So the upshot to mornings like this one is that I know, without a doubt, that I won’t have to worry about who to thank first when I get that Mother of the year award. Yup, it looks like I’m pretty well out of the running again this year. Why? Well, how’s this for a morning with the family …
As I type, I’m sitting here at an ice rink about twenty-five minutes from my house. It’s Sunday morning at eight am and I’m freezing my tush off on the bleachers. I’m looking out over the rink where Katie is following her skating instructor around the ice.
There she is in the middle of all the other skaters. They are a resplendent sea of pink fleece, sparkly skirts and tights, and shiny white skates. And then there’s Katie. She’s the one in the black Hot Wheels helmet with flames along the sides that we found on the bench. It is at least one size too big, maybe two. You can’t miss the boy’s black hockey skates that she’s wearing either. I pilfered them from the rental rack. They can’t be too comfortable with my tennis socks underneath them. Yes, the same ones that I was wearing under my sneakers on the way here. You also can’t help but notice her bright red gloves. The nice man who runs the shop was kind enough to sell them to me (when I tracked him down), despite the fact that the shop is decidedly NOT open at eight am on Sundays. Lucy’s got some splainin to do!
Let’s start with yesterday. Yesterday was one of those days for Brooke when it just feels like every bit of progress we’ve made in the past two years has gone to the birds. It was a HARD day. Not a hard day, but a HARD day. It was a day where every single thing we did was fraught with frustration. It was a day where language was inaccessible and tears were inescapable. Nothing was working. Nothing was right. Nothing was easy. We found ourselves trying to de-code everything again, trying to piece together what the triggers were, trying to figure out what was setting her off. She just didn’t have the words to tell us.
She needed a LOT of attention. She couldn’t be alone. She was anxious and fearful at every turn. She cried. A lot. It was just one of those days. Over and over again I asked what was bothering her. What could I do to make it better for her? Each and every time she said, “Everything.” It was heartbreaking.
And through it all, Katie was a rock star. She was independent. She was helpful. She was sweet and solicitous. She was incredibly patient and mature. She was so much more than one could (or should) ever expect from a seven year old little girl.
The day ended on an upswing, with a very successful visit from dear friends and their adorable two year old little girl. The evening only worked as well as it did because Katie was a superstar. She marched the little girls through the house in a make-shift parade. She found ‘instruments’ for each of them and then led the cacophonous trio merrily up and down the stairs. She orchestrated a ‘dance show’ with our little guest on a miniature piano (which she moved for the ‘show’) and she and Brooke um, well, ‘dancing’ to the ‘music’.
She helped the littler girls dress up as princesses. She actually somehow managed to convince Brooke that it would be great fun to pretend that the Barbie costume that she COULD find was indeed the Sleeping Beauty costume that she COULDN’T find. “Mama,” she told me later, “You would have been so proud of Brooke; she stayed really calm when I helped her dress up. She only freaked out a little, even when we had to make the switcheroo!” She even read them a story at bedtime. The child was (is) an angel.
And so, I wanted to make sure that I spent some real time with her today to help make up for some of our lost time yesterday. She was so excited when I told her last night that I would take her to her ice skating lesson this morning. She absolutely loves to skate. One invitation to an ice skating birthday party a couple of years ago and the rest is history.
Katie is not a kid who gets particularly jazzed about sports. She’s my crafty kid, my poet, my artist, my singer / songwriter. Give the kid some glue, markers, and the inside of a paper towel roll and she turns into MacGyver. Next thing you know, she’ll have made you a bird bath. But sports? Not so much. She decided she’d had enough of ballet this year. She could care less about the intramural sports at school, and when presented with the option of girls’ soccer this spring she politely declined. Two years was apparently more than enough soccer for her. Perhaps it was her experience as a goalie that turned her off.
A couple of springs ago, Katie was in kindergarten soccer and she kept complaining that she was tired. As in, “Coooooach Scott, I’m sooooooo tiiiiiiiiiired.” Much to her dad’s dismay, the child just didn’t want to run. She wanted to sit in the grass and chat with her friends. She wanted to pick dandelions. But she didn’t want to run. And so it was that Coach Scott came up with the following stroke of brilliance.
There are typically no goalies in kindergarten soccer. Let’s be honest, the kids have enough trouble finding the goal without anyone guarding it. However, Coach Scott thought that perhaps Katie could go stand in the goal. You know, skip all that unpleasant running and moving and stay in one place, but still be a part of the game. It was genius.
She was thrilled. She happily took up her post and then looked over at me and shouted, “What does a goalie do?” I explained from the sidelines that it was her job to make sure that no one got the ball in the goal. Seems pretty simple and straight-forward, no?
Not two minutes later some little ringer from the other team (where the heck did mini Pele come from when most of these kids can’t find their feet?) came barreling down the field toward the goal. I found myself yelling like a crazed Manchester fan, “C’mon Katie girl. It’s all you! Don’t let him get by you!”
What happened next was all Katie. I watched it unfold in slow motion. She scrunched her little shoulders down and backed her body into the goal. She then straightened up just enough to lift it off the ground. Then she shuttled herself (and the goal) about two feet to the right. Mini Pele kicks, he misses, by oh, let’s say two feet. And she looks at me grinning like the Cheshire cat. “I did it Mama! I did it!”
Hmmm, well, doesn’t that just make a mother proud? Anyway, point is I’m not raising Mia Hamm.
But skating? That’s a whole different ball game. She comes alive on the ice. She’s confident and exhilarated and full of energy and joy. She just loves it. And so, when the only lesson we could manage to arrange was at eight am on Sunday mornings, we signed on. And when she got all excited last night, I set the alarm with a six handle (ouch) so that we could start the scramble that is our Sunday morning. And a scramble it was, but we made it out the door only five minutes behind schedule, which in my world counts as early.
I was thrilled when we got to the rink on time (plus or minus five minutes) and I found a parking spot out front. I turned off the car and unbuckled my seat belt. As I turned to Katie, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. I heard myself saying, “Sweetheart, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Mama messed up. Remember the pile of stuff right by the car in the garage? The one with your skates, socks, helmet and gloves in it? Yes, love, that pile. The one that is still sitting in the garage. The one that Mama somehow walked RIGHT by without putting in the car. Yes, sweetheart, the one that you can’t have this skating lesson without. Yes, that’s the one.”
And I’m thinking, “Wow, now I won’t even get to say, ‘It’s an honor just to be nominated.’” Dang!
But then I got lucky. I ran inside and when the rink manager saw my face she took pity on me. She helped me scramble and the day was saved. I ran back out to tell Katie and found her little lip trembling as she valiantly tried not to cry. With a knife (skate blade?) in my heart I ran her in and fitted her with a pair of boy’s hockey skates off the rental rack (ripping off my own socks first to stick them underneath) and, well, you know the rest.
We ran back into the car after the lesson and I took a deep breath as we headed off to try to make it to children’s choir practice on time (her other love). Katie sat happily in the back of the car, her cheeks flushed, munching on the bag of Cheerios that I’d brought in lieu of a nutritious breakfast -another nail in the coffin of my mother of the year award. In between handfuls of Cheerios she nonchalantly said, “Well THAT was a yard sale!” I laughed so hard I actually had to sit at a stop sign to catch my breath.
As we made our way to the highway, she asked, as she nearly always does, if we could play a driving game. We launched into geography -
Neptune. What kid throws in planets? “Well, it’s a place, Mama!”
Kennebunk “Now you say, “Kennebunkport, Mama!”
Happiest place on earth, which ends in ‘P’.
Oh my goodness. What could be more touching and beautiful and sweet? She loves me! She really loves me! Maybe DSS won’t be knocking on my door after all! Maybe I’m not the worst Mom EVER! Heck, maybe I’ll have to write that speech after all! “I’d like to thank ..”
And just as I’m turning into a puddle of Mama mush, she says with a smirk, “But, Mama? Next time, could you please remember not to forget everything?”
Oh well, it really is an honor just to be nominated.