Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Derby Dad Dilemma

Photo courtesy of andrewilliamsphotography.net
One of the biggest reasons that I decided to try out the sport of roller derby was due to my children’s involvement in the sport. Right along with my wife, they took to the roller rink with abandon, rocking and rolling and having a great time.

And damn if they weren’t good at it too. My daughter’s like a lightning bolt flying around the track, a natural-born jammer and my son scores praise every time he dons the zebra stripes. But when my son was asked to try playing, particularly as the Brats are at a place of wanting to become a more co-ed organization in keeping with the rise of both the men’s and the women’s game, he has balked, trying a bit when pushed but overall just not into it.

Now, I realize that this statement will come across as blasphemy to some but I could’ve lived the rest of my life without the knowledge of how to skate. I hadn’t skated, at least successfully, for my previous thirty-six years and I really saw no real need to do so now. 

Until that kid started to resist trying new things, at using his God-given abilities to excel in something I know he can do well at.

So, tapping into my inner knucklehead, I made the decision to try strapping on the skates and giving it a go with the Hit Men. Granted, there were more reasons tied to this decision as I’ve detailed more than once on this blog but looming toward the front was the simple fact of trying to lead by example, of trying to show my son that trying new things and sticking your neck out there was something that was worthwhile and often netted surprising rewards. And as he saw that Dad was willing, maybe he’d too step forward and try new things, most notably rocking it on the track.

You know, monkey see, monkey do.

And, from some close sources who are out at all the Brats’ practices, that’s sort of what happened. R2BenchU moved from simply participating to working hard, to pushing himself on the “not so fun” drills as much as the more enjoyable ones. He acquiesced to taking a jam here and there, working on trying out what it feels like to give playing a shot.

And Dad was proud.

Yet, as of late, those same sources say that Mr. BenchU has let his drive drop. Yes, he’s still there and he’s still game to ref when needed, still doing a fine job, and stepping up and helping some new recruits but, he’s lost his fire. He’s lost that lovin’ feeling for the game, sort of half-assing it through the drills and really not seeming to give his all.

And we’re wondering why.

Granted, the past week or so I’ve not been able to make practice, due to car woes and whatnot. But I’ve tried not to be negative and have actually taken on some additional roles throughout in order to stay connected, even from a distance. Yet, what is it that has my son dropping his drive to make it happen?  And what, if anything, can we do about it?

Ultimately, it’s the classic dilemma of a parent; wanting the best for a child and seeing the promise within but not wanting to push in such a way that leaves them resenting you nor the sport which they have the potential to rock. And that’s how I feel right now with this situation. I want to encourage, to strengthen, and to see my son excel in areas that will bring him both joy and a sense of accomplishment. 

But I wonder, am I standing in the way of him doing just that?

I’ll admit that, at some times, there have been some negative derby moments from me. Before I found my niche, doing some of this goofy writing and putting the skates on for myself, I was simply a derby widow and, by and large, simply a spectator as my family’s life raced by me on eight wheels at a time. And, sometimes, with all that derby brings, I felt left out and left behind. So sure, there was some negativity that exuded and no doubt trickled down so that my kiddos saw.

But, frustration over injuries and snowplows aside, I’ve done my best to keep a smile rocking this time around, constantly encouraging my son to simply try and reminding him that Daddy is doing the same thing. But it seems as though that approach is still not working.

Which leaves me to wonder what the next step is.

And I’m really not sure. Perhaps part of it is part of my son growing up, asserting his independence a bit. Another part could be sheer laziness too, his wanting to rock the Playstation as opposed to running drills. Either way, it’s got this Dad scratching his head and searching for an answer.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing some soul searching to try and make sure that I’m not contributing to anything that’s bringing him down and am doing all that is within my power to see him succeed, whether it be derby or another pursuit. And while I'd love to master skating and derby, being a great Dad means so much more to me and I'll do any and all I can to help my kids grow and know they're loved.

All in all, I’m not sure what’s more difficult, being a derby dad or trying to master those stupid snowplows….

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