Tonight, I took the kids to roller derby practice. I brought along a laptop that has about a million games on it, plus I took them to Redbox on the way so they’d have something to watch. God forbid they spend even one minute without some kind of entertainment… Unfortunately for me, they had already decided that going to practice with me was lame- a waste of their time- and not even a new Spongebob release could appease them.
Initially, I tried to ignore their huffing and puffing. I figure actions speak louder than words (or grunts) and so, as long as they were doing what I asked, I would maintain my calm and overlook their churlishness. That was easy to do for the first ten minutes, but, by the time we pulled into the parking lot of the rink (twenty minutes late thanks to Redbox), I was nearing my limit.
“Let’s remember that not all communication is verbal and I’m about up to HERE with the talking back that your eyeballs are doing, rolling around in your head like that,” I said.
“UH! I didn’t even doooo anything wrong. You are sooo mean!” my son- the grouchier of the two- protested.
So, you know… fine. He had me on a technicality since I couldn’t prove that he wasn’t rolling his eyes in some weird attempt to see something going on 360 degrees around his head. Or, that he wasn’t sighing loudly in a last attempt to pump air into a collapsing lung. Let it go, get out on the track, and leave them to their games and movies; it will be fine. Or so I told myself.
In truth, I wasn’t five minutes into practice before I started seeing their little faces peeking over the rail, motioning me over to mediate arguments, listen to their repeated complaints, and generally keep me posted on the status of their discontent.
After settling a particularly tedious spat, returning to the track only to fall- SPLAT!- on my tailbone (don’t fall that way, by the way), and wishing that my awesome and ferocious teammates might intimidate my kids into better behavior, it struck me: the kids need a coach, and I am it!
I know this seems like a given. I mean, I understand the concept of parenting and have been actively trying to be a good parent for nigh on eleven years. I know that the word “discipline” comes from the Latin “disciplinare”: to teach. I mean… I get it, you know? It’s just that this is the first time I am going through something similar to what they, as children, must go through all the time. I’m new- a newbie, a rookie, fresh meat, a neophyte- whatever you want to call it. And so are they.
Learning the rules of roller derby and feeling the frustration of failing, failing, failing before finally getting it right- ugh, it can be discouraging! But, the sometimes tough, often gentle, but always consistent reminders that my coaches and teammates give me are what give me hope that I will someday be able to DO EET (as Annie Knuckles would say)! Repetition, consistency, encouragement, tough love, and – most of all- good examples are the tools that my team captains use to make sure that I know how to do things the right way and the safe way.
I need to be that person for the kids. I need to remember that no matter how many times they fall, it’s up to me to help them get up and get them skating in the right direction. Which, tonight, meant reminding them of the countless hours of practice I’ve sat through for them (hello- soccer, ballet, basketball, tee ball?!). It meant encouraging them to work out their differences; and it meant threatening to take away everything they hold dear if they didn’t stop dragging me off the track to complain. (Admittedly, I didn’t learn that last thing from my coach. But, sometimes, during game play, you have to improvise.)
(This post was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)