with Karli Larson
The transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced-and-working-full-time mom can be challenging, and sometimes very lonely. Throw in a few cats, an ancient dog and one very brave boyfriend, and life gets downright crazy. Join me as I talk through my thoughts and struggles, my miscalculations and my triumphs. We're in this together, you and I.
When I'm not writing here you can find me over at work on the TisBest Philanthropy blog.
Kid #2 and I are obsessed with the Olympics. I’ve always been obsessed with the Olympics, but this is the first time she’s been old enough and happy enough to watch with me. We’ve been hooting and hollering like fools every night during primetime coverage and in the afternoons during the more random sports. We don’t care what sport it is. We like it all. We like the kangaroo prancing of the high jumpers. We like the hurdlers and the runners and the sprinters. We like the pole vaulters and the divers and the horseback riders and the gymnasts, artistic and rhythmic. We like all the human interest stories. We like Mary Carillo, trying to play bagpipes and walking on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich and drinking green smoothies with Oscar Pistorius. And we like beach volleyball, because we figured out the scoring system all by ourselves.
Kid #1 has zero interest in the Olympics, despite the fact that she plays field hockey at school. She’s spent the London 2012 Olympics upstairs, teaching herself new chords and songs on the ukelele. This baffles me. I have moaned, whined, cajoled, and pleaded, but she won’t join us. It’s just “not that interesting,” she says.
“THIS IS HISTORY,” I tell her. “I AM ENCOURAGING YOU TO WITNESS HISTORY. WOMEN FROM SAUDI ARABIA AND AFGHANISTAN ARE COMPETING. A PARALYMPIC RUNNER FROM SOUTH AFRICA QUALIFIED FOR THE ACTUAL OLYMPICS AND MADE IT TO THE SEMIFINALS. BIG THINGS ARE HAPPENING. PLUS PEOPLE DIVE OFF SMALL BUILDINGS AND IT’S TERRIFYING.”
“You’re yelling,” she says.
“I AM NOT YELLING. I JUST CAN’T HEAR MYSELF BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN SCREAMING AT THE TV FOR TWO WEEKS STRAIGHT.”
She exits. More ukelele chords float down the stairs.
“YOU COULD AT LEAST LEARN THE OLYMPIC THEME SONG,” I holler.
So Miss Eight and I continue our powerhouse Olympic consumption. At night, she turns the living room into a gym. The ottoman serves as the vault, unless it’s close to the couch, in which case, it becomes the low bar of the uneven bar set. She works the beam in the doorways — a very short beam in length, sure, but it does the trick.
She calls me Coach.
“How was that vault, Coach?” she asks.
Coach is not the best coach. “Um, well, I think…maybe straighten your arms…and use more power, like…um, be faster.”
She nods and sprints from the dining room, leaps over a reclining dog, dives for the ottoman, keeps her arms stiff, and flips over onto the couch.
“High degree of difficulty,” I say. “That’s at least a 15.3. Or, you know, a ten.”
She nods again and returns to pirouetting in the dining room, part of her floor exercise.
I realize she is good at this. Or could be. Like, possibly really, really good. She is small and wiry and full of energy and eager to learn. She has kinetic smarts: she can watch someone’s body move in space and mimic it perfectly.
My mind immediately turns to dollar signs — not as in what she could earn in Wheaties and Nike endorsements, but what it would take for my ex and I to get her real lessons, in anything. She loves the diving, the equestrian sports, and the gymnastics, especially. I feel a pang of sadness and familiar frustration. Paying for school supplies and school fees is going to be hard enough this year. But this kid is ready to GO. Maybe I could offer marketing services somewhere, in exchange for reduced riding lessons? Find a good gymnastics teacher nearby instead of in one of the big cities?
“You’re not looking,” she says. “You have to watch!” She indicates she is ready by flinging her arms up in the air and standing on tippy-toes. Once again, she hurtles through the dining room, over a dog, across the living room, onto the ottoman, and over onto the couch. She pops up, laughing.
“How was that?”
“Superb. Nice straight arms. Very controlled.”
“I just want you to be my coach. Like some of the Olympians have their moms as coach. That would be the best,” she says.
“I think you could probably do better,” I say.
“One more vault,” she says.
“Okay,” I say. “Just make sure you don’t stick the landing on a dog.”
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