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my oldest

I don’t know where my oldest gets his athletic prowess. I guess we lucked out.

He started gymnastics at our park district when he was three years old because I did not like the idea of sitting in the sun, the rain, or the cold for ball games. When he was seven, he was asked to join the newly-formed Boys Team  and he started his “career” in competitive gymnastics. It did sound impressive when I told people that he went to the State Championship. I am not one of those pushy and hyper-critical parents. I am amazed by the gymnastic moves my oldest can do, with ease, and most of the time, with grace. But I will be completely honest: there will be no Olympic medals in the future. He is good, could definitely do better, but not that good.

We attend his meets and hold our breath and watch, ready to comfort him or to cheer him on. It is getting harder and harder to sit in the audience since every event now involves the risk of him falling off or falling down. I don’t think I will be able to watch without having a heart attack as they start doing more and more dangerous “tricks”.

How do parents of Olympic athletes quiet their hearts when it is happening? What happens if something wrong happens to your child’s routine? How do you stop the ache in your heart, fortify it, and find the right words to comfort your heart-broken child? I used to wonder about that.

As my oldest reached the higher level in gymnastics, the routines became harder. Because he grew in height without packing on the pounds, his muscle strength (or lack of) does not allow him to perform as well as before. This became very obvious when he attended his first competition this past season.  Less then half way into his floor event, he fell, sat heavily on his bottom, not once, but twice. I could hear the gasps from the audience even in the noisy gymnasium. I will be brutally honest with you: it was painful to watch. I wanted to turn my head and close my eyes. NOT because I was embarrassed, please believe me when I say this, but because the urge to go to him right away and hug him was so strong that I physically felt ill. I had to sit on my hands to prevent them from flying to my mouth or chest and bite my lips so I didn’t break down and cry.

But he got up and finished his routine. He was not frazzled. Much to my surprise, when he exited the floor, he was neither in tears nor pouting; he walked back to where his team was sitting and fist-bumped his coaches.

THAT was one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent.

He has learned to fail. Or rather, he has learned the ability to not get bogged down by an accident or a mistake and forge ahead. He has learned the ability to remain calm and focus on what is ahead. An ability that I am sorely lacking.

Several days later when I was sure it was safe to touch upon the subject, I asked him with a frankness bordering on admiration,

“What was going through your mind when you fell and sat on the floor? How were you able to get up and continue with the routine? How did you find the strength to be so brave?” I was truly amazed by this young person’s (“My own son!”) will power to remain poised under such duress.

“Well, it’s nothing really. The coach has always told us to NOT think about what has happened and just focus on what’s next in the routine. We just need to focus and finish the routine. I don’t notice the audience when I am doing the routines. I just focus.”

Focus. Grace under fire. I believe these are the things that make athletes such special people. Any athletes, no matter the rankings or the scores. They don’t become broken-hearted by a single setback. They just do it again, and again, and again.

At his second meet when my son once again did not place and I once again agonized over what the right things to say to console and encourage him, he bounded to the bench where I was sitting in just one stride, plopped down, and before I could say, “I am sorry honey…”, declared with a smile, “I have achieved my three goals today.”

“I was telling everybody this. I have three goals for this meet and I reached all three of them:

1. I had fun
2. I did better than last time
3. I was not physically or emotionally scarred permanently.”

I laughed and slapped him on his back.

THAT was another one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent.

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This one will be short. It just happened, and I want to make sure that I capture this moment…

I worked from home today as I have been able to do when my co-worker travels since there would be nobody else in the office but me. As I was lamenting internally how much my job is killing my soul, I sighed and said to my son who was doing his homework at the kitchen table as I, “Make sure you find a job that you love when you grow up.”

“Do you love your job?”

“No.”

“Why don’t you do something about it?”

*sigh* “It’s inertia. It’s a good job. It pays well and allows me the flexibility to raise two children.”

“Well. When we grow up and are out of the house, I want you to be someone that you want to be, ok?”

This brought a shock wave to my being that I am failing to describe. I put my hands to my face and cried.

“Thank you. That’s one of the kindest things anybody has ever said to me.”

“You are welcome.”

All of a sudden I remembered the words Fuck Yeah Motherhood used to describe her teenage son, “Occasional glimpses of the man he will be are awe-inspiring.”

That’s what I am feeling right now.

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The best description of what it is like to be a parent is a comment left by suesue on Merrilymarylee’s Weblog:

Having a child was deciding to have your heart walking around outside your body forever

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My oldest turned 12 this week.

12.

That is a full Zodiac Cycle. I am sure it means something.

I am lucky in the sense that I only have boys; boys mature much later both physically and emotionally than girls, as I was assured by many moms with preteen girls. Therefore we really have not hit the “preteen” stage until recently. Like, a month ago.

The heralding moment? Facebook. As in,

“Mom. Can I have a Facebook account? Why can’t I be on Facebook? EVERYBODY ELSE is on Facebook!”

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You should be scared. Very very scared when your parents are on Facebook...

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It took me one month to go through the entire grief cycle and I am finally calm and collected enough to talk about it without sobbing uncontrollably.

It all started when he came home one Friday afternoon when I happened to be working from home. He seemed a bit jumpy. Happy jumpy.

“Mom… Can I tell you something? Hmmm… Well… Something happened at school today… NO. Nothing bad… Hmmm. Uhhhh.”

“Would you like to IM me about it? Would it be easier for you to tell me?”

“Yes!” He ran to the family computer and Ping! <<Begin transmission>>

son: mom
so…
me: yup
what’s going on?
son: um
i didnt tell u b4 but
ive always kinda…
me: i am fat?
son: liked
[this girl]
and
me: ohhhhhh
sorry dude
son: 2day
she said she liked me 2
:)
me: awwww
son: happy
me: :-)
son: :)
yay
ok
bye <<end transmission>>

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The :-) from me was a big fat lie. Acting skills came in handy in motherhood I learned. All through the exchange I was screaming inside my head. Headless chicken running around. WTF? He’s only in 6th grade! Elementary school. Why is he liking girls already?! Ohhh WOE IS ME! WTF?! Take a deep breath. Try to stay calm. You don’t want to make any wrong move. ’cause if you startle the snakes, you’ll never catch them again…

Thus began the Grief Cycle…

Denial: “No. Not him. Not my son. The 6th grader. Wasn’t he just a baby not too long ago? Aren’t 6th graders supposed to be safe from these things?!! I thought he hated girls. What happened to ‘Ewww. Girls’?! I thought I had to wait until Junior High for this? What’s happening?!”

Unfortunately, this phase lasted about 5 minutes since later when I signed his weekly school report, I saw:

“Dear Parental Unit…The best part is that the most beautiful girl in the scholl like me! Awesomeness!!”

Anger: “WTF? Why is this girl ruining my life?! Why is HE ruining my life?!”

My Facebook status read: “[Son] just said he wants a Facebook account. Then he showed me just HOW MANY of his classmates are on Facebook. 6th graders? With hundreds of friends? Already? Seriously? WT[beep]?! What happened to my baby?! I need to seriously get those evil women away from him…”

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Ok. Maybe I won't be the worst mother-in-law in the world...

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Soon the anger was channeled towards my husband who dared to laugh out loud when I informed him of the blossoming puppy love.

Unfortunately, this phase lasted for the longest time. I was mad in advance at the cruelty of my children, forsaking me for THAT OTHER WOMAN in the future. In my most irrational moments, I even called him SOB in my head as in ME being the Biatch. I said I was being irrational… Yeah, I know. I am going to be the worst mother-in-law in history. I can tell already from the boiling blood inside my skull…

Bargaining: “If I am a better mother, maybe he will not become wayward like this.” “I wonder whether supplying him with more video games will help divert his attention away from girls.”

The bargaining goes both ways – Facebook time & privilege has now become a major ACE in my card deck when bargaining with my oldest. I can also threaten him with, “I am going to write on your wall!” <cue evil laughter>

Depression: “Fine. He’s going to leave anyway. He’s going to grow up. My baby….”

This phase actually started from the beginning as I alternated between cursing and sobbing, especially when I went through his baby pictures.

Acceptance: “It’s going to be ok. I can deal with this. We can do this. I will survive without killing anybody.”

By talking to people about their “OMG my child is on Facebook” experiences, I learned that there are ways to tame this monster to your own parental advantages. After some trial and errors, Facebook turned out to be not as evil cradle robber as I expected. I can now spy check on my son and see who he is talking to, and what.

All in all, reflecting on this agonizing month, I am glad that I bit my tongue and played it cool. Yes, at the beginning there were a lot of dramas that provided record-high number of WTF moments in one sitting. 6th graders? Lamenting about love lost? Say what? Not to mention the “F” letter scattered throughout the conversations, most of the time unnecessarily. Do you seriously need to use LMFAO? The initial excitement over the “declaration” has apparently worn off.  My son’s Facebook status now consists mainly of game score updates. THAT’s my boy.

As I said to my husband, I feel better that my baby still prefers video games to girls. I don’t mind if my boys are geeks. I am sure that Bill Gates’ mom didn’t mind at all. Not one bit.


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What I learned from the Olympics*… *Not what you think

February 27, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet We have been watching the Winter Olympics. I didn’t plan to. But what’s not to love really? Finally something on prime time that does not involve dead bodies, sexual predators, or its own mythologies. Naturally I gravitated towards Ice Dancing and Figure Skating. (No, I don’t really want to engage in a debate about […]

16 comments

Do you know what you are reading to your children?

February 26, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet Do you really know? I mean, really really? Do you know what you are reading them and how they are hearing what you are reading them?… I was browsing through the Costco “magazine” (what sadly passes as reading material for me nowadays) in bed when my oldest came to snuggle with sit by me. […]

48 comments

Makeup

February 21, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet 1. Reading the comments people left for my last post, praising me for recognizing and questioning the rigid gender rules, in addition to feeling thankful, I am actually embarrassed. Feeling a bit like a fraud. A hypocrite. In an ironic way, although I set out to remain anonymous so I can speak my mind […]

19 comments

Raising Boys

February 18, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet As much as I lament the lack of girl presence in my household, I know I am blessed to have my boys. They tug at my heart even though they bruise my sides sometimes when they roughhouse; They have no control over and are unaware of their own growing limbs.  They are protective of […]

62 comments

How I relax

February 9, 2010 a picture is worth a thousand words

Tweet To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me, and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism: it’s my least favorite quality, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody […]

22 comments

Trouble Maker? You talking to me?

January 21, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet Sometimes I wonder whether the teachers talk about the parents amongst themselves. I would probably be known as “Trouble Maker”. My favorite moment was when I confronted approached the principal at the Thanksgiving Feast: “Could I safely assume that the headpieces the children are wearing are ‘turkeys’ and not ‘head dresses’?” I used the […]

42 comments

Shoes

January 9, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet Self-denial. This post was supposed to be written last summer, but I got sidetracked. Or it could be that I simply did not want to deal with reality. Up till this summer, I still ordered shoes for my oldest from Lands’ End, BOYS department. I buy almost everything online not wanting to go shopping […]

26 comments