Teenage Boy

Teenage boy.

Really, that’s all I need to write and so many of you nod your heads and think, yeah, I know. But maybe it’s more fun to give you the details of my latest encounter with teenage boy in the wild.

Daryl had a track meet.

It happened to be in a town not too far away so my husband took on Hal’s soccer practice so I could go watch Daryl run. He was to run in the 800 and then the anchor leg for the 4×400. I was particularly excited to see him run the relay.

So off I headed about 30 minutes down the road from home, found a parking spot (which was fairly fortunate), paid my entrance fee, and sat down by myself in a crowd full of strangers to wait.

Not too long after I got there, they called for the 7th grade boys 800. About 6:15, I watched the very large group of mostly gangly, awkward looking boys line up at the start line. The first thing I noticed was that Daryl was not wearing the new, specialized, spikes-included, long-distance running shoes we had bought him. Why wasn’t he wearing the shoes? Why had we bought the shoes if he wasn’t going to wear them?

And then the race began. He fell behind pretty quickly. This doesn’t look good, I thought to myself. By the time he came around on the second pass, only four boys were behind him. To his credit, he still kicked it into gear and ran his heart out to the finish line. But he certainly didn’t look like a kid who had finished 4th the first time he had run this race.

He didn’t come up into the stands to see me – even though I had texted my exact location to him. I asked if he was OK. How did he feel about the race? “Had a cramp” was his response. Ok, when is the 4×400? “Soon, I think.”

I know now that there are just a small handful of variations of track meet schedules. And the 4×400 is not that soon after the 800.

I watched the 100m dashes. I watched the 110 hurdles. I watched the 200 races and the 300 hurdles. I watched all of these for 7th and 8th grade girls and 7th and 8th grade boys. All the while, hoping to hear first call for the 4×400. It didn’t come. My butt was numb. My phone was nearly dead. No one to talk to and not enough juice to lose myself in a game.

So I watched a small slice of the 400s from my car as I charged my phone. And I knew that the 4×400 couldn’t be anywhere near the 400.

Back in the stadium, they made the first call for the 7th grade girls’ 1600. I cried.

I mean, not literally, on the outside, tears streaming down my face, but on the inside, yes. I was going to have to sit through four 1600’s first? And then essentially two more with the girls’ 4×400’s?

“I think the 4×400 is last,” my son texted me.

“Yes, I figured that out,” I said. “Why don’t you go ahead and come get your note so you can ride home with me?”

“But it’s the last race.”

“Yes, but it’s still faster for you to ride home with me than ride the bus. Come here.”

That’s when he stopped talking to me. Convenient.

About 9:15, he showed up in the stands. Limping.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I hurt my ankle. Nate is taking my spot in the relay so we can go ahead and go home.”

Three hours. I had sat there for three hours!

“When did you hurt your ankle?”

“During the 800.”

Three hours. I had sat there for three hours.

“Why did you wait so long to decide you couldn’t run?”

“I kept hoping it’d start feeling better.”

Did I mention how butt-numbing bleachers are?

“Did you ice it?” I asked.

“No.”

“Did you tell your coaches?”

“I didn’t know where they were.”

Three hours. I sat and waited for three hours while the boy merely hoped his ankle would feel better and did absolutely nothing to enhance his chances that it would. And said nothing to me as we texted back and forth. Three hours.

That’s when I noticed he was wearing the new track shoes. The ones he hadn’t worn when actually racing – he was wearing them now.

“Why didn’t you wear those during the 800?” I asked, pointing. He shrugged.

“It was a longer distance.”

“They are long distance shoes.”

Shrug.

As we began the drive home, he told me, “Coach had me do the high jump!”

“What?” I asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? When did you know?”

“It was earlier in the meet. I figured you couldn’t be here anyway. Coach said he saw me play basketball and knew I could jump.”

“But the motion is completely different,” I countered. “Had you ever practiced the high jump?”

“No.”

“Which coach said he’d seen you play basketball?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know. He told you in person, didn’t he? Which coach was it?”

“I don’t know. They look the same.”

I’m surprised I didn’t run off the road at this point. I had previously met one of the coaches and knew he was black.

“Daryl! You do realize that that’s the most stereotypical racist thing you could say? ‘They all look alike’? I mean seriously.”

“I didn’t say they all look alike. I said these two guys do. They are about the same height and sometimes they wear glasses and they are both bald.”

“I can’t believe you. You see these guys every day and you don’t know who is who.”

Shrug.

(To be fair to him, he joined athletics part way through the year so he missed introductions. I’m guessing he can distinguish these two guys from each other but doesn’t have a good handle on which one is Coach X and which is Coach Y. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)

Conversation continued on for a few more minutes before his face became lost in the glow of his phone and I stared at the dark road ahead of me and pondered what I could have done with those three hours. What he could have done with those three hours.

Like maybe finish the major science project due the next day that he had thoughtfully tried to complete the day before but couldn’t because he had forgotten to bring home the rubric? The project that he had been given days or weeks before? The project that he would now have to stay up even later to complete?

I also thought about how sorely disappointed I was to not see him take the baton and run. How that three hours and the additional 30+ minutes that I likely would have waited would have been all ok if it meant I’d see him run.

But I didn’t. I waited ignorantly for an ankle I didn’t know was injured, didn’t know wasn’t being treated, didn’t know wasn’t known by the coaches. Because. Teenage boy.

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Those Boys Would Hurt You

A lifetime ago, my husband and I played roller hockey.  It started with a handful of people playing pick-up in a converted tennis court in a city park.  It grew into a league of four teams that played two seasons a year, and eventually even involved us playing a season or two for the local university.

I wasn’t good and I certainly make no claim to have been, but it was fun and good exercise.  Very early on, I learned the value of a face mask (I was one of the few who were already wearing a helmet) when I collided with a co-worker who wore thick glasses to protect his eyes.  Those thick glasses were briefly smashed between our faces before I hit the ground hard.

As the only woman on the court, I felt the urgent need to get up quickly so as not to look weak and unable to take a collision.  I quickly rolled onto my knees and opened my eyes as I prepared to push myself to standing.  That’s when I noticed the blood gushing from my face and thought uh-oh.  I stayed put with my head down so the blood poured straight to the court instead of down my clothes.

Someone eventually gave me a dirty T-shirt to press against my forehead and then people helped me strip off my skates after guiding me to a bench to sit down.  Then my husband, very carefully avoiding the I told you so that had to be in his head (we had argued about the need for face masks just that afternoon), drove the co-worker and me to the emergency room.

He got 8 stitches.  I got 11 – straight through my right eyebrow.  Since he arrived to work before me the next morning, the crowd eagerly awaited my arrival.  Ah, yes… those were the days.

Pregnancy and hockey do not mix well, so my career, such as it was, ended a couple of years later with the Fall 1999 season.  The summer of 2000, about 6 or 7 months pregnant with Jane, I briefly donned skates and wobbled unsteadily around the rink, taking a shot – and scoring – on one of my fellow goalies.  That was my last time to wear skates and hold a stick.  Motherhood took over from there.

Until last night.

One of the men from those days was looking for a way to get himself back in shape.  And looking for a way for his son to play hockey without having to travel to a major town.  He’s starting up a league and holding pick-up games in the mean time.

He’s been encouraging my husband to join him and he finally did last week.  I went too because Hal wanted to see what it was all about.  That set a series of events into motion where we dug out our gear, found some cheap gear for the boys at a thrift shop, and took them skating a couple of times before they headed off to summer camp and grandparents’ houses.  Jane declined to participate.

Last night, with all the children gone, I joined my husband at the rink once again, this time dragging my dilapidated and broken bag behind me.  When I told the ticket man that we were paying for two people, he looked shocked.  “You are going to go out there and hit?!” he asked.

“I’m going to give it a go,” I responded, not bothering to mention that checking is usually avoided in recreational play.  At forty years old and after a fifteen year break, I wondered a bit if I was crazy.

I had a blast.

A serious blast.

I felt so alive skating back and forth, even if a bit unsteady.  It was a thrill to hold the stick and control the ball or puck (we had both out there).  There were three young boys too and we worked with them on their skills.  I was exhausted and exhilarated.

At one point, as I sat on the bench, panting for breath, a very young, small girl walked up.  She indicated to her mother that she wanted to go out on the rink.  Her mother told her no.  One of the men pointed out that I was skating.

“Yes,” her mother said, “She’s already told me that there is a girl out there.  But she can’t play – she’s a girly girl through and through.  The first time she fell down, she’d cry.”

“The first time those boys fall down, they cry too,” I commented.  And it was true.  Tears had been shed by at least one boy already.  I wondered briefly if girly girls are girly girls because they are or because their mothers insist they are.  Because that’s what they want.  This girl certainly appeared interested in joining the game.

The girl, of course, was not dressed appropriately for playing hockey.  In my mind, she wasn’t dressed appropriately at all, wearing just sandals, short shorts, and a sports bra-like top.  But she was obviously interested in what was going on on the rink.

I died a little bit inside when she reiterated her desire to go out there and her mother murmured, “No, honey.  Those boys would hurt you.”

The woman, I knew, wouldn’t have said that if the girl had been a boy.  The girl’s seven year old brother, after all, was out there right then.  All the boys were heavily padded and flopping down constantly.  None could stay on their feet for long nor move particularly fast.  No one was going to be hurting anyone.

But this girl was already learning her proper place in the world – on the sidelines unless it involved dance or cheer.  A hockey rink is no place for a lady.  With a sigh of regret, I slapped my helmet back on my head and returned to the action.

I should have said something.  I shouldn’t have worried about meddling with this woman’s child-rearing and her narrow view of the world.  I should have turned to the little girl and said, “Yes, you might get hurt.  But it’s not the boys that will hurt you.  It just happens when you do something worth doing.  You have to get up and keep going.  You can do it if you want to.”

My Basketball Hero

Daryl expressed a strong interest in playing basketball this year. We’ve always avoided the sport because it starts during the Christmas season, which always seems so hectic. This year has been even crazier than most, and maybe out of a sense that it really couldn’t be any worse, we agreed to let him play.

The first time that I had to drop him off at practice, the assistant coach introduced himself and then commented on my son.

“He’s quite a scholar. Yes, he is. That one’s definitely a scholar. Just need to get some sports under his belt to get him nice and well rounded.”

So what you are trying to tell me, I thought but didn’t say, is that my son is a terrible basketball player. What I did say was “Yes, he is a very smart young man. He’s really excited about playing basketball this year. It’s his first time to play.”

His team had their first game yesterday. They only have five, maybe six, players but for their first game, they were down even further – to the minimum needed to play: four. The other team had seven. I was expecting slaughter.

Daryl was obviously uncertain what to do. I could see him hesitate as play shifted quickly. But he hustled and got into the mix. Even getting a rebound early in the game and immediately sending it back up for an attempted basket. Fortunately, he missed. It wasn’t his team’s basket.

His coaches didn’t get upset. They yelled in a supportive way to only score at the other end and talked him through it at the next time out. At half time, they made sure he understood that the sides had switched, but by then he had it.

Despite being short-handed, his team was winning easily. Two of the boys were strong players and dominated the court. Daryl still got his hands on the ball though, proving himself reliable at pulling down rebounds and then quickly shooting if on his end of the court, or passing to a more capable dribbler if not.

He even scored four points and assisted on several others. The first time he scored, my heart melted when he turned as soon as the ball swooshed to see if I had seen him.

The coolest thing about watching him play was to watch him running across the court and his face suddenly burst into a magnificent smile, as if he suddenly thought to himself, “I can’t believe I’m actually playing in a basketball game! This is the best thing in the world!” He looked like the happiest boy ever.

And because of that, I am the happiest mom ever. I’ve never been a basketball fan. I don’t know the rules, don’t recognize the referee’s calls, can’t usually tell when someone does something wrong. But for that boy, you’ll find me on the sidelines yelling and cheering and fighting back tears. Cuz that’s my kid out there loving what he’s doing.

Ball Games

“Daddy, what is your favorite ball game? Like, baseball, football, you know.”

“Playing or watching? And if watching, on TV or in person?”

“Playing.”

“Let me think.”

Now, I knew the answer to this. Of course I did. Hockey uses a puck so that leaves soccer. I know my husband. We’ve been married for over half our lives. So why was it taking him so long to answer?

“Ok, well there’s several.” What?! “Which one I like best changes. But I’d say soccer, foosball, and bocce.”

“What’s bocce?”

“It’s a yard game. Oh, and I love me a mean game of bingo.”

I may know my husband better than anyone else does, but he still manages to surprise me. Then again, I should have known that he’d look beyond sports when asked about ball games. Anything to catch a person off guard.