Thursday, March 31, 2011

Camel Spins??

I had to go pick up a pattern for a vest I've been asked to make, so Stitch and I headed to the store right after I got home. We were walking and talking.

"What's that new jump, where you pick in and hold your free leg out a bit?"
"A half flip?"
"No, this one," I demonstrated, much to the amusement of the passers by.
"Oh. That's a ballet jump," Stitch was laughing at me, too.
"That's a ballet jump? Really?"
"Yeah. And we started learning Camel Spins."
"Wait, what? Camel spins? Really?"
Stitch giggled. "Yeah."
"No way! Camel spins?!"
"Yeah! And the Shoot the Duck Spin."
"Sit spins?" (Okay, I saw these. There was a lot of falling. A lot.)

Stitch was excited. I bought the pattern, Stitch grabbed two bags of scrap trimmings for some reason, I showed my concept to my New Friend and Stitch made puppy eyes for some candy.We agreed to watch "Hop" over the weekend after the first Ice Show rehearsal, and came home to some lemon chicken soup.

I guess I need to watch lessons more often. I can't fathom Stitch doing a Camel Spin, really.

Three Qualities of the Effective Skating Parent

I've been at the rink a lot more lately. I came to the horrifying realization that for the past two weeks I've been there five days out of seven. I'm not really sure how this happened, but I'm pretty sure it's an accident based on the flop season of the college hockey team. Yes, that's what it is.

I'm enjoying watching Stitch learn and practice and become good friends with Gordon. I've debated bedazzling my work coat, and reflected on the finer points of different polar fleece weights. But mostly I watch other moms. I listen in the lobby, eavesdrop in the stands, and the colorful cast of paranoid people who surround me is endlessly entertaining. I thought that Pre-Alpha parents, flapping in the stands and screaming about swizzles was awesome, but Freestyle moms take the insanity to new heights.

Dads are less common but there, usually standing near the wall trailing a Zuca bag and sparkle soakers, looking dazed and lost, sometimes horrified as their daughters run around in skin tight clothes and short skirts. (The Hot Pants over the Mondor Tights look is becoming more common, I think it may overtake the Chloe Noels before winter.)

But the Moms are everywhere. At the Freestyle Level it's really no longer cool to watch all your child's lessons. On a Saturday session, the Parental Peanut Gallery is down to about a dozen, with the majority of the parents in the lobby. They're wandering around, chatting on or checking out their cell phones, drinking coffee (*cough*), pretending to read, chatting amongst themselves about what's in that dress bag and how cheap they got it ("It's custom, you know. I'm sure it cost her hundreds but I got it for eighty!"), and always parking their daughter's Zuca right against a viable seat on a bench, sitting next to it while they do whatever it is they do best. This is usually glaring around to see who belongs to who and what they think they're doing here.

As the parent of a young boy, I guess I don't warrant much attention. I talk to the Zamboni drivers and get ignored by most of the other moms. This is fine by me. I've noticed that Ms V doesn't get much attention either, so it must be a Boy Thing. But all this listening and observing has led me to believe that there are three qualities that make a Good Skating Parent, and the possession of and degree to which you have these qualities will be what assures your child's success in skating.

They are: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Paranoia, and a massive Trust Fund in your name.


There's no question that it's a sick bunch of individuals who gladly toss their children to skating coaches, only to take them home an hour later, covered in bruises and dried tears. I think the only variation is by degrees.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Toepicks Have it In for Us

Tonight I made it to lessons just in time to see Stitch wheeling a corner on an inside spiral, Gordon not far behind as the two boys were apparently racing the warmups. I relieved The Sitter, who said that Stitch actually did crossovers, as I had texted her in big letters "TELL HIM TO DO CROSSOVERS" just as I got out of work. Stitch and Gordon flew past us, sliding on their bottoms on Shoot the Duck attempts. Stitch went past the door, saying something about wanting a refund but I ignored him.

I gathered up the things and went to the Lobby to find a suitable spot to figure out what to do with myself for the next half hour. I'd finished my book, I didn't have a beading project, there wasn't anyone to talk to, so I got a Diet Coke and lingered by the window. Stitch saw me watching and rolled his eyes, so I assumed this was a "get lost" look. I wandered around, debating snagging a new book but I've already got two in the stack at home, plus another title I need to find. I watched the skateboarders outside and wandered back in, where Ms V caught me and started talking about her husband getting all ready for baseball season. Her car is apparently loaded with half the contents of Sports Authority, and she isn't sure what's going on, giving some horrendous figure he's spent on all this stuff.

I looked up, seeing Coach supporting Stitch by his backside. This didn't bother me, this is typical for Shoot the Duck, but then I noticed Stitch crying.

"Is he all right?" Ms V was suddenly concerned.
Coach's usual response to a fall is to give them hard looks until they get up, so either Stitch snowed her with a really good injury act or this is serious. Whatever it is, I need to intervene.
I get into the Rink and Stitch is performing his Lump of Pain Routine, so Coach is forced to shove him out of the ice door where he nearly keels over on me. He's all red faced, sniffles, crying and tears and mess and goo. "What hurts, where did you fall," I ask.
He cries harder.
"He fell on a spiral," Coach says. "He looked around and lost his focus."
Damn toepicks. "What hurts," I repeat, firmer to get through the tears.
Stitch indicates his knee, the same knee that got whaled by a bathroom door stall just a few days ago which earned him a band-aid and pity points from Teacher.
"Okay," I acknowledge. I send Ms V for an ice pack so she'll stop hovering, and I comfort Stitch. Coach goes back on the ice.
"Breathe, just breathe. Slow down. It's all right."
Stitch huffles and sighs, still gooey and red.
Other people nearby tell him he was doing great, but this just makes him madder.
"Stitch, were you looking for me on that spiral?" I ask him.
He nods.
"I thought I was bugging you so I left. I'm sorry."
He snuffles and buries his head in my scarf.
The lesson ends and Coach comes to check on him. "Will he survive?"
"Probably," I sigh. I figure this was partially serious, but mostly an act.

We leave and Stitch is sullen, angry, limping and hurt inside and out. Ms V keeps chattering and Gordon attempts to cheer Stitch by getting out toys and playing with his tiger soakers. I get off skates and put Stitch's shoes on backwards, which gets him finally talking. "Mom, you know those are on the wrong feet."
"Did I do that? That was silly of me... I guess I was listening to Gordon tell me about those cool toys."

Stitch looks over and Gordon's got some spinning top thing, which they both get absorbed in and suddenly the knee isn't so bad. Ms V starts dragging Gordon away, I pack up Stitch and we're off. Sort of. Stitch is limping dramatically out the door. "The pain, the pain..." he moans.

At that point I actually wished we had a Zuca. I'd have parked his little butt on it and dragged him out to the car. But I had to cajole and finagle him out, promising him a pillow for his leg and some rounds of Mario with dinner. I shut the car door and look back at him, still sullen. "Stupid toepicks," I say.
"Yeah. I'm going to grind them off on the sidewalk."
"Why not just pay attention next time. That will save me money on blades."

We get home and I set him up on the sofa, inspecting his hurt knee but finding no bruising or swelling.  I put it up on a pillow just the same, bring him his dinner and we get massacred by Bowser and his Goombas for awhile. I offer him some Tylenol if it hurts too bad but he turned it down. I carried him to bed, put him in his pajamas and he settled in to read about birds and Junie B. Jones.
"Stitch, do you want me to watch your lessons?"
He looked at me. "Sort of."
"Well, if you want me to get lost, just do this," and I made a finger across the neck motion. "I'll leave."
"I can't do that if I have to hold my arms out."
"You never do that anyway."
He rolled his eyes.
"If you want me to stay, I will. If you want me to leave, that's fine, too. I stepped away today because I thought I was bothering you," I explained.
"You weren't."
"I'll keep that in mind. Just tell me what to do."

Still no bruising on the knee. This is actually a bit of a disappointment. One of the ways I cheer up a bad bruise is to make "Bruise People." Take an ink pen, draw around the perimeter of the bruise (the more bumpy, the better), add a face and stick some arms and legs out of it. Voila. Stitch gets a kick out of me drawing on him, and a collection of bruise people usually ends hilariously. At one point we had two cops and a fireman. I was really hoping for a Bruise Mona Lisa, but it looks like I'll have to wait. Oh well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's the Buzz

The past three Saturdays, I've been up in the stands wondering what the objectives are to Pre-Freestyle. I have a pretty good understanding of the ISI curriculum, but this level isn't on it and I couldn't really place what the kids were doing. I get that there needs to be a "bridge" level and I support that, but it would help me as a good and supportive skating parent to know exactly what's up. No one seemed too interested in telling me.


Last night Coach was saying that Gordon needed to skate more, practice more. Ms V relayed the frustration of getting a small boy to practice independently, so I showed Ms V "The List" of moves, which I knew I'd have to revamp. Coach looked it over and then got me the testing sheet for the freestyle levels, circling the Pre-FS and FS1 lists. "Do that," she said.

Ah HA! I stuffed that paper in my pocket, my own map to lost pirate treasure! NOW I know what's going on! When I got home, how disappointed I was when I didn't have a clue what a backwards "Dogbone" crossover was.

The old testing sheets through the Alphabet levels grades kids on a black and white, pass or fail ("needs improvement" to be nice about it) basis. The Freestyle testing sheets are different in that you get a number grade, with 0 being "Suck" and 10 being "Medal Material." To pass a level, you have to get at least a score of 5 on each element.

This sheet also makes plain that the test you get at the end of each level isn't the real deal, that you need to hold membership in ISI, and talk to the Skating Director to schedule and pay for a formal test. Any tests over FS7 get done through the District. Again, why this can't be explained in the Alphabet levels is beyond me.

The stated objectives of Pre-Freestyle are as follows:

Entrance for Spin
Entrance for Jumps
Check Out Position
Backwards 1 Foot Glide on a Circle
Waltz 3 Turns
Power 3 Turns
Backward "dogbone" Crossover

All this makes perfect sense. Except the Dogbone part, WTF is that? I think I know, but then again I thought the Half Flip was a Ballet Jump for awhile.

Objectives for FS1 are:

Forward Inside Pivot (Stick your toe in the ice and spin around)
One Half Flip (that dig/hop/turn thing)
Forward Spiral
Two Foot Spin
Waltz Jump
Backwards Edges, outside and inside

Stitch is doing a lot of moves from FS1, so much so that Two Foot Spins are nearing my list of "things that if I see many more of, I will puke." Swizzle still tops this list. Backwards edges have their good days and bad days, much like forward spirals which can either be graceful as a boy can get or resemble an albatross struggling for lift off. The basics are still with us, with Stitch of the belief he's already good at forward crossovers so he doesn't need do them at all during warmups. (You try telling a stubborn little boy that there's always room for improvement. Let me know how far you get. In the meantime, I'll be in the stands, mortified.)

Power 3's I anticipate being a hurdle. There's just a lot of coordination going on that I think is hard for a little boy brain to process. Gordon's much better at the turns than Stitch is, and he's just as flummoxed. But that's okay. Summer is coming, and when he's not in the woods up north or camping with me, he'll be in the rink with Coach and they can work on it.

If all else fails, throw them into a program and he'll figure them out.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Growing Up

Last night at public skate, Stitch brought his own copy of some Michael Jackson songs. Some old friends and new friends showed up, I sat in the stands to talk, looking up to watch Stitch dance and play. He kept watching me to watch for him, jumping his new jump and doing his new moves.

I got absorbed in the debate over the fit of some child's skates, looking up in time to see Stitch hop from one foot to the other, but trip on a toepick and take a hard dive on his chest. I could see what happened; he'd gotten the wind knocked out of him again, his mouth open and his eyes full of that momentary terror. I stood up, flashing my "OK" sign and when it wasn't returned I moved to the ice door. Stitch looked at me, mad as hell, his face red and tears in his eyes. He motioned for me to STAY PUT.

I sat down, my friend asking if he was all right. "I think so, but he's crying."
"He's still putting on a show for us."
"He is, but he's crying."
Stitch was still skating; spinning and lunging, fighting back his tears.
Friend shrugged. "He's all right."

And Stitch was. After awhile, he got over it. He came off the ice awhile later, still mad.
"Stitch, what's wrong? Are you okay? Do you hurt anywhere?"
He glared at me. "I'm fine."
"Then why are you mad?"
"Because when you're at a theatre, and someone falls, do you do this?" he made my "OK" sign. "No! You don't! That ruined my show! Don't do that!"
"Stitch, I'm your mom. I'm going to worry about you every time you fall; on the ice, on the playground, at home, everywhere. That's my job. I only do OK because you can't hear me out there, you know that. I just need to know that you're all right."
Stitch was mad for awhile longer, but went back onto the ice. Before too long he was smiling and playing with his friends again.

It even happened again, the same accident in the same way, and this time Stitch got up, flashed "OK" at me and kept going. I didn't even have to get up. As it turns out, I even missed a hard fall during lessons that day. It happened while I was in the lobby getting coffee, and I was sorely reprimanded in the car ride home. That night I felt his knees for bruises and his feet for blisters. His knees were dry, and I caught a red patch on his ankle from where the top of his boot had rubbed too much. He rolled his eyes at me as I put lotion and Neosporin on him. "This is my job," I said.

Little boys stop being little so fast. A few nights ago we were looking through the old baby pictures. "Remember the squirrel we took in?" I pointed to a picture. "That was the first one."
"What happened to him?"
"He was just a baby. We kept him for a few days until I could get him to an animal sanctuary. They let him go when he was old enough." That one was wandering aimlessly around a playground and balled between my feet. I picked him up and carried him home, where we fed him puppy milk to get him through those days.
"What about that other one?"
I found that one on the ground during a bad storm, sitting, soaked and growling at the world. "That one was just stunned after he fell out of his tree. He was fine after a few hours. I just let him go." Yes, that squirrel was fine, jumping around in the animal carrier I was keeping him in. I had to hold it at arm's length and dump it upside down for fear of him jumping out and back at me. Wild animals don't have much thought for a good Samaritan.
"Why couldn't we keep them?" Stitch asked. "They were cute."
"They were. But they didn't belong to us."

Ultimately, Stitch doesn't belong to us, either.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Teaching Kids to Eat

Last night was All Friends Night at public skate. (I've realized that I'm going to have to be more careful in my blogging, as I've narrowed us down to one of a handful of kids.) Stitch had two friends from school and Other Kid who he usually skates with. Other Kid showed up eating an ice cream cone, but loudly said "I should not be eating this, skaters do not eat junk food."

"Who says?" I ask, ever the defender of a kid's right to Kidfood like Lucky Charms and Creme Eggs.

"My Coach."

I know who he's referring to and I roll my eyes.

All the kids get skates on and start playing. Friends from school start Not Practicing, while their mom rolls her eyes. We chat and laugh, encourage Friends to "go backward! do crossovers! Practice!" all to no avail.

One of the Friends takes a hard fall to the knee and exits the ice, sobbing. Stitch comes out to assure that she's okay, then asks me for a dollar. "What for?"

"I want to get friend a treat, because she fell."

Well, that's sweet as pie, but wait until resurface. "So she can sit and enjoy it, okay?"

Stitch agrees to wait, and goes back to playing.

The group gets moved to the big rink, and a cheer goes up from the children. Stitch takes this moment to get Friends some candy and himself a soda. Other Kid spots this and shakes his head. "Soda is the enemy of the figure skater."

"Is that what your coach says?" I ask.

"Yeah."

"Good thing she's not Stitch's coach, then. He can eat whatever he wants."

Other Kid doesn't like this answer and frowns. If he only knew that we hit the McD's drive thru on the way home that night. Today I spotted him, holding a candy bar from his mom's purse, while a fellow skater chastised him. "Don't do it! Don't eat it!" Neither of these kids were over twelve. I just walked away.

Folks, this is how Eating Disorders take root. It starts real small, like that Mustard Seed you learned about in church. Small Rules and Rituals. No Soda. No Candy. No Junk. This sounds okay on the surface. But then some people take it too far. Nothing other than water or coffee (black). No Candy, ever. Junk food? Let's talk binging/purging. Apples, one slice at a time to savor it. Cans of tuna are only 80 calories. Mustard is calorie free and flavors everything. No food at all after 6pm or before 8am. I've seen a lot of this in the theatre, and there are always horror stories coming from the Gymnastics people.

I have a real issue with this coach putting restrictions on her kid's eating, even if she just does it in passing or "for fun." She's in a position of authority, and some of these girls look at her like Juno herself. She has the power to set up a negative association with food, whether she likes it or not, and all it's going to take is a few comments like "soda is the enemy."

Soda is not your enemy. Soda, every so often and in a moderate quantity, so no worse than candy, also fine in moderation. Kids need to be taught what is junk food and what is not, and that it's okay to have "junk food" every once in awhile because (face it) it tastes real good and is a great treat.

Coach hasn't said word one to me about Stitch's eating, beyond "give him some coffee" before group lessons to make him pay attention. If she ever does I'd be curious to see what she'd say. If she starts telling me to restrict during these years, pre-pubescent up to 16, I would question that. I keep Stitch on a pretty even keel of the Basic Food groups, but I don't cut fat or count calories because he looks like a twig in his skinny jeans. I typically don't keep chips, cookies, or stuff like that in the house, and when I do buy it I earmark it "as a treat." Yes, we do eat fast food on occasion because I love cheeseburgers and french fries and Chicago style hot dogs. But last night at the drive thru was my first time having red meat since last week and been to McD's I can't remember when. (I only remember my last cheeseburger because it was the Speedskating Meet.) Even Stitch said, "this is really good, but we can't do this all the time."

Nope, this was a treat since it was late and we were starved.

If anyone wants a great goulash recipe, or homemade pasta sauce, chicken stock, or vegetable minestrone, I'd be happy to share. Cutting kids off from junk food, rather than teaching them how to enjoy it, is a critical error. There's really no such thing as a Diet, it's all a bunch of daily choices with an overall goal of good health. Having some candy every now and then never hurt anyone, figure skater or otherwise.

Pass the cheetos.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Did you Skate?"

I was into skating years ago, back during the Tonya/Nancy thing. I watched Lillehammer like everyone else, holding my breath when Tonya was late with a broken lace, wondering what kind of skater doesn't have an extra pair of laces on hand for a situation like this. It seemed like a pretty obvious thing to have; an extra pair of laces in a sport that relies on tightly laced boots. I hated her costume, her music, her hair, everything, but I watched and loved it. I was pea-green with envy at little Oksana Baiul and I fervently prayed for Tara Lipinski to get hit by a bus. Nancy Kerrigan was such a goody two shoes, at least until that mic caught her whining at Oksana's late entry. ("She's just going to cry again.") High drama, and it was beautiful.

When I was fifteen, figure skating was something I wanted to try. But there were no ice rinks around that I knew of, my mom wasn't interested in getting me to do anything other than Masonic Youth, and my general ambivalence on roller skates left me with not much more than some bruised knees, goofy candid snapshots from a Roller Rink Birthday Party, and a terrific knowledge of Old Testament heroines.

Since then, I've had a passing interest in figure skating. It's neat to watch, but I never had cause or desire to get into the dirty details of the sport. Like most people, I really only saw it once every four years and most of the competitors were unknown to me. I didn't know there was an ice rink near me until I bumbled into it by chance while donating books to what I thought was just a Community Center. For some reason I just glazed over the "AND ICE RINK" board on the sign. I had no idea that Boots and Blades were sold separately until I saw them at the skate store, mounted to the wall like serrated steak knives. I only knew that skating was expensive, hard, elite, and involved some dour looking Eastern European coaches who appeared to eat kittens for breakfast.

But now, I know some of this stuff. I've got a base knowledge of the Leagues, the clubs, the competitions, the people. I even have opinions about curriculums. I have a good idea of what new skates are going to cost me and how long it's going to take me to get them because beginner boys can't walk into a store and walk out with skates like the beginner girls can. I can sew a skating shirt in about three hours and it will even have some minor decoration. I've even started saying that some ice is crowded when it's really not in an effort to keep "our" ice clear. While I feel some minor guilt about this, I have to take into account that the person I've said it to would and probably has said the same thing to me yesterday. I'm also pretty sure that none of the Coaches eat kittens, for breakfast or any other meal. (I only have doubts about one.) I don’t know everything and I don’t pretend to, but I’ve amassed a workable knowledge of what I’m doing here.

When I start to talk about what I know, other parents ask me, "Did you skate?" and I answer "no." They usually follow up fast with "Did you ever want to skate?" This is a trap question, because I can’t win in my answer. If I answer yes, then I get the wicked look which belies the assumption that I am living out dead dreams through my kid. If I answer no, yet I just happen to know or I've taken the time to learn the gory details of the sport, I'm clearly a liar or a complete maniac. I just say, "Well, sort of." I leave it open ended and ambiguous, then I excuse myself for another cup of coffee so they can't pry.

I challenge any woman to stand up and honestly say that no, she never ever ever for a few moments, days or months, want to be a Figure Skater. Of course I wanted to skate. Most girls do. I also wanted to be a veterinarian until I dissected that baby pig, crying on the bus ride home for my piglet and all the others that had been named "Wilbur" by sadistic high school kids. I wanted to be a ballerina, only realizing I wasn’t all that graceful until it was too late, onstage in front of a hundred other parents, tripping over my fellow dancers while performing “Blue Danube” like a sack of pink sequined potatoes. I wanted to be a doctor, but then I watched some girls braid the hair of the corpse in that anatomy class while we removed her spleen and severed her hand, and I decided that this was not a good career choice, careening down the hallway to the bathroom where I could safely faint. It's the same with Figure Skating. All it would have taken would be the knowledge that I'd be in tights at 5:30 in the morning and I'd have said no. I hated tights, I hated 5:30am, and the combination of wearing the Devil's Handiwork at an Ungodly Hour of the Day would have ended it quickly.

Of course I have dreams for my kid. What parent doesn’t? But many days I’m just in amazement that he can do the things he does, without any time to think about what’s possible. What may have been my short lived dream decades ago has evolved into a supporting role, dusted with the occasional compliments that come from having a kid in this sport. I've taken the time to learn all this stuff, not because it’s anything I think I’ll really need, but because I'm curious. It's interesting; the rules and regulations, how it all works. When I heard that Yu-Na Kim was gearing up to compete at Worlds (where ever and whenever that winds up being) I was dying to know how that was even possible. I still find skates in and of themselves fascinating; when the rocker goes out from under me and I land square on my tail, I'm still amazed by the accidental physics of it all. I'm really glad none of my childhood girlfriends knew about the hair weaving technique Synchro Skaters use as they can't use bobby pins, because I can only imagine in horror the hours of hair pulling I would have been subjected to, being one of two girls with really long hair that got "experimented" on regularly.

I’ve started paying attention to skating again because I like the High Drama, and while I haven’t prayed for Nathan Chen to get hit by a bus yet, I’m sure his day is coming. I learned this stuff because it's nice to know, it's good to be prepared, and even though I still haven't bought a spare set of laces to carry in the skate bag, I feel much more confident in this little venture with the knowledge that I probably should.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Left Foot

Last night I booked it home, got in the car, drove to the rink and relieved The Sitter who had taken Stitch to the Put-In Lesson that evening. I wasn't sure about this, Stitch had been rolling his eyes at the concept, but when I got there both boys were laughing and having fun. They were doing the warmup routine, waltz jumps, something with a swizzle and a hop and they try to clack their skates together, and that new jump; a toepick dig into the ice, hop up, half twist and land on toepicks.

I was talking to Rink Pal, distracting myself from the abject horror I feel as a parent at any jump, and asked, "What is that? That thing they're doing now?"
"That? Oh, she's getting them ready for toe loops. Half loop, actually."

Stitch was hopping and smiling and laughing, he looked at me with this "I'm awesome" grin, and then he got called away by Coach to go do something else. She had the boys finish up with swizzle races, slalom races forward and backward, and the horrifying three lap race where toepicks become mortal enemies of small children. Coach declared the final minutes as "free time," and Stitch kept flying. Gordon, exhausted and at the end of his rope, departed without a word to Rink Pal or me, but he's a kid so I don't really care.

Stitch, on the other hand. I was afraid I was going to have to ask Rink Pal to get his skates on and fetch him. He was laughing, sailing around, feinting at the door, darting away again, laughing at us the whole time. "I don't want to go!"

He had the rink to himself, I don't blame him. But leave we did, towards home and dinner and normalcy where people don't willingly jump around on low friction surfaces.

When we got home, I got to thinking. Coach is right. Why spend valuable time and money allowing Stitch to languish for ten weeks listening to a Coach I don't particularly like talk too much and jerk him around. (And why why do I always get this coach in the Group Class lottery?) All he'll do is scrape ice, hang off the boards, go in circles, spin, and complain that he hates group lessons. ("Group lessons are booooorring!" Repeat ad nauseum.) Why do that, when we have Privates and lots of ice? Everyone's established that it's just a matter of practice and patience anyway, he's nearly there, why waste the resources? He does really well in that class on Saturday, much better than I expected. He's engaged, active, and moving. This kind of thing was becoming increasingly rare in the Group Classes, as the skills started stacking high up behind his “official” placement.

This is why no one honestly blogs about skating, because the experience is different for everyone. This is our journey, that is yours, and I'm starting to think that this isn't as linear as I had originally imagined.

That girl who was endlessly repeating Alpha, her mom was spending $120 a pop per session, over and over and over again. At five times, $600.00, it becomes silly. Isn't there a more economical way? An hour or two of pickup privates on Public ice for $60ish per hour? Do it on certain public sessions and the ice is less crowded than a typical Pre-FS Practice Ice. Even if you need two hours at four half hour sessions, you're saving $360.00. (I subtracted the original $120 on the Group Class.) I saw her last weekend, with a private coach, crossing over like the rest of the kids. Was there any concession made for the thought that this girl might do better in Privates than in a Group format? Why is the Group Class schedule being held as the pro forma standard by which all kids must learn, when I know of lots of kids who just do privates?

Faster progressing kids makes you think about the time factor. If a kid wants to be a Big League Skater, they don't have time to agonize like that. They need to get it or not, but fifty weeks for a six or seven year old is an eternity when the age gateway is 13. Yes, I actually did read portions of the USFS Rulebook, and if anyone tells Stitch that Big League Men don't get points for Spirals, I'll hunt them down like the dogs they are. I'm also pleased that USFS hates feathered costumes as much as I do, at least on Synchro Skaters.

The Skating Game is rigged from the start, and the weird doublespeak begins from Day One. At Home Rink, kids can't get into a Pre-Alpha Class until they're 6. So, how does this explain a kid doing Axels at seven or eight? The YouTubes are full of seven year olds doing Axels. Good ones. According to Coach, this is normal. I believe this, because you can't wander onto an online skating parent’s message board without getting an inferiority complex when you admit your six year old is still learning swizzles. (They’re not Pre-Pre yet? Wow, you’re behind!) If Axel Paulsen had any idea that his jump would be the source of anxiety for kids still learning multiplication tables and parental competition akin to dueling mountain hillbilly factions, he might have kept it to himself. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

Following the standard Group Class format, four sessions per year starting at six years old, kids don't get to imitate Mr. Paulsen until nine. This is assuming that they don't repeat levels or skip a session. My understanding is that most kids repeat levels, but that could be avoided with Privates and a hella lotta practice. So, would anyone care to explain that seven year old doing Axels? The answer, of course, is the Ugly Truth.



I know I've used this before, but it fits in so many places.

Johnny Weir was an elderly 12 when he began skating, and yet he made it under the wire. Evan Lysacek started skating at 8, but won the Novice Title at 13. (Wikipedia, both of them.) That's swizzles to double jumps and flying spins in five years. Is anyone really going to insist to me that there wasn't some fudging (and inordinate spending of cash) going on? Now, I don’t know if Stitch wants to be a Big League Skater, or if he even could be, but it would be nice to leave that door open for him should he wish to really try for little girls throwing stuffed animals at him, get the big crystal trophies he lusts after and be on TV.

We can still do the formal tests, and I fully intend to. I'm not going to do Summer Session since I can't promise him to be there all the time, but Coach has some pretty cool plans for summer when he can be there. We can use that time to do the tests, get the patches, and be on track for Fall and Winter. Since Pre-Free has no "objectives" that I can see beyond getting the feet wet in a faster environ, why not shoot for the Gamma test in a few weeks? And Delta in Mid-Summer? He has to take the ISI tests anyway if he wants to compete in July. (If he doesn't pass that, I'm buying pizza for the rink. Kid's got solid edges, forward and backward. Backward edges are FS2.) If getting the patches becomes an issue, I can still call ISI direct. I still believe in the standards, and I will make sure Stitch lives up to them. But as for a Linear Path, I can't promise that anymore. The speed at which Stitch picks up higher level skills has thrown a wrench into everything. If anyone's unhappy with detours, then I just have to place that in their court.

Stitch is really happy. I remind him all the time of his left foot, so he knows how I feel. I'm always bugging him to work on his left foot, but when he's figured out how to draw hearts on the ice with his spin, saying "I love you, mom!" it's hard to stay mad at anything or care about what other people think. When I first filled out that form to request Private Coaching, I wrote, "is bored in group class. needs challenge."

That's what I asked for, and that's what I got.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Being "That Mom"

Rainy day today, and Stitch was lagging around the place, getting whiny and irritable. So we went out for public skate, always good for exercise. I didn't skate, as I was still slightly hung over from the previous evening's festivities.

Stitch did a little ice show for me, hopping, spinning, bunny hopping and lunging. He did his three turns and mohawks. Hopping backwards on one foot, which is always terrifying, and catching his skate behind him with a big smile. After that he started to play, which was fine. I was watching, drinking something carbonated to settle my stomach, and Speedskater's Mom showed up. She sprawled out with a hockey bag, newspapers and a bunch of stuff. Speedskater was in hockey skates today, something new.

I like Speedskating Mom. She's fun to talk to. We chatted awhile about TV and the kids. Apparently now that Speedskating season is over, her kid will be taking a mini hockey class of sorts. This has the Speedskating team afraid they will lose him to hockey. The kid says he wants to play hockey, but she is adamant that this will not happen. "I don't care what he wants, he won't be playing hockey," she said with resolve.

I know why she's saying this. Her kid has shown some talent for speedskating, and she doesn't want to lose out on a potentially good thing. Honestly, I'd feel the same way if Stitch suddenly started talking about switching disciplines.

Anyway, she looked out over the ice and says, "Look at him, what is he doing?"
"He's talking with that girl. It's cute."
"He should be skating. He is wasting time."
"Maybe he's helping her." The girl looked like this was her first time out.
Didn't matter. She stood up and started yelling. "GO SKATE! SKAAAATE!" Her kid sagged a bit but started skating.

We talked awhile more and then she looked up. "What is he doing now?"
"Chasing the guard with the other boys." Stitch, Speedskater and about three hockey kids were hanging off a guard.
"He's wasting time! He needs to practice!"
"I think it's okay, Stitch gets his speed from running these guys down."
Didn't matter. She got up and went to the ice door, flagged him down and gave him a quick talking to.

At resurface we were both at the ready, blade guards in hand for when the kids came off the ice. We bought the kids some drinks and snacks, sat with them and asked about their skates. Then we regloved, rejacketed, and shoved them back out. Guard Chasing began anew, the boys flying around while the Guard dodged and whirled and played stupid games with them.

Speedskating mom and I talked, and she looked up. "What is he doing? What is that?"
Speedskater was out, holding the little girl's hand as they skated around. "That's just cute."
"He needs to practice! Why does he do this?"
"He's just having fun."
She stood up, flagging and waving. "SKATE! GO SKATE! SKAAAATE!"
She didn't even seem to notice the amused looks from the "normal" parents around us. I did. 

But I could sympathize. Sometimes it's frustrating when they don't practice at all. But they're kids. And they're Boys. It's just kinda funny to see her evolution from a laid back kinda gal to the one who is screaming from the stands. "I keep telling him, we are here to practice or we go home."
"I dunno, it's nice to just let them play every now and then."
"He'd be so much better if he would really practice."
"You're preaching to the choir."

Both boys made it to the end, and were some of the last ones off the ice. Stitch was panting and sweaty when I collected him. "Get this jacket off of me! It's hot!"
"I'm freezing."
"You should skate next time!"
"I know. Next time."

Put in lesson tomorrow, so I think he deserved a full session to play. Really I just wanted to tire him out a bit. Next weekend is the last weekend of Full Skate Morning, which is kinda nice. I've missed having breakfast between skate sessions. I will miss Rink Across Town and their Awesome Skate Director, though. I may have convinced Stitch's cute girlfriend to come to Home Rink in the interim. When I told Stitch, he was excited.
"Maybe you two can practice together during public skate."
"Oh yeah, that would be fun!"
"She was looking real good on her crossovers yesterday."
"Yeah! I complimented her on them."
"That's awesome of you."

I hope I don't wind up being the one screaming from the stands. I have to grit my teeth a lot, but so far I haven't screamed. Muttered? Yes. I have done some muttering. Maybe it's an incremental process to screaming... Crap.

Super Saturday

Yesterday was my first glimpse that what we're doing isn't exactly normal. I was sitting up in the stands, watching Stitch blow off the warm up coaches (typical), shivering and anticipating the end of the skating day. He'd started out with a lesson with Coach, followed by 45 minutes of Practice Ice across town, now Group Lesson and then we had big plans.

Skate Dad, with two kids in the program (one of which went pretty far in Ice Dance recently) came up and stood next to me. "Hey, how's your little guy?"

"He's down there. He's doing okay. How's the Dance Team?"

"Oh, they broke up."

Wow! I skooched over and had him sit next to me. Details, please! He kind of shook his head as he gave me the sorry details of the firing of a coach, the hiring of a new coach, planning a new training schedule and then the mom of the partner calling the whole thing off three days later. "Did she give any reason at all?"

"Nope, they just said they were done."

Just like that. "That's too bad, they looked so good together."

"We kind of knew things were going downhill. You can tell."

"What about the other one, how's he doing?"

"He's down there in Freestyle One. He didn't pass out of it last time, which is probably good. He can't get that move. But when they spend half the class doing warmups and just a half hour doing the lesson, it's almost impossible."

"Does he take privates?"

"No. But at these levels, you kind of have to."

"Maybe you should think about it."

"Yeah, but he's only seven. My wife doesn't want to push him like that."

I was shivering more now.

"What about Stitch? Does he do privates?"

"Yeah. With Coach," I pointed. "He does so much better in Privates."

"Oh."

At that point the lesson was about done, Stitch was done with a capital "D" and we said our goodbyes. I felt weird. Why not push a kid a little, even though they're seven? They've got to grow up sometime. I didn't think I had been doing anything strange, tossing Stitch in privates, despite his age.

I also felt bad for the Coach who had lost a team. Way back when, had I known what I do now, I would have asked this one to take Stitch. Now that he's got a solid thing going with Coach Y, it's hard to go back, but I know I've got a backup in mind if I need it. The whole conversation was an indicator of just how fragile skating can be.

I collected Stitch, who was audibly complaining, and talked to Coach briefly about his lack of focus during Group Lessons. I had to cut him a little slack, though, he knew where we were going next. Coach wasn't going to care, so I just had to let it go and say he'd do better next week. She said there were buckets of ice for next week, so we scheduled a put-in lesson. It's nice, just focusing on the skills now and not worrying about a new program. The Waltz Jumps are looking more and more solid; I'd watched Stitch do three in a row with the fancy turns and everything that morning. Even Ms V is liking this little break. (Which they ended up taking due to schedule issues.)

We left quickly, hit the store for some last minute stuff, dashed home, changed clothes and back out the door for the Comic Convention. Two of my friends are hard-core fans, and they stay with us over the weekend to save money on a hotel room. It's great, and this is the first time Stitch has been around for it. (He's usually been shipped off to a grandparent's because he was too young.) But now I felt he was mature enough, so I dressed him up as one of our favorite video game characters, gave him his own spending money, and off we went. I told him that we always order Thai (he loves Thai) we always stay up late and we always laugh a lot.

Sure enough, we ran into my Friends and had a blast wandering the aisles, brushing into Stormtroopers and Cosplayers, Stitch getting his picture taken (they ask, it's protocol to ask before taking a picture) and loading up on Simpson's, Looney Tunes and he even picked up an old book of Casper comics. I bought him a graphic novel of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which the artist was kind enough to sketch in and sign for him (you can't say I don't try.)

But the highlight was meeting his favorite Saturday night TV personality, live and in person. Yes, the guy who hosts the show we watch every Saturday night after skating, he was there. "He's REAL?" Stitch didn't believe me.

"He's right there!" I pointed.

We waited in a pretty decent line, and when we got up to the table I had to lift Stitch up since he was so short. "I'm your biggest fan!" Stitch said, the moment he was at eye level with his favorite TV persona.

TV guy laughed and signed a card for him. We posed for pictures and I said, "We watch every Saturday, but he usually passes out halfway through."

"So do I," said TV Persona.

Laughs all around. A good day. We came home, ordered buckets of Thai, ate ourselves sick, drank beer (not Stitch), and Stitch was remarkably conversational, funny and mature with my friends. We watched the Traditional Saturday Night show, as Friends had never heard of this guy and didn't know what the hullaballoo was about.

This morning we played classic video games and ate pancakes, with Stitch learning all the horrible traps we'd learned when we were his age. And again, he was witty and well-behaved. He stepped up to the occasion and I was proud of him. Every time I've held the bar high, he's risen to it. In this instance, it was: Behave well with my friends, and you can stick around for next time. The past instance was the 3 Turns and the January Comp, but that was more Coach than me.

One of the artists at the show told him, "You've got a pretty cool mom if she lets you come to something like this."

Well, yes. I am pretty cool, but he can handle it. (Sure, there were a lot of things there that were too Adult for him, but he's seen stuff like that. I didn't slam the Magritte book shut just because it has boobies.) I have to think the skating is the same way. Challenge him, and he steps up. Assume he can't, for whatever reason, and he never will.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Go Cry to Momma

There's a fracas going on at the PTA Listserv, and it's almost as good as the one that followed the Human Sexuality Incident at a local college. (Consenting Adults learning Conssenting Adult things at a Private University apparently warrants the torches and pitchforks from PTA Busybodies at a Public Elementary School. Who knew?)

Anyway, the school apparently has scheduled a "Fun Day" of sorts where the kids can turn in their Paper "You did good" Tickets to participate. The Tickets get issued throughout the year for all sorts of things; Stitch has gotten them for everything from holding the door open and being polite on the playground to finishing his lunch. I like the Ticket System. It's tangible, immediate, and turning them in for prizes is a bonus incentive for the kids. (I do the same thing with The Ten Star Rewards Program.)

This system is not good enough for the PTA Busybodies. The latest quarrel involves such gems as "prizes is teaching them that the reason to be good is to win a prize" and "We can call it a 'reflection time' but what it is is a punishment as these children are separated and deprived of a fun activity because they didn't behave 'up to par' over a long period of time." Well, yeah. That's the point. It's a punishment. That's what happens when you run afoul of the law. (The "reflection time" is the room where kids go when they can't attend the Fun Day for lack of Tickets.) "If my child wasn't able to participate, I know he would be heart-broken and I would feel horribly for him too." But if Kid knows from day one about the Ticket System, and that he needs a set amount of tickets to participate, and he blows it off, whose fault is that? Again, this is the whole point. Avoiding "hurt feelings" isn't.

There's a lot of chatter over kids not getting their feelings hurt. When I was speaking to another parent in the stands about low-level skating competitions, I had the Dad roll his eyes and say, "Is this one of those things where everyone wins?"

Sort of. Basic Skills and ISI breaks up the flights to no more than five, so that yes, everyone gets a prize. But typically only 1, 2 and 3 get trophies. Fourth and fifth get ribbons or medals. (Depends on who is running the competition. ISI Tot Levels, every kid does get first. They're three, cut them some slack.) Having said that, don't think the kids don't know. At one of Stitch's comps, the only difference between the trophies was the number. Other than that, they were identical in size, shape and color. But you had better believe the kid that placed third knew it, and his dad wasn't the one telling him. A girl of at least 12 broke down in tears when she missed out on a trophy, sobbing on her mom's shoulder. Everyone wins? Hardly.



Another parent chimes in with "I'd like to see this fun Friday event be for everyone, regardless of their behavior, especially after *big standardized test.*"

In my opinion, this underestimates kids. They know. They know who's been good and bad. Having a system of rewards and punishment establishes the pecking order and absolutely makes most kids want to do better. (For the kids that it doesn't work on, then they probably have other issues that School can't really help them with. I can't forget the kid that verbally assaulted Stitch and I was admonished to "forget it," as he had "home issues." Screw that, let me at him!)

"It also seems to me that this system creates competition among students which seems stressful."

If anyone thinks that kids don't compete informally among themselves, they're delusional. How many times did I watch Other Kid walk up to Stitch and say, "What level are yeeeeew in?" And even though this kid was skating only her prescribed half hour lesson, while Stitch was busting his tail (literally), she got the higher ground. Now that the tables are turned, Other Kid is acting snottier than ever, which I didn't think possible. To his credit, Stitch is being graceful about it, which I'm exceptionally proud of. But he knows. And he knows that this latest trophy has a "2" on it. He wants a "1."

Rewards and Punishment, Winning and Losing aren't about Hurt Feelings from Poor Sweet Muffy. It's about motivating them to do better. I promise you, those kids who are damned to the "Reflecting Room" (which will not be waist deep in crap as some of these women are thinking) will be considering how to get into that little party next time. But really, given the liberal way these Tickets seem to be dispensed, I can't imagine what kind of degenerate won't get in.

Special Diets for Little Boy Skaters

Stitch is about to hit a growth spurt. I can tell because he's gone from a perpetual hunger strike to eating everything in sight. Unfortunately his sights usually set on the Rink vending machines.

powered by ifood.tv

A few nights ago we were at a restaurant where he devoured an entire cheeseburger and then complained of pain in his legs.

"Where does it hurt?" I was trying to get him to clarify. Is this a bruise or sprain?
"Just all over."
"Does it feel like it's down deep, like in the bone?"
"Yeah."

Growing pains, then.

He just got tall enough to see over the boards a few months ago, maybe now I won't be tempted to dress him as Captain of the Lollipop Guild for July.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Does he do anything else?"

This is the second most common question I get in regards to Stitch's skating, the most common being, "Does he like it?" (No, I just enjoy being cold and making my kid miserable.)

Where we live, it's the norm for kids to be involved in a list of activities that keeps them busy from dawn to dusk, every day of the week. I have one parent friend who takes pride in that his son has "Thursday nights off, because he just does swimming." No one focuses, no one specializes, everyone does anything from cheer, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, skating, baseball, soccer, hockey, dance, gymnastics, pottery, karate, theatre and there's even an etiquette class so you can pick up what you missed by not having a tabled family meal once a week.

Stitch just skates, and he claims that between school and skating, he is overbooked. As much as I think he'd benefit from a swimming class, he adamantly refuses. Even the Dance, which will become a necessity, he is staunchly opposed to.

This raises brows. "He doesn't do anything else?"

No, and he doesn't want to. Simple as that. Stitch likes time to read his comics, play with his trains and be by himself, and I respect that.

There's a lot of online parental debate about how soon a child should "specialize" in any one activity. The general consensus is that young children (under 8) should not specialize, they should continue doing a smattering of activities until they find one they like. That's all well and good for stuff like T-Ball, generic "Arts" groups and Lego classes. (Okay, it was a camp, but I still found the notion of being taught to use Legos silly.) But for activities that require a high degree of skill, like skating or gymnastics, the smattering can get detrimental. I always hear of skating time eaten up by that etiquette class. ("How come he's so good? Public Skate? She'd love to play with Stitch on public skate, but we have Mandarin Chinese then.")



Did you know I can be bribed with Diet Coke and Cheetos?

These parents who engage their kids in a hundred activities are the same ones who are starting to give me dirty looks at the rink. Just last week I had a mom give me a snarky, "Well, we just don't have that kind of time to be here so much," when I mentioned my weekend schedule of skating. What, did some mysterious stranger sign your kid up for all that crap?

This is one of the great crimes and conundrums of Parenthood. For your child to do well at something, especially a high skill like skating, then they need to specialize. But if they specialize, then you're failing as a parent because you're not providing a "variety" of activities and somehow limiting them. And then there are people who will accuse you of somehow stunting their growth because "kids shouldn't specialize." And of course, the sentiment that underlies all of those objections is that by specializing, you're harboring UnRealistic Visions Of Greatness bordering on Mania. This is the Parental Double Bind in that it's really cool to have a Talented Young Kid, but what kind of Freako pushes their kid like that?

This puts parents like me under a microscope. At every meeting with another parent, I'll get, "So, is he doing another competition soon? What's he learning now?" (Answer, I don't even know anymore. I think it's a ballet jump but I'm not sure. I have to ask.) There are rare exceptions to this rule, (one, in fact) so I don't talk much about Stitch's skating to other parents. This is hard because a lot of them have kids in the skating school.

This is another case of "mind your own business, please." Whatever plays out here is fine. He spends more time reading comics and joke books than he skates, so by following all their logic, I could also make the argument that I think he is the next George Carlin.

My kid is good at skating, your kid is good at whatever your kid does. I take care of my kid, you take care of yours, and if anyone wants to carry this conversation further, I have something for you.



(Addendum: Shortly after I posted this, I got an email from the School District. Apparently Mandarin will really and truly on the menu at a local magnet school next year. I guess I can't joke about it anymore.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Conversation from Nationals

This was back when Nationals was on and we were catching the TV schedule as we could. Stitch is in his room, reading comics, I am housecleaning.

"Stitch! There's skating on TV!"
"Okay! Be there in a minute!"
"It's just Pairs right now."
"Why is there fruit on the ice?"

I love that kid.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chatting with my Friend

I got a text from a friend this morning, she was outside waiting to grab an order I brought home for her. I threw on a coat and went to take it down.

"You okay?" she asked. "You sound down."
"I am. Been a crap couple of weeks, and now the skating thing is making me feel like crap."
"Does he still like it?"
"Yeah, course he does."
"He's still doing okay?"
"Sure, better than ever."
"So what's wrong?"
"I feel like I'm being pushed to something that I don't know what it is. He got bumped up and I'm not liking it. But the other way had its own problems so I was stuck."
Now, Friend doesn't know the details. All she knows is that Stitch skates. "Did he do okay with it?"
"Sure, did some pretty awesome things yesterday. He's now offering to give Dad lessons."
"So what's the problem?"
"I went back on my word to myself."
"Don't be so fucking deep. It's stupid ice skating. It doesn't sound like something you can plan out, I mean, you never saw any of this coming to begin with, so why is this a surprise? Maybe you should stop trying to make so many plans and let it go."
"I just need to figure out what's happening."
"So do that. We need to have lunch."
"Yup."
"Listen, if Stitch is having fun and doing okay, then who cares? That's the whole point, right?"
"Yeah."
"Okay then. Problem solved. Don't overanalyze this stuff, you always do that. It gets annoying."

I realized we were blocking traffic. She gave me some souvenirs from Hawaii, we made a date for lunch later on in the week and off she went.

Maybe she's right. She usually is.

At any rate, Stitch was spinning in the living room again when I came back up. One of my souvenirs was a "Wish Pearl." It's a mollusk you open and there's a pearl inside. Even Friend thought it was delightfully tacky, which was why she got it for me. Of course I did it with Stitch, so he could see. A science lesson.

I thought of some analogy that a pearl is akin to skating, that it starts with a little grain of sand that just annoys the mollusk so it puts a coating on it to relieve the annoyance. This of course doesn't work, so it keeps coating and coating, adding more and more, annoying itself ever further until it gets cracked open by someone for the pearl that annoyance became. I could have done that, but then I'd be overanalyzing things again and my Friend says I should stop doing that.

We're going to have lunch and go skating instead.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

U mad? Take number.

It's been a rough week. Just about everyone has been mad with me for one reason or another, and I'm drained out because of it. I was really hoping for a smooth morning of skating and fun. While it was smooth, I wouldn't say it was fun. (Not fun for me anyway.) So, if anyone gets mad at this post, you'll have to take a number.

I talked with Ms V while the boys overlapped on Private Lesson time. She was sure to remind me of Gordon's new level, and that she considered Stitch Pre-Free anyway, no matter what level he was in. Then PrepSchool's mom came over, and said that Stitch was a better skater than her own kid. The two moms on either side of me, engaging in such talk made me think I was about to get assaulted by some Coach with a baseball bat at any second.

Then Coach comes out. She was mad that I signed up Stitch for Gamma, which I was expecting. I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the sudden rush of praise towards Stitch, in just about every capacity. (No other moms were present for this,) He's smarter, faster, better, more focused, and more capable, and to hold him back is "insane." Pre-Freestyle. Anything else is a waste of time and money. Still, I wavered. He's so tiny. But here's what sold me; Coach teaches a FS class on a weekday evening. If I can get him there, we get that class for half price. But there's no one else registered. It's an hour of private, and an hour of ice, at Group Class cost. This is a screaming bargain. I won't have to buy Practice Ice this session, nor get up at 4am on Thursday.

She assured me that it was fine, he could pass the levels if he wanted to, and she could see him there. I had just watched Stitch do a solid 3-turn, mohawk, waltz jump combo twice, and he was grinning and trying ballet jumps behind me. When I looked at him sadly, he gave me Sad Eyes. He wanted to move up. So I relented. Fine. But I was going to watch and see what happened during that Pre-Freestyle class. If Stitch faltered (not on the part of his dull edges) then I'd take him back to Gamma. I stepped outside, mad at myself, then back in to settle business and gather up Stitch. He was giddy.

We went to Practice Ice across town, knowing that this was the final few sessions of this ice we'd see, maybe ever. This made me sad. This, coupled with the fact I'd backed down and had to break the news to Dad after all our talks about "not rushing" and "enjoying the journey," made me ill.

Stitch, on the other hand, was walking on air. He did his List with gusto, spinning as he set his egg timer, flirting with his little girlfriend, and rushing over whenever she fell to help her. (Her coach was busy with another student at the time.) He was smiling and skating, and I had a Mom glare pure evil at me as I had to say, "No, Stitch. No more one foot spins. Do Waltz Jumps instead." I had to drag him off the ice early, as the Pre-Free session leaves no time for breakfast. He was Bunny Hopping, more smoothly and less crashingly into the ice, all laughs.

He left his skates on and back we went to Home Rink. I threw him on the big ice, and he joined the Freestyle warmups. I took care of business in the office, taking the role of Flaky Blonde Chick and correcting my "mistake." I then went to go watch. I sat up in the stands, high as I could go, but still a shivering ball of self-loathing. Dad joined me eventually, and he glared at me. "I know, I know," I said. "But he seems to be doing okay."

Stitch was holding his own out there. He was running through the warmups a bit slower than the rest, but he did whatever the coaches yelled as best he could. The only thing he had issue with was the power three turns, as I expected. Dad still glared as Stitch looked up and waved at us, smiling, panting and happy. He's the smallest one on that ice, but he was doing fine. Maybe this is okay.

The classes broke up, and Stitch did really good in the actual Pre-Freestyle class. I was impressed. He started doing some of the combo moves I see the bigger skaters do, albeit slower and more shaky, but still putting the elements together all the same. His waltz jumps grew more steady, bit by bit. I sighed, still feeling ill. Either way I went, someone was going to make me feel like I was making a mistake, and someone was going to be mad. I can't win, so I might as well lose in a way that makes Stitch happy. I can make the Patch schedule work.

Dad looked out. "Which one is PrepSchool?"
I pointed.
"He's in FS1? He can hardly move."
"See what I mean?"

We watched and talked, and things settled. Coach met us off the ice and wondered where his focus went. Now she gets to see how he is in Group class, which is probably a good thing. She can work on that. We talked a bit about skates, and new ones are certainly on the horizon. But she was happy with him. Stitch was tired. He'd just spent three hours in skates nonstop, and I couldn't blame him. We took them off, finally, and headed out for new shoes and a sharpening. (Crashing bunny hops ruin edges.)

At the Skate Place, Dad sat glassy eyed as a family of three little girls agonized and wailed over Zuca Bags, and I stood at the counter. Stitch stood beside me, transfixed on the Bunny Soakers again. "Can we get the parking sign?" he asked. (It's a sign that says, "Skater parking only.")
"I don't think the landlord would like that," I replied.
"What about the skate keychain?"
"No."
"Can we get the 'Coach' pin for Coach?"
"Maybe for Christmas, but not now."
"Can we get that?" he points to some other thing.
"No."
Silence. I figured I had already done something I swore I'd never do, might as well go 2 for 2. "You like those Bunny Soakers?" I remembered that day about a year ago when he first saw them, making sad eyes to get them.
"Yes."
"Go ahead."
He looked up at me, all smiles. "Really?"
"Sure, go get them."
He grabbed the package and stood beside me as the clerk finally took his skates. "What level is he at?" she asked.
"Uh, just started Pre-Freestyle."
A door opened. "Oh, well," she then starts going into some detail and giving me attention I'd never experienced at this place. She talked to the me about the blisters, explaining to how a punch-out could work for awhile, but try moleskin or Dr Scholl's blister things first, and she'd put a sealant on the sole to slow down the damage Stitch was doing. She then took some time on his blades, more than I'm used to. I was mad that this is what it took; the label.

Stitch hugged his Bunnies, Dad sat and tried to distance himself from the Princesses and their new Zucas. I watched the sharpening, which always amazes me, and the sealing process. What did you do, I kept thinking. Not just today, but everything. All of it.

Finally we left, Dad ushering me to "Drive! Drive!" We had some lunch and the sick feeling started to leave. Stitch was in his skating jacket and new shoes, which he said, "feel like my skates." Good. They're more hiking boots than shoes, bought to withstand Stitch's hard wearing lifestyle. (They lace up like skates, and I did the "over the lace hook" move without even thinking.) He played with his new soakers in the car, they make noise. (Of course.) I told him to wear his hard guards around the rink, but store the skates in his Bunnies. Dad sighed, a sigh of surrender.

We came home and put them on his skates, which I know have been done right this time because I cut up my knuckles handling them. At least I'll feel safer when he's jumping.

Tonight we'll hit public. I'll hang my head in shame, try to explain to my rink friends how I backed down, and I'm not proud of it. Maybe I can con the Public Skate Manager to play some good tunes, and I'll feel better. Maybe I just need a nap. I saw Nutso and her kids briefly as we left Rink Across Town, and I realized that I might not see much more of them. Shuffles waved and Precious sneered, and Stitch just walked away. No matter how much I try to tell him "courtesy, please," he just doesn't have patience for either of them. Maybe it's just as well today happened. Now he won't have to deal with Precious acting snotty and asking "can you do this?" as she tries a forward edge in Gamma.

At any rate, I feel like crap at the moment, and it's too early for beer. Stitch is doing dishes, of his own accord. He's a good kid. Sometimes I think I don't deserve him.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stitch and the Skippers

I was reading Xan's umpteenth post on Skipping Levels, and I realized something. There's a really important part of the equation that's getting left out: The Kids.

PrepSchool and Stitch used to be friends. They'd play during group class warmups and during public skate together. But ever since PrepSchool's sudden bump, PrepSchool doesn't talk to Stitch anymore. PrepSchool just eyes Stitch with a weird disdain. During last session, when we got stuck watching the Pre-Freestyle group working, Stitch watched PrepSchool. The disconnect in Stitch's mind was clear in his expression, and it was painful for me to see. I think Stitch knows that Gordon has been bumped to Pre-Freestyle. I didn't tell him, I was keeping that from him to avoid the hurt he gets from The Prepschool Situation, but I think he knows. Coach might had told him, or Gordon did. Last week we were waiting for Gordon's lesson to finish and I went to the glass. "Let's watch Gordon," I said cheerily.

"Yup," frowned Stitch. "There he is. Not. Very. Good."

I shushed him and told him that kind of talk wasn't acceptable, but he was right.

How do I explain to a kid who literally skates his butt off that those other kids are cheating? How can I justify to him that they're in that higher level, when they don't skate as good as he does? They're cheating, and their moms force it, the rink tolerates it, some coaches condone it, and the kids can't skate for shit, but there's absolutely nothing I can do to fix it.

You can't tell a young child, "Just wait a few years and this bullshit will catch up with them. Don't worry." I might as well tell Stitch to wait until he's thirty. The bruises are now, the ice kisses are now, the hours and hours in skates are now. He sees the disparity as much as I do, and I can tell that this is a major bummer for him.

The other kids are getting their labels whether they've earned them or not, and I'm left holding the bag on a kid who is hurt and confused. I am really glad that we don't have to watch the Pre-Freestyle session anymore, and I can now take Stitch back into the relative isolation from the aura that these cheaters create. When he does get there, he will be ready, confident, and every bit the happy skater he is now. Not the slow, stumbly, awkward and embarrassed messes we saw out there, the ones who didn't earn it.

Children fixate on Labels. Overhearing Lucy rag on Stitch for being in a level lower than her makes this plain. "Look beyond the Label, Stitch," is what I want to say. Perhaps I can take this chance to teach that Labels on people are stupid. They are nothing more than fabricated constructs; easily altered, distorted, created and destroyed according to some passing fad. And L2S/Basic Skills is a passing fad. There will come a day when it ends, and then what? Reality sets in, I guess.

In the meantime, I can't blame Stitch for his feelings. The problem seems so ingrained in Home Rink's culture, he's got no choice but to soldier on through this. The Patch Quest is serving as a good defense against detractors and cheaters. Secretly, I'm hoping it ends up throwing a wrench into the Cheating Culture so readily absorbed by parents needing an ego feed and kids who aren't being taught to be any better.

Stitch is a great skater, no matter what level he's in. He's also really smart. He reads and comprehends text well above his grade level. That doesn't mean I'll be asking him to be bumped to fourth grade. Reality, people.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Jumping

Stitch wants to jump. Bad. Last week I nearly had to restrain him in the grocery store as he was trying full rotation jumps next to the jarred pasta sauces. Winter has been agony with iced over sidewalks and me screaming, "NO JUMPING! STOP RUNNING! WALK!" which always sends me into mental fits because I'm stopping him from jumping on ice, which is ultimately what he wants to do. I can't wait for any semblance of Spring, so I can turn him loose again. (And those Spinning Poles on the playgrounds make for remarkable spin trainers. When people ask me how he can spin like that and not be dizzy, I point to the spinning poles in the playground across the field. Stitch spends hours on them.)


Sunday night I showed Stitch the video I took of his program. "It looked good," I said. "Crossovers and stroking were a bit weak, which is probably why you got second. But a good performance. Loved the ending."


"But I had the best spin," he protested.

"Sure, but you can't count on one element to win. They all have to be good."

He walked away.

Later, I was cleaning up the Thai food we had ordered, and Stitch was doing waltz jumps behind me.

"Stitch, you're going to bother the neighbors."

He kept jumping.

"Stitch. Why don't you do more of that on the ice and less of it in my kitchen?"

"Dunno."

"Why don't you talk to Coach and make that a part of your next program, instead of a spin? I think that's a solid goal."

"Hm."

The July Comp at Home Rink will be an ISI comp. So it will be different rules. He may be competing at a Gamma level, which is fine because he can still do a pretty good program with just crossovers, fancy turns and perhaps some (ugh) toepick hops. (Me, I want to try some dye tricks with black crystal accents.) ISI rules state that anyone in the Alphabet levels can do one and only one move from Freestyle 1. Choose between Two Foot Spin, Waltz Jump or Spiral. This is their idea of a challenge, but most girls pick up spirals like it's their job, so what you end up seeing is a bunch of basic elements connected by endless spirals. Stitch is okay at Spirals, but he kills at spins.

It's a rare thing for a Alphabet level kid to do a Waltz Jump, but I think Stitch can pull it off. We have three months, and he's got them once he learns to actually JUMP and not step into a back one-foot glide. So, if he does ISI with a waltz jump, he can't rely on that Tasmanian Devil spin anymore.

Stitch jumps all the time. Full rotation, half rotation, trying to land on one foot, etc. But for all his play practice jumping, something is stopping him on the ice. If he's afraid, I get that, and it's something he's got to work through. Perhaps setting that as a goal for the July Comp is a solid bet, and performing it may help him get over his fear of jumping. My own fear of him jumping will never die. I will always view Toepicks as inventions of evil, and whenever Coach mentions "doubles" I get faint.

Oh well. Pass the smelling salts.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day of the Weird Mojo

When we went to Rink Faraway, I felt a weird Mojo pervading the air and ice. I thought it was just because we were somewhere new, we had gotten lost, and general comp nervousness. I thought it would dissipate on the actual day.

It didn't. I felt that same Weird Mojo when I got up, I felt it as I double checked the skate bag, I felt it when I was polishing skates, and as we were leaving I thought, "You need to shake this, whatever it is, because if it's you being the source of this, you're going to sour the day." So I put on my bravest face, ignored the twinges of Weird Mojo in my pockets, and kept going. I gave Stitch a breakfast which he ignored, we played video games for awhile to pass the time, and away we went.

Getting to Rink Faraway was smooth as silk. I knew the way, we parked in a farther lot to avoid the chaos, and Stitch was working through his own pre-comp jitters in his typical heavy-handed way. I was making jokes and having fun. We got in the rink and it was of course, utter chaos. Half dressed children in various stages of being made up were chasing each other through the crowded lobby, vendor tables were obscured by mountains of Zuca bags and crowds of wide-eyed, terrified grandparents. Some asshat put a bench in front of the event sheets, so getting to them involved about a thousand "excuse me's" and risking your toes to some chick's un-guarded blades. I checked the sheets, and was dismayed to see that Stitch was up against two girls and no other boys. This was going to be tough.

Instead of hanging in the lobby, Stitch and I just went into the rink, as we were twenty minutes early. we watched the Freeskate level compulsories, where I saw Coach watching another of her skaters. Okay, there's objective #1 accomplished.

When that event was over, I headed down to let Coach know we were there, and where she wanted him. She directed me to an unused boy's dressing room (a hockey room) and said the most blessed words ever; "We're going to be civilized about this. There's no need to do this in the lobby." Oh, god, do I agree!

I went to get Stitch, and I was really hoping to just hand him to Coach and be done. No such chance. Ms. V, who had appeared at some point, and myself got roped into the Hockey Room, where I had to watch Coach calm Ms V and talk her through costuming. Ms V had bought a shirt that was practically identical to what I had dressed Stitch in for the last comp. I didn't know whether to be mad or laugh my ass off. But the shirt Ms V bought was a dance shirt, and didn't have the bottoms. The Bottoms on Boy's Bodyshirts are there for a reason; they prevent the shirt from becoming untucked. So boys can wear pants below the waist level and move freely without fear of looking disheveled as they perform. Gordon's shirt ended up being tucked in with his pants practically at his chest to keep the shirt from untucking itself. Worse, she bought him a lame (that's Lam-eh, not Lame) tie in colored polka dots, and a sash to match. I literally sat and covered my mouth as they worked over this poor hyperactive child, trying to get him to look presentable.

I'm a big advocate of Little Boys looking like Young Men. I never put Stitch in anything goofy, mismatched or in weird colors just because he was a small boy. Gordon looked like a goofy little boy, and I think he knew it. I felt bad for him. But I tried to help as Ms. V kept hitting me up for safety pins, pinning down the tie, the sash, something else and possibly her sanity as Gordon tore all over the little room in a fit of nerves and excitement.

All I had to do was put Stitch in his Fancy Suede Jacket and he was set.

Sometimes I wonder if Coach likes the fact that I take care of most everything, and she doesn't have to worry about Stitch and the basics. Mr V arrived, bringing in some used Boy's Skates from a vendor outside, and then the three of them worked over poor Gordon's feet for another twenty minutes, with Gordon whining loudly that the new skates pinched his feet. Mr V looked up at me, "Have you ever bought used skates for Stitch?"
"These ones he's got are used. They're fine."
Then they all forgot about me again, working over the used/new skate debate. Honestly, I felt left out as Coach talked them through toepicks and jumping and whatever. Maybe I need to start being more questioning, but I don't really need to care until we need new skates anyway.

Coach gave Stitch and Gordon some muffins, which Stitch devoured practically whole. "Hungry?" I asked him. "I gave you breakfast, but you ignored it."
He muffled a "yes", mouth full of muffin.
Gordon ignored the muffin, continuing to ping off the walls. Ms V looked tired.

Coach was in and out of the little room, I was anxious to leave, and the boys began tearing all around, Gordon bringing Stitch out of the Calm I had tried to establish. Ms V went in and out, Mr V disappeared, and I felt trapped. Can't I just go watch skating?

Finally Coach came and said it was time to go. I followed her and Stitch, Ms V and Gordon got sidetracked somehow and disappeared. I gave Stitch a hug, told him I'd be near the front to watch, and started to walk away. Stitch whined for me to stay. "No, I'm out," I said. "This is all you now. Go to it."
"Mom's done," Coach reminded him. "She can watch you."
I left. The Weird Mojo made itself felt, but perhaps now that I was away from Stitch it was okay.

I sat up in the stands, and Mr and Ms V sat behind me. This was why Twitter couldn't happen. As crazy as they were making me, I couldn't say a word because Mr V was endlessly quizzing me about any stupid thing that seemed to cross his mind. At one point he even asked, "Does Stitch have the same trainer as Gordon?"
Trainer? And did he think I was just hanging around them for shits and giggles? I nearly lost my shit with him at that point, but I held myself back. I replied, "Yes."

The kids took ice for warmup. Gordon looking lost and wobbly, Stitch having fun and running himself through his program. Really, it irks me that Coach likes to put these two together. It's starting to bug me more and more, because Gordon and his Family seem so much needier than we are. They pull a lot of Coach's attention, and I fear that Stitch might be shortchanged at some point because of it. I could be making things up, but watching Coach hold Gordon's proverbial hand out there while Stitch handled himself made that Weird Mojo seem stronger and stronger.

Gordon went on as the first of the two boys. I don't think he smiled once. He did okay, I mean, he didn't fall and he did the moves, but he lost the music and he looked miserable. Mr V began muttering to Ms V about smoothness and quality, and how Gordon could be better, and I just frowned. Something just felt so wrong at that moment.

Stitch's competition went up, and both girls had strong programs. One girl fell, and Ms V elbowed me, "Guess that means he wins," she laughed. I wasn't happy that she could take a fall to mean that someone else won. Stitch, the final skater of the whole bunch, finally took the ice. Once again, he was all smiles and excitement. He took his position, the music started, and away he went. His crossovers, forward and back, were sloppy as hell. His bunny hops were high, his spin was staggeringly fast, his spiral was strong as he smiled out at the audience, passing close to the glass. His three turns were much improved, his lunge was good, and he vamped at the end to run out the music like a true performer. But his crossovers were sloppy. I was happy for him, but he has to understand that if his connecting elements are poor, then that reflects on his placement.

So we were sort of done. I went to fetch him and gave him a big hug. "You nailed that one," I said. He was happy, but the Weird Mojo was still hanging, clinging to me. As we sat and watched some other skaters, waiting for results, Stitch's mood began to fall. He seemed to know that something was off. I had forgotten to bring some cash, so I had no way to buy any stuffed animals or anything, and so he blamed me for his funk. Whatever. I knew what was up.

We went back into the lobby, where Mr and Ms V were waiting for results sheets like buzzards wait for a goat to die. "They're not up," Ms V was so upset. "What's taking so long?"
"Dunno," I said, only wanting them up to get rid of this Mojo.
Mr V began quizzing Stitch on his patches. "Where did you get those? Can we get those? How do you get them?"
I explained about the USFS ones, that they could probably get them just by asking Nice Skate Director at Rink Across Town. But Gordon would have to be *snort* tested by Mysteria at Home Rink, just like Stitch had been. I bit my lip. If Gordon tested, officially tested out of anything over Alpha, I'd eat my socks. Mr V seemed to like these patches, though. "Honey, these would be cooler than trophies," he said of them.
Ms V shrugged, not really caring.
Mr V began pressing me on how to get patches, and I finally said, "Just call Mysteria and schedule some tests," before I had to leave.

Stitch and I watched some more programs, Stitch progressively getting more and more bummed out. "What's wrong," I elbowed him.
"Hm," he didn't answer.
"You did good," I tried to encourage him.
"And you're broke," he wanted a stuffed flower.
I ignored him.

We headed out again, Stitch nervous and me just wanting it done. Ms V hit me at the door. "He should have won," she sounded apologetic.
Thanks, bitch.
Stitch won second place, which isn't bad when you consider that he was up against two girls. Gordon got another third. (His third third.) The two boys went to the Awards counter, where two girls were only moderately congratulatory and were annoyed when asked to change out the girl skater to a Boy Skater on the trophies. "Do you want me to change it to a boy?" she asked Stitch.
Stitch looked at her like she was nuts. "Well, yeah."
Nothing says "congratulations" like an eye roll and the noise of a ratchet on your trophy.



So, second place. Stitch was bummed out. "My goal was first," he says.
"I know," I replied. "But you did your best, and that's good enough. Besides, the second place trophies seem like the prettiest ones." I think the apathetic teens behind the awards counter put the stickers on the wrong trophies.

Ms V began saying how wrong the judges were to give Stitch second, that he clearly should have won first, and that talk unnerved me as Stitch was right there. "That's not for me to say. They made their decision," I said. "And it's fine," I shut her down. In fact, it was better than fine, because now was a prime teaching moment.

Coach was pleased with them, even had them get up on the stupid little podium constructed just for photo ops. Stitch and Gordon stood up with some girl who did an amazingly cute program and we got some pictures. The Mojo clung to me, but now that we knew the final score, I started to relax. I took Stitch back to The Hockey Room to change back into his Real Boy clothes, where he was suddenly really bummed out.

"Stitch," I looked at him. "What's up?"
"I wanted first."
"I know. But you can't win all the time. You did good. Do you think that when Jeremy Abbott lost Nationals, he went back to the dressing room and moped? No. He decided to figure what went wrong and how to do better next time. And that's what you need to do. You need to go to Coach and ask her what you can do better next time, so you can try to win first again. Okay?"
"Okay."
"Now, get your coat on, get your skate bag, get your Grumpy, put your grumpy in there," I pointed to a trash can, which made Stitch laugh, "and let's go. We have a Speedskating meet to get to."

We headed out. Coach ran into us one last time, and she congratulated him once more. "He'll be fine," I said. "We'll see you next week, gotta get back to watch our Speedskating friend."
"Ah, at Home Rink, good. See you next week."

Stitch and I left, and the moment we stepped outside, the mood began to lift. I made jokes, Stitch began to chatter, and normalcy returned. We ran through a Drive Thru for lunch, raced back to Home Rink, and made it back in time to catch some Speedskating heats. Up in the rafters, eating fries and cheering for people we didn't know running a sport we knew nothing about, we both felt better. Stitch loved the gun going off, the bell on the last lap, and the inevitable wipe outs that are so much more dramatic than figure skating wipeouts. The little girl who dropped out of Figure Skating because she just liked to race around absolutely blew her heat away. Stitch's public skate Racing Buddy came in second, just like Stitch, during a great heat. I got a picture of them in the lobby for the scrapbook.

After watching a bunch of other kids coming in second, third, fourth and fifth, I think Stitch felt reassured about his placement. It's okay. You win some, you lose some, and it's all right.

We came home and found that Silver Gold is not only still alive, but seems to be making a full recovery. I've never seen a fish come back from that bacteria. Stitch was happy, bu now we're thick in the post-comp "now what" funk. This is the one thing I have yet to beat. Maybe Ms V is in the same funk, still holding out some hope that Stitch will take up Speedskating.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One More Thing

A benefit to knowing the Maintenance Staff on a first name basis is that gives me leverage when Stitch steps out of bounds. Last weekend I caught him gouging holes in the ice with his heel. I told him to stop. This morning, he was doing it again.

I called him on it, in front of Coach.

"Stitch, I've asked you to stop that twice. You know it creates a danger for other skaters, and I won't ask you again. I catch you doing it one more time, and you'll be here after hours with Maintenance Friend, repairing the damage you did. Understand?"

Stitch looked at me. "Really?"

He knows by now that I don't make empty threats. "Really. After hours, because that's when he does it."

He had the double loss of face because I intentionally did it with Coach. He didn't do it again.

Lesson? Know your Rink Maintenance Staff.

A Whole Year

Last year, this very weekend, I was desperately trying to figure Stitch's skate size, and worrying as the group of Pre-Alpha's went crawling down the wall. This year, I was watching him tear across the ice, evading a group of girls who were chasing him, squealing and laughing.

This morning after his Private Lesson, I told Coach, "Do what you want, but don't forget those patches. He asks me all the time."
"Then you have to go through Mysteria."
"Mysteria told me to go through you."
"I don't have them."
I rolled my eyes. "Fine. But don't forget about them. They're important."

Over breakfast I debated emailing Mysteria, but the thought of a week's worth of stupid emails made me want to cry. So, when we got back to Home Rink, I just asked outright. I went to the counter and asked for Mysteria. "He needs to get tested for his Beta patch," I said. "And he still needs the Pre-Alpha patch. I know, I'm sorry, but he keeps asking me."

"Okay," Mysteria was actually personable this time. Maybe the sight of the row of USFS patches made her want to even things out, I don't know. "Come to the small rink in a little bit, and two patches."

Whatever. I was just through with this stupid process. I wanted it done. Mysteria comes out and she starts running Stitch through his paces. Imagine my chagrin when Stitch doesn't do true "Crossovers" but does Cutbacks instead. It's what he sees the bigger skaters do, and the Big League Skaters, and that's how Coach S passed him in Group Class, so it's what he did. Mysteria about had a fit. Coach got called over to correct the issue, and Mysteria was sure to tell me that she was begrudgingly passing him. (Again.)

I really wanted to say something. I really did want to ask if she had seen some of the kids in the Pre-Freestyle group lately. There's a girl in there who can't do back crossovers well at all, and yet there she is. It just seems kinda nuts that asking for the standard gets you rougher handling than if you just slip under the radar. But I didn't say a word. In fact, when Coach starts insisting that Stitch be bumped to Pre-Freestyle, I'm going to say no. Let's get those 3 Turns and Mohawks absolutely solid. When people ask me why Stitch is still in Gamma, when he's clearly a stronger skater than some of the young kids out there, I'll just have to answer, "Because he's doing the formal testing process, so he's got to do it better." Let's see what havoc that causes.

A year later, and I've learned a lot, and I think I've garnered something of a reputation. Stitch has established himself as a talented skater. Other moms ask me for advice often. Some moms don't talk to me at all anymore. Some moms of bigger skaters now acknowledge my existence, other ones freely talk to me. This morning when I told Ms. V that we were coming back to watch the Speedskating Meet right after the Comp, she looked up at me hopefully, "Does Stitch want to do Speedskating?" No, we're cheering on a friend. Sorry! I had a Coach squeeze my elbow and give me a smile this morning, and I didn't even think he knew me. When I was chatting with another Coach, Coach Y appeared out of nowhere and diverted my attention. I was just talking about other stuff, not skating. (Besides, he's nice enough, but I don't like how this other Coach teaches.)

It's weird, in every way. I've never encountered such a bunch of people who are so obsessed with success yet not interested in actually qualifying to get it, or so quiet and subversive about the process of getting anywhere at all. Everything I do know, I only know because I went looking for the information. No one really told me anything.



I keep thinking I'm going to find some big book that explains everything; why people are so eager to skip skills when they're so badly needed. Why one rink's management is welcoming and kind, and another is largely absent and irritable when roused. Why I sometimes feel so isolated, and why Stitch's skating ability seems to be at the root of that. Why once I get something learned, the unwritten rules suddenly shift without warning.

While I was talking with other Coach about costumes and sandbagging, he looked at me and said, "You're starting to sound like a real Skating Mom."

Crap, am I that obvious?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stitch's Goldfish are Sick

In other news, Stitch's two goldfish are on Deathwatch. Yes, both of them. These guys have been around for two years, and on Tuesday I noticed them looking a little sluggish and slimy. I put a little antibiotic in the water, but I'm guessing I was too late. Little Gold is visibly struggling, and Silver Gold (my favorite) is swimming sideways. I give them another 24 hours. That means we may be having fish funerary rites the day before the Comp.

We've done this before with Goldie, the original goldfish, and with Mini Gold, the goldfish his K-Garden teacher gave him. It looks like the same bacterial infection. I've warned him that his fish are sick, and there's not much to be done for a sick fish.

Hopefully this won't throw him too much. We've been over Death as a part of living, and Stitch has even expressed interest in exhuming Goldie to see the bones. I said we could visit a museum if he wanted to see bones. Honestly, I'd rather it happen Saturday than come home Sunday to dead fish.

Yes, the hidden life of a Skating Parent is full of silent logistics that Coaches probably never even consider. There is certainly no "Dead Pet" provision in the Basic Skills Competition Rulebook.

**Update: I called home, Little Gold has passed. Stitch is still at school, so we will have a small funeral tonight.**

USFS Parent's Guide; Volume 3

This is the third and final volume, and it's "Support your Child to Reach His/Her Maximum Potential." 

There are a total of nine pictures in this book. One is of skating judges, looking serious, next to an article on how the International Judging System Works. This was actually pretty informative, in that I know what the acronyms stand for and what the judges were looking for on each mark. I'm still clueless about specifics, but I don't think I'm alone in that. One is of a woman sleeping, next to an outlay of sleep and nutrition requirements. I presume that she is not sleeping past six am. Two are of people exercising, in an article about Off-Ice training. Yes, you have to think about it when you're not at the rink, too. The rest of the pictures are of Star Skaters.

This one is the most serious of the three, and it's more of a testament to how fast skating can take over your life. In the first volume it was all shiny pictures of happy toddlers splayed on the ice, and this one details 2,500 calorie meal plans and fitness regimens to maintain through the off-season, into the pre-season and during the skating competitive season. There's a chart detailing the levels past Basic Skills, so I know what comes next if we get that far. There's a section on Rink Relations, which seems to apply more to Clubs than individuals, and Basic Ice Usage Etiquette which should be a no-brainer but I can think of a dozen people right off I'd love to give this to.

There's some more Anagrams, one of which is "AFFIRM" which is how to "encourage excellence without being a Pushy Parent." Well, frankly I kind of enjoy being Pushy, so I made my own Pushy Parent Anagram.

P - Prioritize. What's important for right now? Tomorrow? Next week? Next Month? What elements need to be worked on and what can wait? For Stitch, the past two months have been all about Three Turns, with Shoot The Duck coming in a sad "if you can get to it" last on his practice list. What Cool Skating gear does he have to have, versus what can wait because we need to buy basics like Ice and Coach Time?
U - Understand. Understand specific problems.When Stitch says something hurts, something is itchy, or something is wrong, I get him to give me details so I can fix it.  Understand what they're doing. I typically get a rundown on elements from Coach whenever something new gets introduced.
S- Sympathize. Falls hurt. Hugs help. Humor helps. But Sympathize. When Stitch says that it's an off day because he's just not feeling it, I Sympathize We all have off days. I don't criticize or nag.
H - Help. Help out Coach, The Rink, Other Parents, Other Kids, whoever needs it. I had fun at the last Ice Show. (The more I complain, the more fun I'm having.) I have fun making costumes, retying skates, offering information to new parents, and encouraging Coach's other kids. I can't wait until Sunday because I get the double bonus of seeing Stitch compete, and then attending the Speed Skating Meet right after. Help cheer on other skaters? And eat popcorn? I'm so there! And ask for Help, too.
Y - Yourself. Be honest with it. If it seems like things seem weird, they probably are. If it feels like I'm stepping out of my bounds, I probably am. I try to take an honest evaluation of myself, and if it feels like I'm lurching towards The Dark Side of Skate Parenting, I step back.

The subtitle of this book is "Enjoy the Process." I've often heard that learning to Figure Skate is akin to running a marathon. This is the most dead on description ever. One day that Three Turn is there and on and great, and the next day it's vanished into the ether. One day the lunge looks like a dog dragged behind a car, and the next week he's Jeremy Abbott with his chest and chin to the stars. An hour later we're back to Dog Drag. It's not like Spelling, where once you get it, you've got it. The Skating skill comes, goes, comes again, stays briefly, goes away, and then it settles in and takes up residence while taking a day's vacation every so often. The frustration I can feel is incredible; "but you just did it, do it again!" This is compounded when relations come from far and wide, standing at the boards with cameras at the ready, trying to capture a one-foot spin that looked so good on Facebook last week but has now gone away for no real reason. They look at me like "where's the stunt double?"  I've since decided not to invite family to watch practices.Yes, it's a Process, and a marathon one.

Enjoy this process? Absolutely I want to. The biggest of jugs will fill drop by drop, and so we'll get there the same way. How big is the jug? Buddha also said, "Do not think of how big the universe is, it will merely hurt your head."

I really do recommend that any new skating parent get this series. For the nine bucks (including postage) it's worth it. I did come away with a better understanding of where we are, what's going on, and where we can go from here. I showed this series to another Skating Mom and she declared me crazy.

Tell me something I don't know.