Sunday was a long day. Too long, in Coach's opinion. We got up and headed out; Stitch went to the Flower Booth and I to the stands to watch. I got to watch the Basic Level kids, the Snowplow Sam Kids, the Synchro Kids, and I gained a deep appreciation for those who man these competitions. These are long days.
I had perched next to the Zamboni door, which had an unmanned Com unit nearby. So, I listened. Skaters got mixed up, music lost, CD's not playing, judges missing, skaters gone AWOL, and towards noon the chatter got punchy. I was enjoying myself, keeping count of the pop songs. Two runs of "Dynamite," Two runs of "Firework," Three for "Tonight's gonna be a good night," and one of "Last Friday Night" which included the alcoholic and sex references. Skater was nine.
I hauled over Stitch for lunch, and we ate peanut butter while the Synchro teams finished. We cheered on the Home Rink team, who did fabulously! I put Stitch in his costume, discovering with some horror that he was still wearing his pajama bottoms. The black pants masked some of the lumpiness, but he still looked a bit lumpy. Leave it to a eight year old boy to forget friggin' underwear. But we weren't alone in the Underwear Mishaps; I counted at least three girls with white peeks on their bottoms. Don't tell me not to look, they're skating away from me on a Spiral. I can't not look.
Coach took Stitch to warm up, and tension started. I put skates on him, and left him with Coach's group of kids, all jumping and hopping. Dad arrived, and we joked about the bad wiring job on the houselights again. I looked from across the ice, and Stitch was clearly nervous. When the kids took ice for warmup, he skated around first, then did his program. And he forgot his spin. I could see Coach fussing at him, but with two other students of hers on the ice, her attention couldn't be focused on him as it has been in the past. He tried again, and forgot the spin again. This didn't bode well.
But he skated first, so maybe he'd remember. He skated out, big smiles, started okay. Backspin was the same as always, high waltz jumps, nice spiral, good Dance Step, bunny hops were too rushed, and he forgot the spin. Horrors! He realized it midway through the three-turn-tap-toe sequence, and threw in a scratch spin, but by then he was totally thrown. Two half flips in a hurry, a two foot spin, and he finished with a shrug.
What elements he did were strong, but once he got thrown, it was over. I went down to collect him, and Coach hit me at the ice door. He can't do things before a competition, he can't work anything, he was tired before he started, she was saying. I didn't argue, but I knew the larger problem had been hit on the head for Stitch. Now I had to be the one to clean him up.
In the dressing room, he was close to tears. "I blew it," he said. "I blew the spin."
"You were fine," I changed his shirt. "You have one more to go. Another chance to get it right."
"I'll blow that, too," he was abject.
"Stop it," I said. "Don't set yourself up for failure. You didn't get it right the first time, okay. That's done. Focus on this next chance, okay? No more negative talk."
I decided to wait on my lecture.
I brought him up to sulk and wait for results, where we watched more skaters. Kwanette kicked it out of the park, as expected. I remained chatty and cheerful, which was hard given Sir Sulksalot. After awhile, we headed down. Second place. Not bad, given the Spin Incident.
Stitch was inconsolable. Not first? The judges may well have handed him a dirt clod. I assured him he did fine, focus on compulsory for now.
So, I handed him back to Coach for Compulsory. She immediately began drilling him on elements and order of things. He said he knew it, but they drilled it anyway.
For warmup, he looked a little more steady. There was a lot of going back to Coach for talking, but it looked a bit better. And he did do better. On the half ice for the judges, he knew the order, he knew the elements, but when it came to polish he came up short. Third, out of a flight of five.
Now he was just angry. He collected his trophy morosely, angrily, refusing to speak. I kept saying how good he skated, that I could tell he gave it his best shot, and I was proud.
But his negative talk ended his day. Selling flowers is a priviledge, and after hearing him say "anything other than first is Loser," I decided he was done. I pulled him out of costume, packed him up, and off we went. Although the Trophies were not first, he held them in his lap all the same on the way home. As we got further away, the mood lightened. Pretty soon we were laughing.
Once home, he started his bad talk again. "It's not first," he looked at the trophies which I'd displayed in the window for the evening. "I wanted first."
"Hey, Stitch?" I decided to bust it out. "You want first? Here's a tip: If you want first, you need to want first Every Day, not just on Competition Day. Every time you get on the ice, you need to think of first place. Because that's what every other skater is doing; wanting first and working for it, everyday. Every practice. Every lesson. Got it? No more hanging on the boards, no more phoning it in, no more drifting off when Coach is talking to you. Everytime I catch you doing it, I'll remind you of third place. Okay?"
"Okay," he was sullen.
"So what did you learn today?"
"Practice when you try, and try when you practice," he said, seeming to repeat something Coach said to him.
"Good. Remember that, and you'll do better next time. Deal?"
"Are we done talking about this?"
And then I ordered Thai.
Stitch and I fought our way through the Sandship in the new Zelda game, with Stitch scared of the Robot Pirate miniboss guarding the bow and arrow. I was not impressed, calling Robot Pirate a "soft touch." Stitch said he was "The Judge," grading me on my gaming skills. When I asked how I was doing, he said I was in third place.
"Third place and I'm the only player? Harsh, Stitch."
"Hey, rules are rules," he said.
After awhile he sighed. "I think I'm starting to appreciate my trophies."
"Good. Because you did a good job today," I repeated, fighting an Armos Statue and parenting at the same time. Kind of similar, in this instance. Both things tend blow up in your face if you're not careful.
We played awhile longer, Stitch giving me pointers. He's actually pretty quick on figuring the puzzles and strategy. We make a good team, he just needs me to take out the bosses. "Mom, mom," he says suddenly with some new urgency.
"My tooth fell out."
"And that's a good day."