I posted last week about my two wrestling kids. I now have to make a bit of a modification.
In my previous post I had talked about Toby getting a late start in wrestling; about how he has had to fight through bumps, bruises, inexperience, and a medical condition. Through it all he had refused to quit --- but then the very next match after my post, things went terribly south.
Toby has a medical condition known as Vocal Cord Dysfunction. I'm not a doctor so I'm not even going to attempt to give you an in depth explanation of the ailment but I will try to describe it in layman's terms.
Imagine your vocal cords going into spasms and slamming shut, cutting off your airway and suffocating you in the midst of intense physical activity. Scary.....
Now imagine being the parent of the athlete that is having the vocal cord spasm.......Horrifying.
Last wrestling season was gut wrenching for me. I broke into a sweat every time Toby stepped onto the mat and almost desperately prayed for a quick match.
The spasming happened four times last year, and each time I really, REALLY wanted Toby to just give this wrestling thing up.
But a trip to the doctor and then a speech therapist had given both Toby and myself hope that perhaps this could be managed. Toby learned how to recognize the signs for an oncoming attack and what breathing method to use to combat the problem.
We both walked into this year feeling optimistic that this vocal cord mess was under control and, two meets into the season, everything appeared to be fine.
Then....it happened again.
Toby had an outstanding first round. He shot and got into his opponents legs, picking him up and slamming him to the mat. His opponent really had no answers as Toby went up 6 to 1 with time running down in the first round.
The I saw it coming. As time expired, I could see a grimace on Toby's face as he very slowly got up off the mat. He head shot skyward and his mouth opened --- he looked like a fish out of water and my heart dropped into my stomach.
Toby started round two with his mouth open and a pained look on his face. Despite the discomfort he still managed to get a leg and slam his opponent into the ground. He was up 9-2 and I was praying that he could get a quick pin and get the hell out of there.
The two were tied up when suddenly Toby went crashing to the mat with his opponent on top of him. Toby quit fighting, lay flat on his back, and got pinned. As soon as it was over his opponent got up but Toby continued to lay there; his chest rising up and down rapidly.
I felt sick as I watched Toby struggle to get up, place his hands upon his head, and labor to get his breathing back under control. I could see his coaches talking to him as he desperately tried not to get emotional in front of everyone in the gym.
I leaned over to Karla and whispered, "Dear, I just don't think we can let him do this anymore."
"We are going to have to discuss this when we get home." she said.
To me, watching Toby have a vocal cord spasm is traumatic.....It's like watching your kid drown, I thought.
I had always told my kids that, no matter what happens, you have to finish what you start. Given these unforeseen circumstances I was more than ready to provide an addendum to that rule.
Afterward Toby had a headache and felt sick. He barely spoke with either Karla or myself and, with visible disappointment, decided to scratch his final match. I didn't tell him, but I was very glad he did.
Not that it mattered until much later, but the kid Toby was throwing around the mat ended up winning the weight class. (Not that I really give a shit about that)
The house was quiet. Toby, sick, disappointed, let down, came home before the meet was over. Karla made supper, but Toby wasn't in the mood.
"I think I'll just go to bed," he said quietly.
At 8:30, Toby walked into his room and closed the door behind him.
I really wanted to talk to him; try to cheer him up. But there are those times when you just have to let things go. I felt that this was one of those times.
I slept, well, more like tossed and turned on the couch, that night. I would occasionally get up and crack the door open to Toby's room to check on him. Resting --- breathing ---- ok. I closed the door and resumed my flip flopping on the couch routine.
No parent likes to see their kid upset. I lay awake, sick to my stomach. What could I possibly say that was going to make this kid feel better? He had put a lot of work into wrestling only to be hit with one disappointment after another. The "you did the best you could" speech was not going to cut it.
And as much as it pained me to do it, I had it in my mind that if Toby didn't pull the plug on wrestling then I was going to do it for him. There was no way I could watch another match like the one I watched the night before.
But, you want to know the great thing about this kid of mine? By the next morning he was over it. One of the outstanding characteristics that he possesses is his ability to take lemons and turn in into lemonade. He would rise from the ashes, determined to make the best of his situation.
Toby walked out of his room and told Karla and I that he was going to talk to his coach.
"I'm not confident that I can wrestle in a meet," he said, "But I can still practice. In practice I can walk away if things start to get bad. I can't do that in a match. So if it's okay, I'll practice and just be a manager at the meets."
Fine by me.
(I have to say, Toby's coach has been nothing short of outstanding throughout this entire mess. He immediately told Toby that he understood the situation, that Toby was more than welcome to keep practicing and attend the meets as a manager......And should he ever decide to get back on the horse....I'm very impressed with his coach.....He is a class act.)
I asked Toby if the breathing routine the speech therapist taught him didn't work.
"It does," he said, "The problem is that it's hard to go through a breathing routine when you either have a hand over your mouth or an arm around your throat."
(He has never had to use his breathing routine while playing baseball or football. That should give you a fairly good idea about just how physically intense wrestling is.)
Right before his last meet Toby had laid out a practice schedule for Tera. Tera has wrestling practice two days out of the week; Toby set up practice for three more days. And it would be just a couple of days after his last meet, with his most previous unfortunate incident still fresh in his mind, that he would take the cushion off of the futon, throw it on the floor, and ask Tera if she wanted to practice.
Little sister, who has also taken a liking to wrestling, jumped on the opportunity.
"Let's work top today," said Toby, "Remember half and power half?"
"That's okay...Let's get to work."
Toby would tell me later that he even though he didn't feel that he could actually wrestle he still loved the sport and wanted to stay involved.
Plus, even though he didn't say so, I think he is still holding out a little hope that he can get back on the mat. The doctor did tell him that, in time, he should outgrow his vocal cord dysfunction.
It's hard to say whether or not Toby will actually try to get back into a match and, I won't lie, it won't bother me in the least if he doesn't.
He actually admitted to me that it would be very hard to step onto the mat without having thoughts of another bad vocal cord spasm lingering in the back of his mind.
"But, it's alright," he said, "I can still use wrestling practice to stay in shape and get stronger and quicker. I can learn and work with Tera. Plus, now that I don't have to worry about my weight, I can try to pack on a few pounds for baseball and football season."
I can't tell you how proud I am of Toby. I think most kids would have just walked away from a sport that they felt they couldn't participate in. Toby instead decided that if he couldn't play then he could at least do the next best thing --- coach.
And it's a lot of fun to watch Toby work with Tera ---- especially since I have no clue what I'm doing.
In the end, I feel like I can say that I STILL have two wrestling kids.
Life is good. There may be setbacks --- but life is still good.