Thursday, March 10, 2011

I bet the parents of real Olympic athletes don't make the same mistake I did

From mid-January to mid-February, Mallory missed a lot of skating lessons. She was sick one week. There was a blizzard one week. There was one week that there was legitimately no ice time, and another week when we were all tired and just didn't feel like going. By the time we got her back on the ice, she had decided she didn't like skating lessons any more. She started crying each night as we headed for the rink. "Just a few more weeks," I promised her each time, feeling terribly guilty for dragging her out there when she clearly didn't want to go. She was usually OK once she got on the ice, but the whole thing was really an ordeal.And then last night, it was the Skating Olympics. We told Mallory there would be races and for the first time in probably months, she was genuinely excited to go. "I'm going to win!" she kept telling us. It made me smile to think she was looking forward to it.And then, one hundred percent on account of my own ineptitude, we got her there for her usual 6:30 ice time... but the Olympics had started at 6 and were already half over. I couldn't believe it. I felt awful. Thankfully, Mallory didn't notice that everyone else there seemed to have already settled in. (And, luckily, there were a few other families in the same boat as us.) Still, I would probably count this among my Top Ten Worst Parenting Moments. I just felt really, really stupid, and really incompetent. The skating club had handed out flyers the week before, for crying out loud. I just didn't read far down enough to see that the ice time was different. It's kind of a silly thing to let bother me so much, but on account of how much Mallory was looking forward to it... it really did get to me.
Maybe too it's because I'm almost done reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the controversial new book about how the Chinese method of parenting is superior to Western parenting. I picked this book up expecting to dislike it immensely, and I disagree with about 95% of what the author says and does. But, it's a hilarious read, and it does make you question your own approach to things. (In a nutshell, the author advocates being extremely harsh on your kids, criticizing them constantly, badgering them to spend hours a day doing math drills and practicing classical music, and never allowing them to have a sleepover. There is one part of the book, where the author describes receiving handmade birthday cards from her two young daughters, that had me howling. She knows that her husband had the kids make the cards at the last minute and that little effort went into them. "I reject this card!" she tells her daughter, and orders her to go back and do it again but this time put more thought and effort into it. I mean - can you imagine??)

But I bet the Tiger Mother would never, ever have missed the first half of the Skating Olympics. As much as I heckle her, that adds to my guilt.Regardless of my own shortcomings, Mallory adored the Olympics. She took to the ice and won the first race she was in. When she puts her mind to something, she does it. I like that about her... even though it's the root cause of many an argument around here.

Unfortunately, I think the standings for the Skating Olympics are calculated on a cumulative basis. The fact that Mallory won one race out of ten matters little when she gets a DNF for five of them. She was skating so hard, she had a few tumbles. In each case she was back on her feet in - literally - seconds. Her determination amazed me.OK... there was some waiting around between races, too.
She is starting to master the gliding aspect of skating. She takes a running start and then lets the momentum push her across the ice. She just needs to stop being so fascinated by her feet, and watch where she is going.

She was crowing about that victory in her first race as she came off the ice, and I think we should be able to get her to the rink for the next three weeks with far fewer tears than we've had recently. Unfortunately, we are going to have to shield her from the awards ceremony that is being held after her lesson next week. She is not going to qualify for anything, and will have an awfully hard time understanding that after she just got finished kicking her classmates' butts.