With three kids to shuttle to various activities (or, in the toddler’s case, to shuttle home for much needed and much appreciated nap times), two dogs who need long walks (our motto: a tired puppy is a good puppy), one cat who needs prescription medicine (note to self: call vet for refill), one cat who needs to be on a diet (but I gave up that one a long time ago), a house that could be significantly cleaner than it is (if you see Mary Poppins gallivanting around town, could you send her my way? Please?), an endless supply of laundry (add to that a month of laundry duty for the 5yo’s kindergarten class), groceries (read: wine) to buy, meals to make (or pizza to order, let’s be honest), a mud pit for a backyard that desperately needs attention (I have a plan! I do! I just need time. Like maybe five years…), and two jobs between us (okay, mine is part-time, but I work hard in those hours), carving out date times for me and my husband is rather tough. Carving out date times for me and one of my children? Well, that’s nearly impossible.
For one thing, it’s not like I never see my kids. I work part-time FROM HOME. I am here whenever they are here. I take them to school and I pick them up. I tend to stay with them at most of their activities, and I attend almost every scheduled game or bout (and if I’m not there, Bill is, and he texts me play-by-play commentary so I know everything that’s going on). I take my kids to the park (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally get into fights with each other), and to the Zoo (where they can run around like hooligans and occasionally see a cool animal or two). I play games with them (I kicked the 5yo’s butt in chess the other morning, and then felt bad about taking his king with a pawn in less than five moves – luckily he’s a better sport than I am and happily continued the game on his own, returning his king to the board in some elaborate and illegal maneuver and then, playing my pieces as well as his own, rapidly taking out my king in a vicious attack by his beloved rook), and read books to them every night (I admit, I love this part of the day – I love that they love to read, too). But almost all of this is done in conjunction with at least one sibling and a furry family member or four. One-on-one parent-child time is fairly rare these days.
So, on Friday, when Bill texted me from the 9yo’s roller derby practice – while I put the boys to bed and counted down the minutes until I could pour a glass of wine – that I should take Paisley to the Rat City Rollergirl’s Championship bout at Key Arena the next night, I thought: that’d be a blast! It’d be great to have a Mama-Daughter Date! And then I quickly forgot about it as I had to put the phone down in order to catch the naked and wet toddler who was streaking and shrieking down the hall after his bath…
…until the next afternoon when Bill reminded me about the big bout that night as he and Paisley headed out the door, this time for a joint birthday party for two of her friends and derby teammates at the local skating rink (the weekend was full of skate dates!). With Broder down for a nap and Liam busy playing himself in chess (see above), I went to the computer to see if I could even buy day-of tickets online. It took all of two minutes before I texted Bill to tell Paisley that we were going on a date that night!
Paisley was SO thrilled. She held my hand (she held my hand!!) as we walked up to the security guy who inspected my purse for illegal contraband, bubbling over with excitement as she animatedly explained to him, speaking as fast as she could (noticing the line forming behind us), that we were going to see the Rat City Rollergirls, and that she also skated roller derby, that her derby name was Lyka Livewire, and that her coach, Coach Luna, was on the Rat City Rollergirls (we had to start walking away at this time, but she kept talking, just louder, to the now smiling security guard), and Coach Luna skated for the Throttle Rockets, and WE WERE GOING TO ROOT FOR HER–
And then we were inside the building and she had to stop talking – or at least, stop talking to the security guard. She kept up a steady stream of chatter as she held my hand (she held my hand!!) and we looked for our seats – I’d gone all out for our date and bought General Admission “VIP” seats for the two of us. I didn’t quite know what General Admission “VIP” meant, but I figured I am too dang old (well, I am!) for nosebleed seats, and gosh darn it, my daughter and I are on a date and we deserve the finer things in life! So I broke the bank and spent the extra (wait for it…) $13 for the good seats. (Right?! It was a no-brainer!)
And the good seats were worth every one of those extra 13 dollars. General Admission “VIP” seats apparently meant that all the seats in the first 15 rows in the two reserved sections along the straight sides of the oval track were available on a first-come-first-served basis. So, betraying every inherited, ingrained and borderline-pathological Scandinavian-Lutheran instinct I’ve been born and raised with that adamantly insists, in any and every assembly of people EVER (school classrooms and workshops, weddings, wherever one is allowed to pick one’s own seat), that I sit in the farthest back row possible (I’m always in AWE of those people who boldly sit smack-dab in front of a teacher or lecturer), I led Paisley (who was still holding my hand!!) down to the VERY FRONT ROW, where we boldly (so boldly!) stepped (we didn’t mean to) on the feet of the two (grouchy) people sitting on the aisle (note to attendees of any event where SEATS are involved: if you don’t like having to stand up for people to pass you when they need to get in and out, DON’T SIT ON THE AISLE – just a thought), and found two seats as close to the track as could be possible without actually being on one of the roller derby teams.
Because the teams were LITERALLY right in front of us. It was SO crazy fun.
The first bout – the Sockit Wenches versus the Derby Liberation Front – was a blast to watch; especially because one of Paisley’s coaches from last summer’s New Skater Camp (Clobberin’ Mame) is an amazing blocker for the Sockit Wenches. Paisley kept asking me if she could say hello to “Coach Mame” – she (not very patiently, but understanding that she shouldn’t take a skater’s attention away from the bout) managed to wait until half-time, when she finally had the chance to wave and say hi, and beamed in turn when Mame smiled and waved back. Paisley was only disappointed by the Sockit Wenches’ loss, the Derby Liberation Front winning the bout 168-114.
The main event – the Championship Bout between the Throttle Rockets and the returning champs, Grave Danger – was INTENSE. Paisley’s roller derby team, The Orange Crush, is coached by the Throttle Rocket’s extremely talented jammer, Luna Negra. We were, therefore and of course, rooting for the Throttle Rockets. Paisley managed to say hi and wave to “Coach Luna” before the bout this time, so was quite happy to sit back and watch the action. And eat some cotton candy, of course.
The Throttle Rockets were up at halftime, 72-50, and stayed in the lead until about the last ten minutes, when the two teams began trading the lead back-and-forth every single jam for the rest of the bout. I felt like I was watching North Carolina play Duke during the NCAA championships, I was so tense (I’m a Tar Heel; I know tense)!! The bout came down to the last jam; the Throttle Rockets were at a distinct disadvantage with two blockers in the penalty box, and as incredibly talented as their jammer, Missile America, is (“Coach Luna” had skated jammer in the previous round, having miraculously pulled off lead jammer with some ridiculously good skating and putting the Throttle Rockets up again), with only two other teammates on the track, she just couldn’t get through the solid wall of four Grave Danger blockers, and in attempting to do so, managed to end up in the penalty box herself. Missile America would end up MVP of the bout (and deservedly so), but the Throttle Rockets lost 171-165…
… and Paisley started crying!
It was so sweet. She was so disappointed for her coach and for the Throttle Rockets. I put my arm around her and while other folks started packing up and walking out we talked about how each player had skated their very best, and in spite of the loss should be very proud of themselves for their herculean efforts, sheer determination, and admirable dedication to their sport and teammates. She noticed that Missile America had left the track for the penalty box with tears in her eyes – and was quite worried that she “was ashamed” of herself. Oh no, I said. She was disappointed by the loss, and probably would worry that she could’ve done something different to change the final result, but she won MVP and would know, or should know, that she skated her heart out and should be very proud of herself.
And Paisley wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her Orange Crush hoodie, nodded her head in understanding, stuffed the remains of our greasy pizza slices and drinks into the empty cotton candy bag (!!) to deposit in the nearest garbage can (yes, I actually had to pinch myself), and…
Grabbed my hand. And held it all the way back to the car.
I’m not sure our Mama-Daughter dates will always serve as such wonderful life lessons and be quite so exciting as a championship sporting event at Key Arena, but the evening made me realize that one-on-one time with my children is priceless, invaluable, to be cherished, and to be given more of a priority in my crazy busy life. I loved having the opportunity, for just a moment, to appreciate and celebrate my daughter’s empathy for her coaches, her passion for derby, her pride in her own team when she talks with the people sitting next to us, the ushers, and random security guards. I shouldn’t have needed Bill to remind me TWICE to take my daughter to this event. Next time, the laundry can wrinkle in the dryer, the dogs can chase each other in the backyard and drive the neighbors mad with their barking, the toddler can run around naked while chasing the fat cat (she needs the exercise, anyway, right?) as long as he wants (well, maybe with a diaper on…), and I’ll remember that going out to ice cream for dinner is a brilliant idea. Hey – maybe that can be my next one-on-one date with the 5yo? After all, he’s an ice cream junkie…
You know, I don’t think I need to be asked twice – I know a good idea when I read one… Salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone, here we come!!
And maybe, just maybe, he’ll hold my hand the whole time we’re out, too.
To learn more about Paisley’s (aka Lyka Livewire’s) love affair with roller derby, you can always read My Roller Derby Queen: Seeing Life Through Orange-Colored Glasses.