For a few moments this past weekend, I was fairly certain that, through no fault of your own, you were about to get your ass thoroughly kicked by a girl.
But let’s back up a bit.
A week ago this past Saturday, you had your first wrestling meet, and I am forever scarred by this experience, because it turns out that it is terribly unnerving to watch your 7-year-old son fighting for his life.
To be completely honest, I’d rather you weren’t participating in this sport. I think it is way too intense for someone your age. Of course, I could just be projecting … because I know that the 7-year-old me would not have been even remotely capable of handling an activity that began like this:
I am inclined to say that I would have wet myself and run off the mat before the ref had a chance to blow the starting whistle, but to say that would be to give my childhood self entirely too much credit, because I can assure you with great certainty that there’s absolutely no way in hell I’d have even gotten in the car to go to the meet.
It wasn’t my idea, this whole wrestling thing. In fact, I dissented when the notion first was raised, but Mommy thought it would be good for you to have a winter sport that you could participate in, and basketball doesn’t float your boat, so when you expressed an interest in wrestling, we decided to let you give it a try.
I initially was under the (apparently misguided) impression that your involvement would be limited to learning how to wrestle during twice-weekly practice sessions, and that you wouldn’t actually be competing in formal, gladiator-like matches. When you were offered a chance to participate in your first meet, however, you wanted in. (I consider this further proof that there was a terrible mix-up with my sperm at the fertility clinic where you were conceived.)
My discomfort with your involvement in this sport is exacerbated by the fact that competitors primarily are matched up based not on age nor experience nor maturity, but on weight … and you are startlingly large for your age, which makes it difficult for the coaches to find other first-year wrestlers in your weight class. This explains why you were pitted against older, more-experienced kids for two of the three matches you wrestled in during your first-ever meet … one of whom, we learned after the fact, was the son of the opposing team’s coach … the same coach whom we had made sure at the start of the meet knew you had never before competed in a wrestling match.
It probably will surprise you not very much to learn that Opposing Coach’s son had oodles more wrestling experience than you, and that he exerted upon you far more force and fury than you had experienced during your first two matches. His assault included lots of forearm to your face, which resulted in you taking a blow to the nose and ending up with a bloody lip … and is it wrong for a 41-year-old man to want to kick the shit out of a little kid? (To be fair, I also wanted to kick the shit out of the seemingly stoned referee and, most of all, the douchetastic Opposing Coach, who apparently decided to use your inexperience as an ego boost for his wretched little incubus offspring.)
All of which raises an important point, and that is: I am not cut out to be a “wrestling parent.” My psyche is too fragile, my meathead quotient is too low, and my tolerance for seeing my son struggling through a mock life-and-death battle without being able to grab his opponent by the neck whilst screaming “Get off of him, you big meanie!” is practically nonexistent. And that is why, when you came off the mat shedding tears of frustration following your match against Opposing Coach’s son (I was amazed you toughed it out all the way to the end), I was more than ready to shout “Amen!” if you had at that point chosen to announce that your wrestling career was over.
Much to my amazement, however, you did no such thing … so I instead offered you lots of praise and encouragement, and told you how brave you were, and how proud of you I was. (I also offered you several opportunities to gracefully bow out of the sport, none of which you took.)
Which brings us to your second meet, this past Saturday.
It turned out that your first match also was the first match of the day on mat #1. (The meets are a complete melee of utter chaos as teams from several towns all wrestle simultaneously on four different mats while hordes of parents and siblings and wrestlers awaiting their turn fill every available open space.) When we arrived at that mat, a wrestler from one of the opposing teams was warming up. A girl wrestler. The only one we’ve ever seen. And all I will say about her is that I’m pretty sure daddy wanted a son, because … well, this video is a fairly accurate reenactment of you and I watching her warm up:
Actually, I’m not sure if you even noticed her when we first arrived, but your mother and I most certainly did … and as we locked eyes with each other, we telepathically said in unison: “Oh dear sweet Christ, our son is about to get his ass handed to him by a girl while his friends look on, and this is going to be a disaster of epic fucking proportions not only because of the amount of psychological damage it will inflict upon him, but also because we so badly can not afford the voluminous amount of therapy this incident is going to necessitate in the years to come.”
So you can imagine the gargantuan sigh of relief we both let loose when it turned out that she actually was wrestling in the second match (which she won, handily), and that you were paired up with another boy, whom you pinned for a quick, confidence-building victory.
You also won two of your three subsequent matches — one by pin, and one by points, and both of which saw you pretty evenly matched in terms of your opponent’s size and skill level (and gender. Just sayin’.). Your one defeat came at the hands of a more experienced, slightly heavier kid, and you didn’t fare too badly … and you agreed with me when I said that tough matches like that are actually a good thing, because you learn more from them than from easy wins.
Afterward, you and I celebrated your excellent performance by going out for lunch, during which I had to will myself to not get too mushy and sentimental on you. This was no easy feat, because, quite frankly, I am in awe of you, my son. My son, who seems to be well-adjusted and supremely more confident than I ever was as a child, and who not only is willing to try new and challenging and intimidating things, but who actually seems to enjoy doing so.
Basically, you’re my hero, and I love you, and I am infinitely proud of you and honored to be your father.
I love you, Buddy Boy.
PS: Is it baseball season yet? Because I really don’t have the temperament for this wrestling shit.