Parenting and teaching are both difficult jobs with very high stakes. I’m not talking about getting your offspring into the right colleges or data points based on students assessments when I talk about stakes. Deeper. More basic. I’m simply talking about the part of those jobs wherein we are tasked with kids’ physical and mental safety. Accidents happen that put dents in both. Characters are formed in those dents as the rest of the child also forms around them. How they react, what they take away, how they are changed or are resilient and to what degree. But we protect from what we can and the world unfairly and unnecessarily makes that part of both jobs difficult sometimes.
My eldest won “track athlete of the week” last week and the next day at his indoor baseball practice badly sprained his foot or ankle by crashing into the wall and netting right at the onset of a sort of jokey slow guy race they were concluding practice with. I, as the only parent who sits there at 8 am Sunday baseball practice, was there to witness his embarrassment and pain. He is not our athlete but loves sports and tries so hard. Hence the award the week previous. The race in such an enclosed area with such a big boy (he has thinned out considerably and wouldn’t really be considered overweight at this point, he is just very tall and still growing into his body which, mixed with what is definitely generational clumsiness and a try-hard attitude, is a recipe for exactly this sort of disaster) was obviously a bad idea and one I supposed I could’ve protected him from but of course, wouldn’t dare. It was an accident. A dent. And he bounced back flawlessly and besides crutches and boot, unscathed.
My daughter spent the last weekend with a 103 temperature and this nasty virus that lingered over a week. She took bloodwork and an IV like a champ and a prescription of “stay warm and eat as many calories as possible” with glee. Her little body was severely dehydrated and in starvation mode due to the virus, her love of water only, and fear of eating anything since she felt so ill. She couldn’t keep up on the water front with the demands her body was making and over time not fueling it took its toll and she was completely drained of energy. Odd to see from such a spark plug. Still, as a parent you take that hit from not being able to protect or nurse her in an adequate way, learn, and move on. She’s all good now and with most of a child’s world being a veritable germ factory we will ensure the next virus will be fought in a more proper way.
I just got back from my middle guy’s basketball game. The team we played was outmatched from the start and they had some very yelly coaches. I have been a yelly coach. Seeing it from the stands made my stomach turn a bit. That has been me. There are two sides to this approach to coaching and I am not venturing into those argumentative waters in this post but I will say that today I was glad my kid wasn’t on a team with a coach like that. Like I have been in the past and still am in travel baseball from time to time, admittedly. I am taking a 2 year hiatus from coaching basketball because my Masters coursework is a little too demanding to put in the effort needed for such an undertaking. Today I was glad to have such even keeled coaches manning the helm. See, my middle guy is our athlete. Our big one is the brains of the whole thing. Middle guy sprinted on some ice a few weeks back and came crashing down on his shoulder. The one on his throwing arm. Twice. Amongst other things on our baseball team he is a pitcher. One of our most consistent and effective pitchers. Travel ball means year round workouts and practices. He has been held out, besides conditioning and running, for almost 3 weeks now because of this shoulder and on Monday he will finally be going to the doctor. We thought, like with all dents, this one would heal up. It has not. He has still muscled through basketball season. He, like his brother before him, has sprouted up. I think he loves basketball slightly more than baseball but maybe that’s just because it’s what’s on TV right now. The plan today was for him to go as much as he could and then he was given the ok to pull himself if he felt further injury was possible. That’s part of being the yelly coach guy if you care enough to reflect on your actions and the fallout from them. Kids are scared to fail, for you. Knowing that is a sickening thing. I make sure that when I get too yelly I sit my kid down after the volume subsides and drill into him ten times harder than the yelling that I am proud of him whether he succeeds or fails. Damage control. So going into today, and with all this lead up to the baseball season starting in just over a month, I continue to tell my son that his health is way more important to me than his participation in anything that might hamper it. That’s me trying to do my job. They are with their mom this weekend and last night before the game my buddy took my son along with his kids to the Monster Truck thing and then he slept over after. Night before the game, kids didn’t stay up too late, shoulder was sore as usual but all was well.
I think it was about Wednesday that an entire line of 3rd graders was entering the building, almost chanting to whoever would hear that they should stay away from Youtube. By the end of the day multiple kids told me about something called Momo. A friend was talking about it just last night and showed me a picture of this Momo. It’s a horror film distorted face that I guess hackers have put into children’s videos (which for some kids are like crack) and it pops up and freaks them out and tells them to do terrible things. At 4 am last night my guy, already dealing with the bum shoulder and all the other particles of confused angsty change that swirl in an eleven year old’s world, woke up and swore that his friend’s face was actually Momo. Eyes open and distorted. Very scary. He couldn’t focus his eyes in the dark enough to get that image to go away. He is not the brains of the operation but is by no means brainless. He was able to rationalize the fact that he was seeing things but that didn’t change the fact that he was chilled to the bone in fright. He said he never went back to sleep because every sound or perceived movement in the not really strange, but strange enough, house scared him senseless. I don’t like thinking of him in those moments and hours. Not being able to protect him.
And protect him from what? An image purposely placed in his psyche by some hacker people who have now done what they sought out to do. Make little kids scared. Why? Just one of the many things one can point at and ask, “how is this the world?” So my guy came to his game with a sore throat, a banged up shoulder, exhausted…and ready to give it his best, however limited that might be. With the lead secure, really by halftime, he pulled himself from the game in the final quarter. When he did play he was great, as always. Fired up when he or his team did something well on the court. Full energy, focused determination. Afterward he was visibly drained and I hugged him and told him I was proud. I brought up Momo in a sort of jokey way as he was leaving with his mom so as not to give any credence to the monster’s power. He started briefly and then, seeing the levity in my eyes, seemed to realize it was just a bad joke and shrugged it off. I’m going to monitor how he sleeps tonight and have a talk with him about it tomorrow if it’s still bothering him. More damage control. Only this time I have to protect him from a monster. One that he and his friends shouldn’t need protection from. This world is unfortunately full of monsters like that. Their job is to undo the work that parents and teachers do. The stakes are high. All we can do is stay vigilant and give them ten times the love to counter everything else.