For some reason lately, I’ve been thinking about all the stuff the kids did when they were younger. Both the Manchild and the Mathmajor did a LOT more things than I ever did. Of course, the main reason for this is I never really wanted to do anything but read or ride my bike as a kid. I did have one year of little league (played right field never got a hit) and did Cub Scouts for a while, but that was it.
The boys, Manchild played, baseball for a couple years, even got to pitch once or twice, and tried wrestling (hated it!) . His “nice weather” activity now is longboarding and he loves it.
Mathmajor tired both gymnastics and Irish Step dancing for a bit, as well as one year of Cub Scouts (the people in our troop were weird!) But the thing they both did the most was Inline speed skating.
I am sure many of you have seen Apollo Ohno speed skating on ice in the Olympics. Well many of the ice speed skaters started at roller skating rinks, and they worked their way up to ice. Well Ohno started his career at the neighborhood rink where I used to live in Federal Way, Pattison’s West.
Mathmajor started out taking Sunday night lessons and ended up, a couple years later, asked to join the team. He was 11, and did surprisingly very well in his age group. He had a jack rabbit start and was the wind! Sadly, his dad tried time and time again to film his races, and the Manchild’s later. Sadly, there was more video of the floor and ceiling as dad kept watching and yelling encouragements instead of filming.
That first year Mathmajor actually qualified for Nationals! Which was in Pensacola, in July…. UGH. But all four of us (his mom, manchild, and me) boarded a plane (we made sure to carry on the skates just in case) and headed for the East coast.
The event was held in a large coliseum. If you’ve ever been in a skating rink, you now the floors they have there. For Nationals, they bring in a portable floor, just like a skating rink, that snaps together. Too allow the kids (ok in all honesty, speed skaters range from 4 to 75 year olds), to get used to the floor, the first night was an open social skate.
So there we were, at the coliseum, which was huge, and there were a couple of thousand people (skaters. Coaches, vendors, families, friends) in the stands. It was loud, and buzzing. I didn’t think anything of it, but Manchild freaked out a bit.
I was shocked, as he is the one a lot like me, mellow, goes with the flow, nothin bugs him. I am not sure if it was the noise, or the people or the venue, but he in essence lost it. He refused to put on his skates and disappeared in the restroom.
OK, not my most stellar dad moment. It was hot and muggy, so I was grouchy. The trip wasn’t’ cheap. I was perfectly OK if the kid had one raceand got aced out. Hell, he made nationals and how many didn’t. But to fly ALL that way and not even put on the skates? NO!
So, there I was yelling through the bathroom stall door (he locked himself in and was NOT coming out!) getting angrier all the time. I finally broke out the Swiss Army knife to unlock it, threw open the door, and saw a scared 11 year old. Not scared of me, just of everything going on. I am happy to say the brain reset. I was still mad, but I realized it wasn’t fair to be mad at him. Hell I’d never been in anything like this before, so I had no idea what was going through his kid mind.
It was time to go for broke. “Ok dude,” I said (shoot even calmly), “Here’s my deal for you. Put on your skates and give me 2 laps. That’s all. If after 2 you want to take them off and skip the event, done deal, we are out of here.” And I meant it. I am sure over the years I’ve scarred the kids more than once by mistake, no sense in doing it on purpose.
I got him back to the family and his skates. Motioned to his mom to not ask questions (she was as mad as I was) and helped him get the skates on. He got out on the floor and I watched him from the stands. He started out slow, I could read his thoughts. “I am going to skate two laps and get the hell out of here! I’ll show him!!”
Funny thing happened though. As he started the second lap, I could see him starting to feel the music. It was loud skating rink music, all kids love it, and he was dancing on the skates, moving to the beat. Then as the second lap was almost done, and I was wondering if I would be having to explain why we were leaving and not coming back, two of his teammates passed him going fast.
The reflexes kicked in! He was off like a shot after them and never stopped! I finally had to drag his butt off the floor 4 hours later so I could get some sleep, I was tired. He ended up having not a single issue during competition. And made it out of the first round, losing out in the second. A few years later, in Omaha, we were back at nationals, and his relay team ended up with a national speed record for his age group.
We’ve never talked about this, he and I, but since that day, I’ve never seen him be scared of anything. Shoot he even performed in his school’s musical, “Hairspray.” (he’s on the left below)
I won’t say I passed this parent challenge with flying colors, but I will give myself a C+.