Balance. On skates. While swinging a bat. And eating McDonald's.

I just read this article in today's Ottawa Citizen. It touches on something that I can see becoming an issue in my family, and something to which I've given quite a bit of thought (yes, I did have to erase 'something I've given quite a bit of thought to'; I can't help it, my infinitives just WANT to be split. Occasionally I dangle a participle just for fun too - clearly I'm just no damned good).

My husband played hockey. He was short, but fast, and played on competitive teams, which meant a lot of practices and a lot of tournaments away from home. His youngest brother was a really good figure skater, which meant thousands of dollars in equipment and coaching fees, and again, a lot of time at the rink. My middle brother-in-law? I'm not sure what he did besides being a quick-witted pain in the ass (sorry Eric) -- note to self, research posts before writing.

My husband, obviously, married me. I had a sister. My sister played soccer for a few years when she was young. Other than that, we took piano lessons. I read books. In high school, we were on the debating team (I sucked. She rocked. she was also a quick-witted pain in the ass. Must be a second kid thing). We got really good marks.

So now we have this kid. This enormous towering hunk of male child. We signed him up for hockey, a little later than most parents, because he wasn't chomping at the bit and my husband wanted to make sure he could really skate well first. He did not take the Minor Hockey League by storm. I figured we were safe -- he could play in house league for a few years, and I would only have to be dimly aware of the whole tedious, early, smelly-equipment business.

Then he started playing baseball. Holy crap, can this kid swing a baseball bat. Watching him catch a line-drive is a thing of beauty. He's really, really good. That's fine. I like baseball. I much prefer sitting in a lawnchair in the grass over sitting on a hard bench in an arena, my heat intolerance notwithstanding. I figured we could shove hockey back into the damp, sour locker room and forget about it. Baseball only happens in spring (May-June) and summer (July-August). We were laughing!

Ha. He's still playing hockey. And now he's in baseball winter training. Which means that from September to December he plays hockey, from January to April he plays hockey AND baseball and then in summer he plays just baseball. I keep telling my husband that at some point he's going to have to choose, but my husband is living in some happy little dreamland that says no, we can do it ALL. He mentioned at one point that he thought maybe he'd sign Angus up for speed-skating too. I started to marshall all my careful arguments, and then I decided to just hit him really hard in the stomach and assume he'd get the message.

We're nowhere near as taxed as some families yet, but this summer Angus wants to try out for the competitive baseball team, which he barely missed making last summer, mostly because he was technically still too young (my husband's face and my face when he was asked to try out must have looked something like this. If he makes it, this means we can't go away anywhere this summer. That's fine, if it's just for one summer. But how do you keep it from becoming your whole life? Or how do you decide that you don't mind if it IS your whole life? How do you maintain a marriage when you're basically two single parents, each hauling one kid to hockey and the other to dance, or swimming, or gymnastics? Or when one of you moves away from home with one child so they can be near their trainer, or a better facility? My family had dinner together almost every night. My husband's family had McDonald's twice a week while rushing around between skating rinks. He thinks this is normal. I try not to mention that his parents are now married to two other people (which, to be fair, is due to many many factors. Really).

I can't deny that sports has done great things for my son. He was a timid, anxious child who reminded me of myself as a child, and I probably did subconsciously beg the fates to do something to make him not be like me. Maybe this is just a case of be careful what you wish for. Ever since he started playing baseball, he has a confidence that I never had. Other kids look up to him and coaches respect his ability. I'm grateful for all that. But he started playing the piano this year, and he really likes that too -- he plays every morning before school without even being asked. I loved playing the piano, and I NEVER practiced without various threats and blandishments. I accept that sports will be an important part of his identity. I just don't want it to be the only part.

Thank goodness I only have one boy. Thankfully, Eve's not that good at anything yet. Oh relax, I'm kidding. We've been observing a strict one-year policy for each type of dance (ballet, tap, Irish), partly because none has really held her interest and partly because the flaky dance school managers keep pissing me off. If she discovers something she really loves, I'm screwed.

All this is to say that I really respect Alexandre Bilodeau's mother's decision to pull all three kids out of skating and spend time on the ski hills together, although 'so he can win a gold medal in something else' probably wasn't top on her list of reasons. But the thing about the Mom in The Hockey Sweater? I totally disagree. Making her kid wear a Leafs' sweater was just cruel.


Anonymous said…
This is something that I have no answers for, and live in fear of. I am a joiner, and I got myself overextended last year with a 4-year-old and a baby while I was on maternity leave. Really, I should not have had anything on my schedule, by all accounts, but I somehow managed to fill the whole blasted thing. Right now I've decided that my 5-year-old can do one activity at a time, but in the fall it will be Kindergarten & Sparks & one other activity. And what will it be when she's 10 and her brother's 7? I shudder to think.

I hope you find an answer.
Julie said…
what father doesn't have the dream of their son being a pro athlete? another reason that i am thankful what we only have one child is that we won't have to do the split up thing to cater to two kids schedules. though i do want to find a balance and make sure that we aren't out every night, eating meals on the run and not having any finaliy time together, rather than it being form the side lines. how are we gonig to do that? i have no idea. hence the reason i read the blogs of people with old kids so they can teach me their wisdom!
Mary Lynn said…
My husband got all annoyed with me one time when I vocalized my hope that neither of the kids get really really into hockey. I feel stressed just thinking about all the practices and tournaments and such. "We can't keep the kids from doing a sport they love!" Technically, I agree with that, but I also suspect it would mostly be me driving the kids around here and there and everywhere. I don't think it's good for a family to be over-taxed.

I like the idea of finding a sport we call do, so maybe skiing will be our winter thing, too. My brother and his wife and sons all do karate at the same club. That's not my thing, but they love it...and they love that they can all go to the same place and be active together (though in different classes).
Lynn said…
Man, I love the way your brain works. However, I must disagree about the hockey sweater. It was a perfectly good sweater and dammit, that kid should wear it.

I live in fear of these days. Already with our three doing swimming lessons and gymnastics, we feel overtaxed. I can't imagine how we are going to handle it when each of the three of them wants to do their own thing.

When I was a kid, all of my three sisters and me took three kinds of dance, plus we all had swim lessons and my older sister did synchronized swimming, plus my younger sisters took skating and piano. AND my mom was a single mother who still made dinner every night.

Obviously, days are much, much shorter now than they were 20 years ago. QED.

I think the key to my mom's success was the leaving. She'd drop us off and pick us up but she rarely stayed and waited. I think we need to take more advantage of the supervised lesson/practice/game time to do errands, so we can make more family time later.
Anonymous said…
That's great that your son WANTS to work hard to be successful at these things...he actually LIKES to practice! I realize families sacrifice many things for their childrens dreams, and I feel for you with the time thing and the endless running around. It is stressful, but your son will never forget what you've done for him and you'll never regret least, I don't think so. I have fond memories of those times with my own children. I do love the humor you wove into this post. Good luck!
Anonymous said…
This is such a tough one. But I want to echo suzicate's sentiment that it is WONDERFUL that he is passionate about something. We've had "issues" with our daughter finding her passion (she quits after a few years of anything).
GFS said…
Oh my goodness! That's a lot of practice...for you...since you have to be there!

My kid, when I have one, will have only one up my house! I'm gonna train him/her young! That way I get to enjoy it!

LOL...just kidding!

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