Skater jumped into a wonky double, landed badly and fell on the second jump which he singled.

"He's got a good spin," she said.
"His sit spin isn't low enough."

She then started talking about how she ran into Coach at opening night at the Opera, then about waiting lists for private schools and how it would be so hard for a private school child to transition to a public school and I was done. "I mean, it's such a different environment," she must have realized what she was saying, and I was so tempted to say, "Oh yes, in with the riffraff like us. It's awful. We're all dealing drugs and none of the kids can read so we just have cage matches in the lunchroom." I wanted nothing more than a beer. A cheap beer.

"Another student goes to private school and does five lessons a week," remarked MsV. "She's so very good."
"I can't afford that." And amazingly, Stitch is still good.

And at that, the conversation ended.

I don't know why all that depressed me so much.

Rink Pal came to my rescue, giving Stitch a skating Snoopy pin for his jacket. I may not have much, but I do have a lot of friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stitch is Growing Up

"So, mom," says Stitch over dinner. "Ms. Music Teacher says we can get one recorder for seven dollars, or two recorders for ten dollars. I think we should buy two."
"That does make them cheaper overall, but why do you need two recorders?"
"Well, in case I leave one in my locker, I can still have one here," he's using appropriate hand gestures, "and I can still practice."
"Ah. That does make sense. When is the money due?"
"We haven't gotten the slips yet," he sounds disappointed. "I can't use my other thing," he's referring to a wooden recorder he bought from the Peruvian people at a summer festival. He played it so much he wore out the glue and it doesn't work anymore.
"Well, when you get the slip, bring it to me and we'll see what we can do."

I intend to buy two. Music is sparking his interest, and with a professional musician in the family, this can be a win. But I anticipate the challenge of learning to read music to be much akin to the torture of backwards wiggles.

"I can't do it!"
"Yes, you can. Keep trying."
"I will never skate backwards!"
"Of course you will. Don't be silly."
"The only one saying that is you."

And of course last week I watched him fly around, his hair flipping up as he skated faster and faster into a pretty good salchow. Backwards.

What also pleased me about this conversation was that he's starting to acknowledge the concept of "practice." We'll see how far this flies in reality, but I think this is the first time he's said the word without a whine in his tone.

Monday night I realized that I'd forgotten to turn in Stitch's Ice Show form. I ran home to grab the boys and a measuring tape, and ushered them to hurry out the door. "We have to swing by the rink, get this form in since it's the last day!"
Dad looks confused. "Stitch, you said you didn't want to be in the show."
"I changed my mind!" Stitch says happily.
Typical, I think.
"What made you change your mind?" Dad is still confused.
"Mr D, my teacher and the class. I want them to see me skate." Ah, the School Matinee. It also gets him out of class for the morning. The thought crosses my mind that next year he'll likely be eligible for a solo. For the moment, I'm happy he's starting to take pride in his skills.

Stitch also presented me with the permission slip for School Choir. Last year he had thought about it, but determined himself too shy and not good enough. This year, he was going the Nike way and "just doing it."

Last night I put Stitch to bed. "Don't forget, skating lessons tomorrow. I'll lay out your skating clothes, so have them on when I get home."
"Ugh, I hate lessons," Stitch rolls his eyes.
"You always say that," I feign confusion. "Yet when you're in lessons, you look like you're having a blast, and when you get done with lessons, you say you had a lot of fun and you don't want to leave the rink. And then when you skate on your own, you skate the things you learned in lessons. You've got to stop with these mixed messages, kid," I tickle him.
"It's just what I do," he says. "It's how I roll."

Yes, that is indeed how you roll. Funny how the impossible slowly happens.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things that make you go, Hm.

Saturday, evaluation day. Usually Stitch is anxious and irritable on evaluation days, but today he was cheerful and rambunctious. We got to the rink early since Coach was feeling bad about shorting him ten minutes on the last lesson, and was making it up to him today. This is fine, since ten minutes usually morphs into twenty.

Stitch was running and jumping rope and laughing and playing, I sent him on the ice and he was mock dragging his skates when I told him to stroke around and warm up. Coach took him and they got to work on that dratted change foot spin. Again, if it hangs him up for awhile, this is fine by me so we can solidify everything else under it.

True to form, the "ten minutes" was actually a lot longer, and the Tot classes got treated to the tail end of Stitch's lesson before he darted out for Moves. Coach told me that Wednesday would be both boys, and this made me happy.

I watched for awhile, but then got cold so I started wandering the lobby. I got a table set up to start measuring kids for Winter Show and set to work. I'd done some of this on Wednesday night, too, and it's fun. The parents are all full of questions about rehearsals and how many shows do they have to be in and what kind of costume will it be and so on. I answered as best I could, told them that the costumes are usually just fine and everyone ends up looking cute.

"She's got pink skates, do we need white skate covers?"
"What level is she in?"
"I wouldn't sweat it. Ask the coach to be sure, but don't worry about it right now."
"What do they do in the tot number?"
"Make you weep with cuteness. I'm not kidding."

"This says she will be skating as a Polichenelle, but what does that mean?"
"Cute. Polichenelle means cute in French."
"Does it really?"
I don't know if they actually bought it but they did give me a check.

I had some minor brain borkage when one mom was saying that her daughter was in Alpha 1 but she'd promised her she could skate with the Beta kids since she likes that number better. "So why not get to beta first..."
"But I promised her. And I already filled out the form."
Why in heaven's name would you do that? I'll let the coaches worry about that one.

I kept watching the clock, realizing I was missing Stitch's evaluation and he may be mad at me. The other mom I was working with told me to go watch, and so I caught the tail end of the test. Stitch came across with his paper, him and Other Kid, and they seemed happy.

Stitch handed me his paper with a big smile. All 6's and 7's, one 4 on the Change Foot Spin, which I was expecting a lower score on. But a four? I was stunned. Was this some kind of gimme? Was I being punk'd? "This is great, Stitch. I'm really proud of you. All that work is paying off!"
He just smiled and stepped out to warm up.

I promised him a celebratory lunch and went back to the costume table. Stitch took care of his skates while I did more measuring and chatting. I showed the eval form to Coach, and she felt good about it. "The change foot spin is hard. It takes awhile," she said.

Again, I don't care if this snags him. I'm prepared to camp out in FS3 awhile. And it's all hard.

We headed home, tired but elated. At Subway later on, we split a roast beef and talked over the mistakes on his latest school test. He had confused "fair" as in "good looking" and "fair" as in "not stormy." We went over a few other words that need to be read in proper context to be understood.

It made me think about the context of that skating evaluation.

At any rate, I did get shanghied into helping with the Costume Sale next weekend. I'll be at the rink anyway so why the heck not. And if I stay until noon then I can see some of my friends in the L2S levels who I've been missing. Stitch can relax and eat donuts, which seems to be his favorite pastime after lessons. I know that may make some of the Nutrition Fanatics cringe, but I really do make him eat better for the rest of the week.


(Edit; This is actually a Polichinelle. )

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Tiny Tightrope Walkers

Stitch often gets lazy about holding his arms out. He's better about it in lessons, but when he's on his own, it's a lost cause.

Last night I pulled him off the ice for a moment. I held his arms out. "Stitch, imagine for a moment that there is a string, tied to your wrists," I tied an imaginary string. "And on that string are six tiny tightrope walkers." I motioned where the tightrope walkers would be. "You have to keep your string taught, so the tightrope walkers don't fall down."

Stitch found this hilarious. "What if they fall? Do they die?"
"They jump right back up, but try to keep them up there. So try the dance step again, and remember your tiny tightrope walkers."

So he went out, holding his imaginary string taught, and he did the dance step a few times. Then he slid belly first onto the ice, smooshing his tightrope walkers. Then he ate them. Then he blew them off their string. Then he put them into a cone. We had a lot of fun with our hapless tiny tightrope walkers. But every time his arms would drop, all I had to do was hold my fingers where the tightrope walkers would be, and his arms would go up.

I brought him off the ice again. "Here's another thing. When you jump or spin, you have to hold your tightrope walkers tight so they don't fly off. So don't forget to protect them."
"But that would be funny if they flew off!"
"This is true."
Again, it worked.

I think we went through about eighty tiny tightrope walkers before the night was out, but he had held his arms out and there had been no fighting or stomping or arguing. Just laughing.

And now when I'm in the stands, I don't have to do the bird. I can do a subtle hand motion, which will make him laugh again and get my point across.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Solving Stitch

Stitch is my little riddle. Sometimes I think of him as a wild colt I'm trying to tame. I don't want to break him, but I do need to channel him, focus him, and strengthen him. I read a lot of parenting books; some good, most bad, but when I'm at my most desperate I'll try anything.

I got "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" from the library, and I found a kindred spirit in Amy Chua. I seriously wanted to look her up and call her and thank her for writing the book. As much as the "Positive Discipline" method is working with Stitch so far, I'm not using it in its pure Fluffernutter form. Like Amy, I made a decision that my kid would not be an entitled, spoiled, soft little northshore brat. Amy spoke to my heart when she stated the selfsame thing of her children.

I'm just not a Fluffy parent, which is funny because I thought I would be. In fact, I hate talking about parenting with other moms because I don't want to admit that I sometimes made Stitch cry in agony over homework and chores. Some parents might have fits that I make Stitch help carry groceries up three flights of stairs, or send him out alone into the alley to take out the recycling, or I made him walk hikes into the miles. In the rain. I gave time outs in the middle of museums, standing over a crying child in a corner, looking fierce, daring anyone to challenge me. Raising a tough kid in a fluffy world is a lonely undertaking.

I don't want to say how burstingly proud I am of last week, when Stitch had to forfeit a recess to complete a test properly. He did it and he didn't complain. He accepted the notion that he hadn't taken proper time when the time had been alloted, so now he would lose his time. He scored perfectly on the test.

I can't say that I really do actively force Stitch to do math practice, read for his thirty minutes, that I reset clocks when time is being wasted, and when he says, "But I don't like this," I reply, "And I don't care." When other moms complain about their children's goofy toys, I can't tell them would forbid such useless things from my home. (Fortunately, Stitch hasn't expressed any interest in this stuff. He sticks with his electricity sets, and is now demanding a Chemistry set.) Years of switching off the TV has given me a home of "unless you're actively watching it, turn it off," cutting out the thirty minute toy commercials that pass for kid's TV these days.

For years I listened to teacher after teacher tell me of how smart he was, how capable he was, yet it was motivating him they couldn't do. Stitch would just shut down. It was and is maddening when we'd play spelling games and he would spell out MESSENGER correctly, yet on homework he'd flub SEKRT simply because he "didn't feel like it." And I'd patiently work with him, trying notebooks and diaries and worksheets, searching for some way to engage him in the right direction. Eventually there would be tears and fits and frustration for both of us, and I would feel bad and quit for awhile, only to try again a few days later. This year I told his teacher, "Be tough! Don't let him get away with anything, and he will try!" I think I scared him.

I remember Coach coming up to me after watching Stitch do one of his impromptu Ice Shows, her face exasperated even though she wasn't working with him that day, and saying, "He's wild! He needs to learn to check the movement, to be steady!"

I just looked at her. What else could I do? When Stitch is on Stitch's time, he skates the way he likes. Stitch was and is determined to go by his own rules, go his own way, and he doesn't just have a different drummer, he's got a whole damn marching band. When Stitch is fighting practice, it's not that he doesn't like Figure Skating, it's that Figure Skating doesn't seem to like him sometimes. The sport demands a slow patience that Stitch, either through maturity or physical ability or both, just doesn't have yet.

But we're getting there. Last weekend's victories during Moves and Flow may have seemed inconsequential to some, but for Stitch they were huge. The positive energy generated that morning overflowed when I caught him trying a Death Drop that evening. He started off in a spiral, spun, and flung out that free leg as high as he could, landing unsteadily and scaring himself. He looked to see if I would say anything, but I think I was just as shocked as he was.

I don't know whether to mention the incident to Coach or not. On the one hand, I don't want him pulling dangerous stunts like that, but on the other she may start her lecture about more lessons and I don't want to have that conversation again.

Some day, Stitch's talent and skill will catch up with his ambition. Until then, I will continue to be Positively Pushy. I'll ignore any dirty looks I get for my lists, flash cards, charts, chats, worksheets, chants, counting on my hands and on ice monitoring of practice. I won't record mistakes like Park Mee Hee, but I will continue to celebrate small victories. "Those crossrolls, amazing this week! Looks like you're feeling better about them." I won't call him a disgrace and garbage like Amy Chua. Instead I'll focus on his strengths. "Those jumps are really getting high! Much higher than before!" I clearly see that Figure Skating is having a positive effect on this child, in so many ways. As a weapon in my arsenal, it is a powerful one.

The Chinese Parenting Model as described by Amy Chua speaks of a "Virtuous Circle," wherein the child works hard, practices, gains praise and admiration, feels good, and this motivates him to do more and better. The thing with Stitch is that he doesn't care about the opinions or admiration of others. He only cares about his opinion of himself, so I have to turn that Virtuous Circle inside out.

A few nights ago, after his math drill, he stayed on the tablet for a few minutes more, drilling himself one more time on multiplication and division, trying to beat his time. He did. He smiled at himself, closed the program and stepped away happy. This past weekend he took his favorite competition trophy to bed with him. I asked him, "Are you ready to try for another one?"

"Yes. But the practice will be terrible."

"Probably. But I'll be around to help."

(Comments have been disabled due to the incredible controversy Amy Chua created with her book. If you're looking to say she's a terrible, mean mom and I am, too, you're missing the point entirely.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Preparing for Competition: Round #5

On the surface, January feels a long way off. It's not even in this year, it's next year, and MsV said she would have trouble remembering the date.

I won't. The Comp at Rink Across Town happens around my birthday. I am dreading the notion of turning 35, almost as much as I am dreading the idea of putting Stitch up against the girls in the Freeskate levels.

USFSA's answer to ISI's Freestyle is Freeskate. You have Freeskate levels all the way up through single jumps, at which point the USFS Basic Skills program ends and you graduate to the Pre-Pre, Pre, Pre-Juv, Juvenile and so on. But we're not worrying about that right now. Let's worry about Freeskate.

I've been trying to determine which Freeskate level Coach will pin the boys at, but I'm chronic for guessing a level too low. But it doesn't matter anyway, because here is where the rubber starts to meet the road. Here is where the Girls, having weeded out anyone not able to master three turns and crossovers, now become fierce. The true currency of skating, like it or not, is jumps and spins. I'm lucky in that Stitch already has a pretty solid spin, but his jumps need a lot of work. As I said to MsV, "You get line or height, but you don't get both." Gordon has a long way to go on spins, but he's got a pretty good Waltz and he's coming along on a Sow. (Look at me, using the lingo and everything.)

But if we put the Boys up against some Girls at the same level, they'd be toast. Even if they end up competing against each other at the same level, we'd need one to even out a flight of three. Chances are good that would be a female phenom, and she may as well collect her first place trophy and wait in the penalty box while the boys duke it out for second.

It's not that I'm bent on first place. I'm not. I just want to ensure Stitch has a fighting chance at it.

So while we wait and practice, I told Stitch about the costume I had in mind. "Now that you're freestyle," I explained. "You can have a bit more sparkle. So I was thinking a bead and crystal design on the shoulder."

He perked up. "Real crystal?" I know he hated last year's glitter and sequin substitutes.

"Yes. I'd fill in with beads, clear but silver lined. Red crystal. Do you want it on your shoulder or over your whole back?"

There was no pause. "Whole back."

"Better work on that Salchow."

He rolled his eyes.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How not to compare Children

One of the first things a skating pro will tell you is "don't compare children." And you sit in the stands and watch all the kids, determined not to compare, when suddenly the thought flits across your mind, "Well, that kid is doing the footflip. What's wrong with mine?" And then your eyes are flitting back and forth between Other Kid and Your Kid, you're getting more and more frustrated because Other Kid has a Coach with a less sterling rap than yours, so why on earth isn't Your Kid mopping the ice with Other Kid?

And then the kids come off the ice, you're frustrated at the skating, Your Kid is probably tired and frustrated, and suddenly the words, "You need to work on those footflips," fall out of your mouth. Then it's over. Suddenly Your Kid is mad at you and the morning may not be salvageable. You find yourself waking at 3am, thinking, "Oh God I was comparing kids!" And you feel like a felon.

It's hard, because there's always going to be some kid younger, better, faster than yours, and they're usually accompanied by a mom who won't shut up about them. On and on they ramble, talking about Other Kid's lessons and coaching and how they started at six months and they just love getting up at 4am to skate. You really don't want to admit to how you cram some cheese toast down Your Kid's throat and follow that with a funnel of highly sweetened coffee just to get them moving at seven, so you just let them go on while you feel worse and worse and worse.

So, what can you do about this?

My new parenting book admonishes me to "give up all expectations of perfection, and appreciate every effort, no matter how small." I've also made it a general rule to allow no negativity at the rink. So, I've stopped expecting Stitch to skate like Kurt Browning, and I've let him skate like Stitch. Extension free, kinda jerky, and often like an Egyptian. I've been watching for areas of improvement and focusing on those, letting the mistakes go entirely.

And it's working. Stitch actually did some pretty good extensions this morning, and when Coach Snape made him do the footwork sequence "a thousand times" while the other kids worked on backwards pivots, he did not complain. He took it in stride. When I asked him about it, he actually joked about it.  I couldn't have been more pleased.

But what about those Other Kids? The seemingly perfect ones? Even the not so perfect ones that just think they're Da Bomb? Ready?

Congratulate them.

Yup. I told a few kids, "Hey, good job put there. You looked good." And I meant it. The positive vibe nixed out anything else, the Other Kid felt good, their parents were nice, and Stitch often got a complement, too. Everyone felt better.

Sometimes you will have to put on those mental blinders when the five year old does a backwards haircutter spiral. It gets annoying when the same people who insist that age doesn't matter will start to gush over a tot learning waltz jumps. Shut that part of your brain up when it says, "Just a little more coaching, your kid could do that too!" Just smile and watch your kid. Last week they couldn't do that footflip without wheeling backwards. This week they did it and stayed steady.