The eye. Day two. An inch lower. An inch. And I would not be sitting here today. I’d be in a nice wing of a nice psychiatric facility.
This weekend was a powerful reminder of how much control you don’t have as a parent. It was the kind of emotionally charged, fight or flight misery that comes from not being able to do a damn thing to help your kids feel better. Ah, but let me back up and give you the full scoop.
Ally’s team last year after winning the State Cup.
Ally is on an elite club soccer team. The girl is great. She is very close to her team. They travel frequently, and are very bonded to one another. The team won the State Cup last year, and after that gave the girls contracts. Some girls got a full year. Some got a half year, with a review. It has been a rather stressful six months for Ally, knowing that every practice, every game, was a chance to show her coach she was a worthy player. Saturday was not only a tournament, but also the day of reckoning.
As I was watching the second game, Jake’s face popped up on my phone. “Mom, I was playing lacrosse and a stick hit me and my helmet cracked and it cut above my eye and my friends are taking me to the hospital for stitches. Just wanted you to know”. His voice was calm. I don’t have to describe my response BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT IT WAS. It was part babbling infant mixed with howling hyena. I did manage to say, “Call me as soon as you’re at the hospital.” I got off and told Peter, who said, “Oh, he’ll be fine.” Immersed in the game, he left me to my psychotic worry. I was already freaked out about the idea that Ally might not make the team, and couldn’t even eat the fabulous lunch a parent had made for us at her house, because my stomach was in the Olympic gymnastics event. Now, I had Jake to worry about. Did he have a concussion? Would the doctors know to do a plastic surgery type of job on him, and not slap together some stitches that would give him a weird scar. I called him over and over again, but he didn’t answer, so I called Jessie, his girlfriend, who I knew could use the magic power of her girlfriend-ness to get through. She calmly told me not to worry and that he was going to be fine. She told me she and her mom would go to the hospital if I wanted, but she said he seemed to be doing ok with his friends, and things were pretty straight forward. (Jessie is the best.) I felt 1% better. I continued to think about leaving and letting Peter and Ally get a ride home with another parent, but decided against it, knowing Ally might need me.
After playing two games in a tournament OUTSIDE, I might add (you know, where there is still SNOW and stuff) Ally stood on the sidelines with her coach to get her review. Peter and I stood several feet away, like statues, observing her profile for any signs of the outcome. Almost immediately, I could tell she hadn’t made it. I knew that the billboards for “Difficult Parenting Ahead” would be popping up any minute. Peter was in disbelief, as all signs had made him think her place on the team was safe. When it looked like they were wrapping up, I forced Peter to go and talk to the coach. I knew if I went over, bad things would come out of my mouth, and I might not be able to control my hands, or feet. Ally walked toward me and one of her other team mates, and told us both the news. She would play down a team for five months and be guaranteed a contract for 2014 on her current team. The coach wanted her to get more playing time, to play the whole game, instead of just 15 minutes, in an effort to improve her play. And although, I saw it as the coach’s commitment to her development as an even stronger player than she already was, it was not a scenario we’d ever considered. And for Ally, it was the first defeat she’d ever encountered. We went to the car and the tears started. There was some wailing. There was some sobbing. There was a lot of snot. Ally did not want to talk. This was hard because that’s all I want to do when something goes wrong for me, but I had to respect her process, so I sat quietly crying in the front seat. Peter drove like a zombie. Ally handed me her phone with a picture of Jake’s gash that was already circulating on Facebook. I have never felt queasy around anything medical, but I actually almost threw up. One inch, maybe less than one inch, and his eye would have been gone. GONE as in not there anymore. No question. One inch lower, and he would have been been blinded.
We sped home from Hopkinton, but not in time to get to the hospital. Jake was already on his way home. He looked very much like he’d been in a fight with Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky, his forehead bulging with swelling, his eye practically shut. They had managed to sew his eyebrow together, and was given the directions not to exercise or do any heavy lifting. (oh great, the garbage was on me now.) I was already sorry he was playing lacrosse this year. As if Ally’s response to her news hadn’t already put me in a state, Jake just iced the cake.
My guilt for not having been there for Jake, AFTER HIS FACE WAS SLICED OPEN, was the size of Detroit, no Texas, no Switzerland (it’s prettier). But the truth was, that he appeared to be calm and ok (unlike moi). He had handled it just fine, was matter-of-fact (but clearly shaken) and taking it in stride in a way that surprised me. He’d had to miss the second playoff BHS basketball game, but as the Super Fan that he is, was following it on his phone like the president follows breaking news. Maybe Jake was ready for college after all. Maybe this was just to show me how ready he was to be on his own, because if this happened next year at this time, I wouldn’t be there either.
Ally continued to cry. She cried herself to sleep and actually woke up crying. I barely slept, I felt so out of sorts, so parentally unproductive, as in I could do nothing to help either one of my kids feel better. The events of the day were on a loop in my find, and kept me up most of the night, until I finally just called it at 5:00 and got up. I was meeting my roommate and old college friend, who I lived on Newbury Street with right after school, for the first time in 28 years, back down on Newbury St. for brunch. I was going to be really cute, what with the crying I did the day before and the no sleep! Anyway, I left Peter sitting with Ally, whose crying had made her look a lot like a blowfish, and who was still sobbing. I considered canceling my plans, but Peter had a way with Ally that made her talk, which I didn’t possess. These two have the most endearing and incredible relationship (which is a whole other post). They are a lot alike and speak the same emotional language. I knew she was in gifted hands.
I didn’t check my phone until after the brunch, but Peter had texted that the coach had contacted him to see if Ally could play the last game in the tournament, because another girl was sick. He said he was going to let her decide. I called him. He said Ally was icing her eyes, and they were on their way. This is how my daughter and I differ. If I were in that situation, I would have folded, and said, no, because I would have been too upset and embarrassed, and plus I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see my swollen eyes, and plus I would have been hating the coach so much, I might not be able to control my words, and also I would be so upset, I might have already enrolled in the witness relocation program. But Ally de-puffed her eyes, got on her cleats and was given a hero’s welcome by her team. She was the starting forward, and scored a goal within minutes of beginning the game. Her entire team embraced her, and she even got a surprise hug from her coach. She came home in a completely different frame of mind, having been supported by every girl, the coach, and the parents, and seeing that that this move was to make her an even stronger player for 2014. This was Ally’s first real bit of adveristy. And while she got a good tear duct workout, she rallied in record time. She’s done a lot of great things in her little life, but this was the most proud I’d ever felt of her. The girl not only has great athletic ability, she has great character.
As for Jake, he looked like a five year old who’d gotten into his mother’s purple eyeshadow on Sunday morning. The swelling was worse, and his eye was almost shut. He sat on the couch all day watching a mix of sports and movies. His fab girlfriend came over, and together we gave Ally a standing O when she walked in the door, high from her success.
This is what parenting can be like. Things happen to your kids, and sometimes there’s not a NUTHIN’ you can do about them. And the pit in your stomach feels like the cast of Riverdance is doing their thing in there. But it’s Monday, and we seemed to have survived. And I think, although we’re all a little wearier, we’re all ok. And most importantly, my kids showed me who they have become. Adults.