The Unexpected Conversations

I’ve been obsessed for a week solid and think blogging might help.

I’ve written about my oldest daughter before.  She really is a gem (ok, they both are, but this one deals with her.).  In the past 10 days, she and I have learned that her best (new) friend has anorexia.  It’s had me pretty shaken since I learned of it.  Yes, I’m immediately thankful it’s not my daughter.   I am atwitter because it’s so close.  And because they are so young. And because this young lady is the first real friend my Olivia connected to who is a girl. She has lots of friends. Her longest, oldest friends are boys.  This young lady is the first girl she could identify with — she is athletic, she hates dresses, her parents have pretty tight rules, she’s book-smart.

Over the past few weeks her mother had mentioned to me that their daughter seemed to be obsessed with food. Wondered if Olivia was too.  She and her husband worried about her losing muscle mass.  At the time, I was still thinking she was a bit health-over-conscious.

Anyway, it all came to a head on the weekend of Olivia’s 11th birthday. Yes, these girls are E.L.E.V.E.N years old.  Her friend came over for Olivia’s birthday and watched me cook dinner. She was interested. Admired my carrots. I offered her an apple for a snack. She asked if my refried beans were the no-fat kind her parents buy. I lied and said “yes”.  She called her mom before dinner because she had a headache and wanted to go home. Unsuccessfully. I knew it was because the prospect of eating dinner with her classmates was too much on top of a long day at school where she had to skip the chocolate covered strawberries Olivia brought in to share with her class for her birthday, and lunch, where she routinely skipped most of her home-packed lunch.

While Olivia and two other classmates tore through three made-to-order tacos each, Olivia’s startlingly skinny friend ate a dollop of refried beans and some lettuce. No milk. No brownie. Then she talked about how much she likes english muffins — the whole wheat kind. She tried to engage her friends on the subject of beans and brown rice as the perfect protein. The others acknowledged her, but over a “please pass the cheese” and a reach.

The friend would not play soccer as she usually does. She stood in the middle of the back yard while the others played and laughed and kicked.  And this is HER sport.

The next day, while watching sports on television with Olivia, the commentator spoke of how the figure skater was competing again after two years off battling Anorexia. Then Olivia said “That’s what ___ has”.

I tried not to panic.

I played it cool.

I asked a few questions, but not too many.

But now we have a regular dialog on the subject. Fortunately, the friend is getting counseling with her family.  Unfortunately, she does not seem to be on the upswing yet, and yesterday missed a soccer game because of the family’s rule that she must meet the doctor’s weight target or no soccer. So yesterday was the first – of what I suspect will be many – missed soccers.

But now I am hypervigilant.

And Olivia is getting frustrated.

She said she wishes she could talk to her friend’s brain. To tell her to eat.

I know my girl. She is strong. She is healthy. She is courageous.  She will want to help “fix” her friend and she will get frustrated when the efforts fail.

But she is also intensely loyal, and so I think she will want to stick by her friend and do what she can.

Meanwhile, I have tried to find a fiction book that involves a friendship between girls when one of them gets an eating disorder.  But I can’t find one that doesn’t deal with the grisly details of bulimia, or imply something tragic that has happened at home — death of a parent, incest, or involves older teen topics of sexuality, attracting boys, etc.

Remember, my daughter is 11. She is in the fifth grade. She is a sports girl.  Boys are still her friends. I don’t want to frighten her with topics that are not age appropriate.

And so, perhaps for the best, we just talk. We talk about anorexia. We talk about being friends. About not being able to fix her friend. About how this can take a long time to change.  About staying healthy herself. About showing her you can drink milk, eat a peanut butter sandwich, a kiwi and a brownie and still be a great, healthy, happy kid.

As the subject seems to come up daily now, we’re working up to “why” this happens.

I realize as I have this precious time with my newly 11-year old, how special my kid is.  I am trying to protect her from the pain of watching a friend withdraw, as she might, and to help my daughter to remain the strong, wise, courageous and loyal friend that she is. So that she might emerge from this unexpected education even stronger.

Truthfully, I am scared. Scared for my daughter — for having to face these trials so young in life. Scared for her friend. Scared for my friends, her parents.  Trying not to show it, I do want to hug Olivia just a little bit longer and a little bit tighter. To protect her just a little bit better.

Lessons from Quebec

We came home from Quebec City last night.  We were there for my daughter’s “select” AAA hockey team’s tournament. We left early. We could have stayed another night and played two more games, but, my daughter’s team lost all four and were O.U.T., so we, the parental units, opted to save another $125 in hotel charges and drive after the last 7pm game, into the late night, home.  It wasn’t easy but it was the right thing to do.

Isn’t that always the case? Ugh.

Olivia was devastated when we packed our bags and 9AM yesterday morning.  They had two more games to play, and even though the first two went 0-6 and 0-4, Olivia was pretty sure her team might still make it to the championship round. Continue reading

The RailCity Tournament Parenting Lesson

Arrggggh, how I anguished over pulling my kid from school for a hockey game. What WAS that about?  I talked myself blue and I ran scenarios through my head for so long I almost forgot what the big deal was. I talked to the head coach. I talked to the assistant coach. I talked to the girls overall scheduler, who is also a school principal. I talked to my friends.  I talked and talked and talked and talked to my dear dear husband, who probably wondered what it was all about by the end, too.

Alas, I figured it out.  The angst was about taking ownership of the decision. I didn’t like being informed by email that despite the scheduler’s attempt to keep the girls in school he was successful only for the 14-year olds and that the 12-year old teams would have a game at lunchtime on a school day. I hated it. It rubbed me all the wrong ways.  I wanted to be the one who decided if she missed school and for what reason.

I live in a sports town. Maybe most of America does. But this is a really small town and sports reign large. Even the local weekly newspaper, the Essex Reporter, devotes an entire section to this town’s sports.  It feels like as a parent I am expected to just go with the majority action — play travel hockey, take your kid from school, sports rule — forget the rest. It just feels that way.

Further, I am the only parent on the team who’s daughter is the oldest/first child in the family. And all but one of the team-mates have an older sibling who also plays or played hockey. So all those other parents, potentially, have already rolled-over for the sports machine and already just go with it.  I truly felt alone in this.

So anyway, I was feeling like taking a 9-year old from school to play a game up in hockeyville was a bit over-the-top. I want my athletic daughter to understand that school is most important. Sports are extra.

And that was it. I decided to approach her teacher about helping me teach this concept to Olivia. He was ALL over it. My gosh, I love her teacher. Turns out, he was a student athlete and he said his parents did the same thing. So he agreed to give Olivia some “make-up” assignments to do over the weekend in lieu of the time missed at school.  And he added that he saw how sports were a motivator for my daughter and hockey in particular was her passion — that there’d be value in supporting her this way.

God bless my little “O”, because when I told her what I had decided, she smiled.  The morning of her game I took her to school with a note for the teacher about leaving early and she said “And I’ll ask Mr. G for extra homework”.

And after the game, she came right up to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks Mom. Thanks for letting me play this game.”

And so the angst. The decision-making process. It was all worth it.

Hockey Week 2: She’s Only Nine!

Oh god. It is only the second full week of hockey and it feels like 2 months already.  I can’t imagine even surviving to month two (let alone month FOUR!).

The schedule has been wacky; Wednesday and Thursday practice this week last week tues and weds.  Tryouts were this past weekend. My girl will play on the U12 Girls A/B.  This makes sense, as she is only NINE years old. Haven’t I mentioned this before? She’s Only NINE!

I kept checking the website to see if she would be placed on the A team. I didn’t think it was possible based on her age and the size of the bigger girls, but I AM new to this team, so I was anxious.  the A teams travel MORE than the A/B teams.  So I needed to know if I should start my meltdown this weekend or if I could get a few more things done before it happened.  So, thank goodness, I’ve got more time to go crazy.

The practice schedule this week goes like this. Wednesday 6:15-7:30 in Waterbury.  That’s a forty minute drive from here.  Tack on 15 minutes (min) before and after the practice for suiting up and down and we’re looking at a 5:15 departure and an 8:30 arrival back home. Tack on another 30 minutes, minimum, for the kid to return to earth and chill before hitting the sack.

The next practice is Thursday 7:30-8:40 at Essex. Fortunately, the drive is shorter…just 5-10 minutes.  Tack on the wardrobe change time and the chill-time and we’re looking at a 9:45pm likely bedtime.

Uh, hello? SHE’s ONLY NINE?

Huh? How about a little coach’s meeting with the parents! Oh, and I don’t know who her coach is yet, so I’ve got no one to call and say this is too much, SHE’s ONLY NINE!

For fear of disgracing my child and my family with my protectiveness and attitude, I’ve put Russ onto the task of communicating with the coach..once we know who he/she is.

Hang on tight Julie.  The ride is just getting started.

Sports at 9 Years Old: Competition or Recreation?

I have so much angst on this subject one blog post might not cut it.  The dilemma at hand is where to place my eager young hockey player: the house or the travel team.  If finances restricted us, we wouldn’t have a choice. Although, I know of many “travel” families who really can’t afford travel hockey but would never consider the “house” program for their children.

For the uninitiated “house” is essentially recreational hockey. “Travel” is competitive hockey.  The difference in terms of ice time is roughly double: travel teams beginning around the age of 8 or 9 play about 4 hours/week on the ice.  They play out of town teams; house players tend to play each other in “scrimmages”.

One of the outcomes from having a child in a Travel sport as opposed to a recreational sport is the time commitment.  In our case, Travel hockey would have two evening practices (not a big deal) and two weekend games. The latter is THE big deal.  It means we, THE FAMILY, will not be able to ski together through the season.  Yes, we might get a day or two in together; but there’s no denying that TRAVEL hockey=LIMITED SKIING=LIMITED FAMILY TIME

My nine year old daughter, Olivia, loves to play hockey. She didn’t always. She got the bug when she was seven turning eight. Last year, she wanted to play on a “girls” only team. We looked around and the only age-appropriate team was in Burlington. It didn’t matter to Olivia that she knew no one; this team represented a great chance to play with the girls. It was a GREAT experience.  She had a former Olympic hockey player as one of her 4 coaches. They played teams who traveled to our rink.  It was sort of like “House Plus”; for this family it was perfect.

Now at the age of nine, my dear daughter still wants to play with the girls. She is now in a new school in this same district; one with just fourth & fifth graders…including some girls from the local hockey team.

Her message has been consistently clear: “I want to play with the girls”.  It’s not been “I want to play Travel” or “I want more ice time”.

The decision of which way to go has rested on we parents who try so hard to do the right thing by our children.  Socially, it seems if she’s to play with the girls, we should have her play with the girls from her own town & schools as opposed to driving her to the next town.

Last weekend, we took the family to a family skate event at the local arena, with the intent to get to know some of the other girls team members.  We didn’t really manage to do that. What we did do, was see Olivia at her absolute happiest and most relaxed: skating on the ice.

And so, We The Parents, are going to have Olivia play competitive hockey this year. There is no U-10 team so she’ll have to play with the U-12 girls team.  She is very pleased. I am still ambivalent.

My goal is to support her, protect her, but also to get out of her way; to let her be her.  I hope that when this season is behind me, I’ll feel like this was a good decision.