Sunday, October 1, 2017

Lessons Learned

This month has been an emotional one for me, comprised of lessons learned, memories relived and lingering questions.

Lesson learned:

Being the mom of an athlete isn't all rainbows and moonbeams.

Maddie (10) has been doing gymnastics since she was two. She has always been a gym rat; taking every opportunity to bounce, flip and balance. I'm a bona fide gym mom. I don't just drop her off and use the 3 hours of practice to get my errands run. I sit in the stands and live the experience with her, day in and day out. I am constantly amazed as I watch her (and her teammates') growth and development, and I thoroughly enjoy the experience.

I have always said my only goal was to offer Maddie the opportunity to have fun, stay fit, and learn to be a successful, well-rounded person - that I'm not the "live-vicariously-through-my-kid-type", the "scary-stage-mom-type", the "obnoxious-sideline-mom-type" or the "my-kid-WILL-be-an-Olympic-and/or-professional-athlete-type". That's easy enough to proclaim, but the path to that goal is not always crystal clear. How do you respond when your athlete has a personality conflict with a coach? What do you say when your athlete doesn't meet a goal or level she expected to reach (and - more importantly - a goal or level her friends did reach)? And what do you do when your child is feeling like a failure as an athlete?

I'll tell you what you do - especially if all that is happening at the same time. You hit your mattress every night in the form of a drained, frustrated emotional puddle after spending hours carefully piecing her fragile self esteem back together...just to have it blown apart at the next practice with the drama de jour.

You hate seeing your child distressed in any way, but do you encourage her to quit? Do you cheer her on to get up, shake it off, and move forward? Is that really in her best interest, or is the real motivation that you aren't ready to let go of the sport (or the thousands of dollars you've already plunked down in advance for the season...but that's another story)? Is this just a rough patch or is this a sign that it's time to move on to other exciting new ventures?

Maddie made it easier on me. In one of our [many...many] heart-to-heart's over the past few weeks, I attempted to demonstrate I was hearing her by saying, "I can understand why you may be thinking about walking away from gymnastics when you're feeling this way, but-"

She interrupted me with a curt, "Wait - who said anything about QUITTING?!"

I'm still confident that I'm holding true to my initial intentions and goals for Maddie. After some long, difficult discussions, it is clear that what we're doing is for her, not me. What is also clear, however, is the reminder that growth and development isn't all physical. The journey to a "fit, well-rounded" adult by way of sport is littered with mental and emotional trials that are sometimes even more daunting than the physical challenges.

Memories relived:

James fainted earlier this month. I know, I know..."Say it isn't so!!!" The thing is, James is one of those who has a "pseudo-seizure" when he passes out. I've been told I do the same thing, actually, so maybe it's hereditary. Anyway, when he went down and started convulsing, I was the perfect picture of calm, cool and collected. The nurse in the room, on the other hand, was decidedly more alarmed (as he was not aware of James' fainting antics...note to self - alert medical personnel of fun little tid-bits like that in the future).

What took me by surprise was what happened the next day. I woke up an emotional and nervous wreck. I couldn't place it, but everything felt off and dark and suffocating. Then it dawned on me. It was PTSD. Even though I knew that what James had experienced was non life-threatening and benign, I was reminded of Hannah's big, bad seizure days enough that I had to work over about a two-day period to tamp down that panic and dread that was consuming me. Huh...who knew?

With that knowledge, I'm treading carefully into the next few weeks. Emily went in for an endocrinology appointment earlier in the month. You may remember that a year ago she was diagnosed with Graves Disease. The good news is that her thyroid levels are finally back in the normal range. The bad news is that her heart rate was clocked at 120 (normal resting heart rate is 60's to 70's). I feel so bad for the kid. Her heart rate has hardly dropped into the two-digit range for over a year now; I can't imagine how drained she must always feel and how her heart must just constantly feel like it's thumping out of her chest.

We had been blaming the increased heart rate (tachycardia) on the Graves Disease, but we can no longer do that. I took her to her general practitioner a few weeks after the endocrinology appointment, and not only was her heart rate still sky high, but her blood pressure was well above normal, too. She has an appointment with cardiology next week. It's all a little too deja vous, for my taste (taking me squarely back to Hannah's heart failure days), but what are ya gonna do? It is what it is, and we'll hope for the best while trying to keep the past in the past this time around.

Lingering question:

When you get a kitten in hopes he will be a great hunter, how do you train him how to go about his job? Loki is about 9 months old now and he's exceeding expectation with his predatory instinct. He prowls, he stalks, he pounces, he plays. ...And he plays, and he plays, and he plays. Occasionally he kills, but mainly he plays.

Unfortunately, his favorite playground is our living room. Furthermore, his favorite hunting time is about 4 A.M., and for the last week he has performed like clockwork. Every morning this week - without exception, - he has caught a mouse outside our bedroom window by the shed. He plays [with his obnoxious squeaky toy] until he hears me rouse from bed, then he proudly prances his way back in through the doggy door to flip, bat, and bang said toy around for a few hours...until he looses it under the piano or behind the couch. He always picks back up on the game later in the day, but he doesn't always seem interested in rewarding himself with a meal after his play time.

After praising his hunting prowess on Monday, I held the door open for him, and he took his toy back outside. He didn't seem to grasp my message that these toys are outdoor toys, because playtime was back in session in the living room at 4:30 A.M. on Tuesday. We found the remains of that toy on Thursday; it had apparently died of either fear or internal injury, curled up behind the desk. I think he has eaten the others he has brought in, but I haven't really tested that theory by pulling the couch away from the wall to see what's under it.

What I did learn was that when you're talking on your cell phone as you walk through the grocery store parking lot, you may want to lower your voice when you're agreeing with your daughter that it's hard to watch and listen to the marathon torture sessions by saying [with a laugh], "I know! I just wish he'd hurry up and die, already!"