Thursday, March 10, 2011

3/10/2011 Skiing and soccer

I had a most remarkable day yesterday, and started to write about it. I ran out of time and opportunity -- this is what taunts writers the most, is when something is just gushing forth from your head and circumstances prevent its transference to paper.

Here's what I started to write yesterday.

I just don't think I can handle this.

I had what was shaping up to be an unusually relaxed, if busy, afternoon. I went to work and a weights class during lunch as usual, then picked up my !NEW!SKIS!! before going back to work.

Back to work for an hour, then to a dermatologist appointment. The doc took a sample from a slightly raised new blotch on my face (obviously the concern there is melanoma), and zapped off a "strawberry" on my forehead (that's just vanity).

Then I took the rare opportunity to go buy a new camera, since it was too late to go back to work, and I was in the neighborhood of a camera store I've trusted for years. I chuckled to myself that driving around with my work laptop computer, a brand-new camera in the box, and my new skis made me finally lock my car -- because of the skis.

I got home early enough to put my skis and boots away, change my clothes and relax for a moment before the onslaught of children. I thought.

I noticed a message on the answering machine. Usually I ignore them when I have to leave in a few minutes to go bring kids home, and usually they're spam. But I listened to this one.

"Hello, this is Gabriel's soccer coach. We're practicing Wednesdays and Fridays 5pm-6:30pm at Garden Gate fields, starting today. Hope to see you." beep. The message was left at 4:20pm, and it was now 4:38pm.

Today? TODAY?! **NOW** ??!?!

I haven't heard from the soccer league since I signed Gabriel up for spring soccer weeks ago -- then we get 40 minutes notice for practice?! The coach also didn't leave a phone number or any information, and I couldn't make out his name, AND we're going away Friday for his second practice.

I couldn't believe it. I'd have missed the call altogether if I hadn't left work early, but now I was placed into a terrible position. We weren't ready, Gabriel probably hadn't done his homework, what about Katrina and making dinner...damn it! I'm a planner now, I can't work with 40 minutes notice!

By all rights, I could easily justify missing today's practice. But inexplicably, the idea absolutel broke my heart. Even though I've never been one for organized sports myself, the thought of Gabriel missing out on one of the very very few things I might attempt to squeeze in for him was too much. Tense, angry and upset, I sent a hasty anxious note to the soccer league organizers, and ran out the door. I was actually crying in frustration over something that I knew on the surface seemed silly, but for some reason pierced straight to my heart.

And that's as far as I got yesterday....I'll pick up the story today, from a calmer place.

A recovery plan was forming in my head as I jumped in the car. I grabbed a bottle of water, then called the CDC from my car and asked them to get the boys ready to go. Then I called Dave and asked if he could pick up Katrina, I'd explain later. (Ban cell phone use in cars? Imagine!) The boys were partly ready, but I made them both go to the bathroom and wash up quickly, then pile in the car with minimal explanation.

Fortunately the school where practice was isn't too far. I explained everything to Gabriel on the way, and characteristically he took it in stride. When we arrived, we saw kids practicing, in uniforms. He commented that they were all ready for practice, and I snapped stressfully, "I KNOW Gabriel, I did the best I could !!" He's remarkable when I get like that -- he nods his head and says calmly, "I know Mom, it's OK." He deliberately soothes me, like he can't take my being discombulated -- he needs me to be strong. Yet the effect is that he's the strong one. As if that's news.

I asked a man who seemed like he knew something, and he turned out to be the regional director of the league. He showed me the right group and took me to talk to the coach. Turns out, this coach had everyone's email address but ours, and had double-checked the paper forms today and realized that one of his team members hadn't been contacted. So he called.

He's foreign (Russian or Polish?) and a guy, so he didn't think to add some important social cues in his message like, "Sorry for the last-minute notice, but I just realized I don't have Gabriel's email address." It'd have saved me some agonizing moments of intense self-doubt and feelings of failure and like I just can't possibly balance work and kids' lives.

Though we were 10 minutes late and unprepared, only 3 other boys were there, including the coach's son. Apparently this boys' team would scrimmage and practice today with an older girls' team, but I left so didn't see most of it.

I came back to watch the last 10 minutes of practice. I saw right away that Gabriel is really lacking in soccer skills compared to the other kids. By age 9, many kids have been playing for years and are pretty good. The older girls were really much better, faster, more aggressive and confident, and better at teamwork. And bigger. Gabriel is a head shorter than the other boys, in addition to being by far the least skilled kid. And the worst-dressed.

But this sort of situation is where Gabriel's tough personality shines. He wasn't intimidated, he wasn't uncomfortable, he didn't hesitate to jump in and do everything he could to go after the ball. He didn't complain or refuse to play or act shy or any number of perfectly normal and expected behaviors of any kid suddenly stuck in a really intimidating situation!

I was even prouder that later he admitted that he is way behind: "Boy, I saw that right away, Mom!" Then he went on to tell me excitedly about a new move he'd learned. He was happy, but tired. He was mellow all evening and mostly finished his homework without a lot of pushing, and went to bed without a lot of fighting with Julian. This morning I had to wake him up out of a sound sleep.

A friend last night asked me if he's a team-player sort of kid. I don't think so, really. Not that he can't become one, but generally he leans toward control, not interaction. Soccer might be just the ticket. If nothing else, he was a lot calmer today, I think still tired from a pretty intense workout.

And me....well, getting him to practice twice a week will be challenging, plus games on Saturdays. But like Julian's T-ball last year, my own heart and soul went into it too. I'm ashamed I can't volunteer and contribute more, but I just love seeing the kids in this world, and being a part of it myself to whatever extent I can. Gabriel would probably have gotten over missing his first soccer practice, but I wouldn't have.

Today I left work early to go get a ski helmet. While I was at Sports Basement I thought, "hmm, when will I have the time to get Gabriel the soccer equipment he needs? hmmm, when?" Well, duh! I was already in the store! So I loaded up on cleats, a size 4 ball, shorts and shin guards for him. And my ski helmet. What a juxtaposition -- a winter sport and a spring one at the same time. I smiled wryly as I walked by the summer camping equipment, because that's next.

My new camera. It's really just a newer version of the old one, but with all the screws intact and the lens cover closes. I think it does a better job of light management and flash too. Gabriel and Julian were in their rooms tonight folding their laundry and packing clothes for our trip.

We leave for Truckee tomorrow the SECOND school gets out. I'm SO PSYCHED! Spring soccer will have to wait until next week, because this weekend, it's still winter for us!


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