As all good helicopterii know, February/early March is when you scour your local area for upcoming summer programs that will allow children to enjoy high-spirited adventures in the fresh air as they work at their own pace in non-competitive environments that will enable them to discover who and what they are while ensuring successful learning experiences as they build memories that will last a lifetime; preferably in a twenty-first century-ready language, like Spanish. Or maybe Chinese.
Historically Patrick has always been a little hard to schedule.
I remember when he was about five I flipped through the community ed offerings and asked him how he felt about two weeks of golf camp.
"Golf?" he squeaked in much the same way an octogenarian with a trick hip might react when asked if she would mind being shot from a cannon. "GOLF?" he repeated. "I could get hit on the head!"
"Hmmm, probably not, but ok. How about baseball?"
"Hit on the head."
"Soccer? Soccer's pretty safe."
"Not if you fall over and then someone runs into you and kicks you in the head."
"Fine. Hey! They offer lacrosse!"
"I don't know what that is and I probably don't want to."
"Lacrosse is an old native American game that uses a kind of basket thing on the end of a stick to catch a ball and... ."
"Well yes... ."
"Hit on the head."
As I recall he spent most of that summer in a "Montessori" program that alternated between having the children pick up playground trash that had blown in from the adjacent highway (all they needed were the wee orange jumpsuits) and parking them in front of a Dora DVD that had been set to play in Espanol. On the plus side he was not hit on the head.
Currently the summer... hmmm... I feel a sidebar coming on...
re. Patrick, the boy whose right side and left side were like unto Lincoln's nation divided - while it could technically stand it certainly could not dance. or swim. or hit a ball with a mighty crrrrrrackkk while tiny teammates cheered PATRick! PATRick!
Patrick had coordination issues that were so severe our insurance company eventually agreed to cover both OT and PT for him. We didn't know this in the beginning, though, and although I realized that he didn't have a real enthusiasm for sports I kept trying to gently encourage him to enroll in, say, peewee jai alai and he kept saying he'd see me in hell first. In retrospect he probably had a better handle on his own limitations than I did. But although I could understand and sympathize with a desire to avoid being put in a situation where his obvious lack of coordination would render him the object of groaning and headsmacking (aka Charlie Brown Syndrome) I kept thinking that being part of some sort of organized sport was inherent to childhood, at least in the suburbs, and was especially important if you are otherwise bookish. Mens sana in corpore sano and all that.
Anyway. He never did take soccer or golf or football or baseball or lacrosse but eventually he discovered tumbling and he liked it and has proceeded to make slow - very very slow; glacial, really - progress at it for the past several years. I cannot imagine he will ever be even remotely competitive but he enjoys it and when he earns a ribbon indicating mastery of a skill on his languid ladder to the Advanced class he feels the tremendous sense of accomplishment that you only get when you have worked really, really hard for something.
In addition to tumbling Steve has always insisted that his children know how to swim, so Patrick took swimming lessons and more swimming lessons and even after I grabbed Steve by the ears and said "THIS CHILD WILL NEVER LEARN TO SWIM" he kept taking them and all of the sudden after six maybe seven years blammo! he learned to swim. Not only swim but swim pretty well and there is talk (I ask you!) of having him join the swim team this summer once he finishes his remaining Flying Fish skill: treading water for six minutes.
[The other day I watched him (him. Patrick. my son Patrick) complete a lap using the butterfly stroke and neat little flippy kicks and said, "So what's the deal with treading water for six minutes? Seems like you could just do it and be on your way to Sharkdom."
Patrick said, "Tread water for six minutes? I'd rather die. Literally."
But I think he'll do it.]
So he tumbles and swims and that was it until a couple of weeks ago when he said that he would like to learn how to...
learn how to...
PG Wodehouse once pointed out that there is enough sadness in life without strapping long planks to your feet and jumping off mountains and, really, what else is there to be said, but mine is not to wonder why; mine is but to call the local ski school and provide them with the necessary digits not neglecting the three on the back. He had his first lesson a week ago and before he went my mom asked, "He'll get a helmet, right?" and my brother said, "They do helmets there, right?" and I reminded Steve to rent a helmet about fifteen times.
Steve dropped him off and when I picked him up he was sitting next to his teenaged instructor in the waiting area of the ski school. The instructor was filling out Patrick's Mountain Adventure Journal. Patrick was crying.
"I hit my head!" was the first thing Patrick said to me. "Well, my face actually."
This was obvious because there was a ski-tip shaped mark just under Patrick's eye and he looked like someone who had just been, you know, hit in the face.
"Oh, well, it happens," I said, somewhere between soothing and brisk, because that is the only way to talk to Patrick if you ever want to hear the end of it.
The instructor looked up and handed me Patrick's assessment.
"He did really well," he said.
I assumed he was being polite and Patrick pulled himself together enough to say thank you and we left and I thought that would be the end of it. And by "it" I mean "skiing". We returned his equipment while Patrick gave me a lurid account of just how far backwards his leg had twisted in order to swing above his head and smash the ski into his face (sure) and the speeds at which he had been travelling as he narrowly avoided the chair lift supports and some safety fencing and, I dunno, a schoolbus full of nuns and orphans and I realized as he described all of the horrible danger and death at every turn that he was quite enjoying himself.
"I want to go again," he said as he admired his developing bruise in the side mirror of the car.
"I want to go again. I want to go, like, tomorrow. Can I go after school one day? Can I go after school every day?"
I said, maybe, probably not and no and I signed him up for another lesson that took place two days ago. I had high hopes for this lesson.
When I went to pick him up he was crying again.
The new teenaged instructor, a girl this time, explained that he had been hit from behind by an out of control snowboarder and he was still shaken up. His calf was turning black and blue and his knee was a little swollen.
She handed me his assessment card and said, "This was only his second time out? That's... really amazing. He's already working on keeping his skiis parallel and we were able to start some of the harder runs. He's already a level four. He's really good."
I gaped and Patrick sniffled in a gratified way and then looked completely blank when I asked him where his boots were (spoiler: Steve had put them in a cubby and then said, four times, Patrick, your boots are in this cubby. Patrick see this cubby? This is where your boots are. When Mom comes your boots are in. this. cubby - we went out to dinner later, me and Steve, and our romantic evening started with a return to the ski place to get Patrick's damned boots) so I had to give him a piggyback ride while carrying my handbag, a pair of skiis and his ski boots first to the rental return and then across the muddy icy slushy parking lot to our car.
Patrick made a great show of gingerly arranging his leg in the back of the car, wincing and gasping when I hit a pothole.
"So are you done with skiing?" I asked.
"Of course not," he said. "I want to go again. Can I go again? When can I go again?"
I am so proud of him I could... I could write a blog post about it. I have always, maybe secretly, maybe not so secretly, worried that Patrick either inherited my anxiety problems or - worse, much worse - I, like, gave him his own anxiety disorder by freaking out so much when he was little and it was only my constant vigilance that was keeping him alive. The fact that Patrick chose to do something quite ambitious and rather scary in the first place pleased me. I mean, skiing! Look at that Leo bloom!
And then the fact that he got hurt - more than once - and still wants to keep doing it... well. The cockles of my heart are glowing. Warm and red.
Go Patrick, I say, and let this be a lesson to us (well, me, really) not to pigeonhole. If you had asked me three weeks ago if I ever saw Patrick entering the X Games I might have laughed until I choked but who's laughing now? Patrick. Well, not Patrick, his leg's still sore and his face hurts when he smiles but... it's an obvious moral.
Oh and the other lesson is to always wear a helmet because you never know when you might get hit in the head. Maybe I'll start a new line of mini golf helmets for children and I'll sell 'em through One Step Ahead. Seriously, could that catalog be any more paranoid?
PS That was the digression that ate the whole post. Next time: summer camp, chores vs allowance and the subtopics "Edward doubles his first week's allowance by asking Caroline for hers" and "Patrick continues to shock our lights out by learning to cook in exchange for an extra dollar a week," books on sex for children of various heights, what ancient burial ground Steve and I have accidentally disturbed to cause us to have both cars in the shop (twice) while both garage doors suddenly broke and the basement insurance claim continues to hang in limbo.
PPS Patrick really and truly has started cooking and I love love love it. The only thing he will not do in the kitchen? Take something out of the oven: "I might get burned!"