Thursday, 27 March 2014

Of Quitters, Winners, Whiners, and Sissies.

House rules in our joint dictate that barring any broken limbs, if you start an activity, you finish it, and if you don’t want to go back next year then you don’t have to. You can deal with any post-traumatic stress and repressed emotions in your 30’s like the rest of us. Bear witness to house league soccer, rep soccer, karate, piano lessons, power skating, lacrosse, terrain park skiing and mountain bike camp to name a few.  All cast aside to make room for the promise of more exciting pursuits. At this rate, we’ll be looking at purchasing a wing suit and base jumping lessons just to keep this child’s adrenalin up to acceptable levels.

Letting kids find their thing often seems to be harder on the parents than any of the kids who are actually doing the thing. After going through a heartbreaker with lacrosse one year, I realized how easy it is to turn into an overbearing tiger-mom. Case in point: boy picks up a lacrosse stick for the first time at a skills camp in March, starts the season in April and by July is among the league leaders in points. He’s making the players around him better, he’s seeing the floor in a way the others aren’t and seemingly scoring at will. Then he goes to lacrosse camp in August and wins the coaches award. Well that was all the encouragement I needed.

In my mind, we’re just 8 short years away from a full scholarship at Cornell University. I can see him now, number 11 out on the field among the storied Big Red lacrosse team, smashing those pesky Princeton Tigers to smithereens. Mrs. Rock and Roll Librarian and I will come down on weekends to watch games and bask in the social elitism only an Ivy League school can provide.

Instantly I knew we needed to get him into field lacrosse because that’s the American game. This is where I was cut off at the knees.

“Dad, I don’t think I want to do lacrosse next year”

“What? Why not? You’re awesome at it.” I say through the tears. My tears I mean.

“It’s too rough. I don’t like all the slashing and getting hit from behind.”

“But…how will I ever get to Cornell?” I’m really crying now.

I had hoped perhaps I wouldn’t pass the sissy gene on to the boy but no such luck. Getting cross checked into the boards is not my idea of a good time either, but I thought maybe he would be tougher than me.

“You know, field lacrosse is not nearly as rough as box lacrosse” I say weakly, knowing my dream of living vicariously through the boy is about to evaporate before my eyes. That was a tough one to let go, however briefly it tempted me.

And now, a long basketball season is winding down and spring ball hockey is ramping up, creating an inevitable showdown that threatens the tenuous balance between the two sports. Fate has cruelly intervened to complicate things as the two activities fall on the same night. To make matters worse, the boy is captain of the basketball team, and as such, he needs to be at every practice to demonstrate his commitment and leadership skills. Problem is that we have reached basketball saturation and have become giddy with anticipation of a fresh ball hockey season.

“Do I have to go to basketball practice?”

“Yes. You only have two practices left, and then you can concentrate on ball hockey.”

Cue mumbling under breath, eye rolling and dramatic slamming of objects. I know it’s immature of me, but it’s the only communication they understand.

What we don’t want is for one activity (in our case, basketball) to drag on so long that it becomes a chore. It’s a balance of finding the fun and still showing your stick-to-it-ness. If the kid really wants it, then presumably, they’ll roll with the ups and downs and do it. If they want to move on after the season is over, then in my books that’s fine. I guess that’s how you get well-rounded offspring who can go from band practice to swim practice and all points in between.

So far, we’ve been lucky in that he hasn’t shown any interest in the drum kit that resides in our basement, or asked for bagpipe lessons. I’m sure I can handle driving to tournaments 2 hours away better than I can handle the screech of the pipes.

Don’t get me wrong. Every day I count myself lucky to have a great kid who is athletic and smart and interested in a multitude of things, including the not so desirable stuff like video games and junk food. So what if he has dashed my dreams of being the dad to a Cornell student? At least I’m not the dad to a mid-season quitter.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Dear win.

Congratulations winter…you have finally broken my spirit. Are you happy now?

This revelation came without fanfare or really even a fight, but I knew it was over when I quit shoveling about five weeks ago. I just didn’t care anymore.

Normally I love to fire up my snow blower and clear the driveway, but after the last significant snowfall, I just didn’t have it in me. Then the plow went by and left an extra foot at the end of the driveway, and I knew I couldn’t face it. We just drove over it, and now the ruts are so deep it looks like we staged a tractor pull there. After cleaning off the hot tub lid and deck on a near daily basis, I gave that up too. All it’s doing now is festering under two feet of snow and running up the hydro meter. The sheds are inaccessible, the barbeque is buried and we only have one door out of four we can still use. We’re one more good snowfall away from being completely cut off from civilization. What are we, in Timmins for God sake? (Sorry Timmins, but…you know).

My kid is now going to grow up and be able to say to his kids, “When I was your age, we still had four feet of snow in the back yard in the middle of May, and my dad nearly turned into Jack Nicholson in The Shining when the snow slid off the roof and crushed his barbeque.”

This is Canada. It’s supposed to be cold. It’s also March and there is still so much snow out back that the dogs won’t even leave the poop trail. That’s right…the designated area for dogs to relieve themselves amounts to a series of channels carved out of the snow. It looks like World War One trench warfare out there, and it has been shrinking since December, creating an increasingly concentrated toxic area which is going to be very unpleasant when the snow finally does melt. March is supposed to be melty and sunny and a time of joyous laughter. Instead, it’s all crappy and grey and filled with ice dams and misery. Oh did I forget to mention the ice dam? At a house we rent out in town, there is an ice blockage on the roof the size of a small glacier. One of the bedroom ceilings is ready to collapse and insurance doesn't cover it.

Maybe it’s global warming or El Nino or maybe I just didn't build my winter solstice fire big enough to appease the Gods. Either way, if this happens again, I’m going to have to consider applying for a green card and moving to Texas. I could handle hurricanes, republicans and no hockey if it meant doing it at 85 °.

I have tried to embrace you winter, I really have. I've been out snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and skating on the pond. Your embrace unfortunately, has turned into a creepy, too long bear hug and you are making me uncomfortable. It’s time to let go and we’ll see you next year.