Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Hats off to my rowers – they’re amazing! March 2, 2012

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rowersAs most of you would know the boys selected rowing as their summer sport once given the chance.  They begin their rowing “careers” at the end of Year 7, or the start of a season.  So this is their 3rd season now.  To be honest, I haven’t seen much of their rowing, mainly due to other time commitments.  When they first start, it’s mainly training on the river outside their school, getting used to the idiosyncrasies of skulls (boats) and learning the tricks of the trade.  By Year 8/9 they progress to regattas, their first taste of competitive rowing, and by Year 9/10 it’s hit the serious end of rowing (there’s a strong parallel to academic life it has to be said).

The last time I saw the men-children row was a school only mini “regatta” with some short races to show the boys new-found skills off to their proud parents.  Then they were whisked off each week to regattas on the school bus (thankfully) and our task became the early morning taxi service.  Which was just as well, because when you’ve got Sister of a Man-Child with commitments each weekend (sadly full-time working parents have to cram it all in on a Saturday), it becomes difficult for parents to be in two places at once.

For those who don’t know, trust me the rower’s life is not an easy one.  Early morning starts (5.30am to be at school by 6), at least 3 mornings a weeks for the juniors, escalating to more than 7 training sessions a week for the seniors.    In fact the boys training regime this season seemed almost too much in my view – I really thought their coach had become quite obsessed with the boys performance and was potentially pushing them too hard.  They had no rest day, training sessions with some of them throwing up from the effort, and school holiday training regimes that made Biggest Loser camp look like a walk in the park!

Last weekend we finally got the chance to attend a regatta, as it was thankfully in Melbourne and ran into the afternoon (all other commitments with Sister of a Man-child then complete).  Sadly it was also a sweltering 38 degrees in Melbourne, but wild horses weren’t stopping me and my new digital SLR camera from being bank side to watch the boy’s row.  We knew they had actually been performing very well of course, with both boys in the 10A team, but we didn’t realise until we saw them just how good they actually are!

The first row past on the water they were just heading down to the start line for one of their races.  I threw a casual hello (yes, embarrassing mother that I am) but they didn’t even flinch.  Such was the intensity and focus on their rowing I doubt they even saw me and my father standing watching them.  We both commented on our surprise at their absolute concentration, but minutes later as we watched them row, all was revealed.  They are amazingly good.  Their coach has produced an incredibly disciplined, focussed, dedicated, and well-oiled machine of 8 young men, who together have become an unbeatable crew.  Such is their success, they are beating other crews their age by 4 boat lengths, and even beating some Year 11/12 crews.  No wonder the school are sending them to compete in the National Championships in Perth next week.

Father of a Man-Child and me (and the boy’s grandfather) have a new-found respect for the boys, and their coach.  It’s clear he knew exactly how much he could push them, and he has certainly got the results.   Of course success is certainly a brilliant motivator for all.  We were delighted to be on the river that day watching them, and thrilled and proud to have both our boys in the limelight.

It’s not every day you have twin boys rowing together, although it does happen.  The irony of them sitting one behind the other in the boat is not lost on me – no-one watching them would know that they fight and argue at home and sometimes could kill each other, yet are forced to sit so close in a boat! It’s perfect really.  And I have no doubt that looking back they will enjoy the fact they did this particular sport together.

There is one other upside of rowing, apart from keeping them fit.  It’s true what they say – the demands of rowing keep them out of trouble.  They still have a social life, but it’s definitely tempered by their training and regatta commitments.  I know for a fact they seriously curtail their drinking (yes of alcohol) during rowing season – that’s music to a mother’s ears.

I hope the boys enjoy their taste of success – the medal haul is impressive, every regatta brings home yet another, and I hope they enjoy their time together – I’m sure they will look back with fondness on their time spent rowing.

Here are my earlier reflections on the sport of rowing, which was all very foreign to me then.  Row, Row, Row your boat.

 

Mother of a Man-Child: Row, Row, Row Your Boat! April 1, 2011

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I love rowing!  Or more precisely I love my men-children rowing.  As my friends all say, the best way to keep a teenager out of trouble is to keep them busy.  So the more sport they do the better.  Bring it on!

Now that’s not to say that we love everything about rowing.  I can’t say we’re huge fans of the 6am starts, at least 3 days a week – including Saturday.  There goes the weekend lie in!  Thankfully Father of a Man-Child volunteers to take them most days – that’s because he’s one of those lucky people who can walk in the door 20 minutes later, hop back into bed and be snoring, I mean slumbering again within 30 seconds of his head hitting the pillow.

I, meanwhile, am still wide awake having heard all the preparations to get them out the door, and thinking damn I can’t go to 6am gym class because that would mean leaving 7-year-old daughter asleep in an empty house for 10 minutes. (I kid you not I am on my own here.  There are a few gym junkies I know who don’t even blink at leaving their kids in bed whilst they exercise – they just leave the phone number of the gym)!

The upside of the early morning starts is that the men-children cannot possibly be late for school on these days – there’s no excuses when they’ve been there since 6am is there?  And they get to eat breakfast – what man-child would turn down bacon and eggs before school?  I think Man-Child II tries to balance being early by being extremely late on the other days, just to ensure he doesn’t look like he’s being a model student.  The only problems arise when they forget something important, like school shoes (doh), and expect Mother of a Man-Child or Father of a Man-Child to take time out to drive through the madness that is school traffic to deliver them.  If it’s lunch, trust me we wouldn’t bother.  They can go hungry or buy something!

Of course with rowing (just like with rugby) comes a whole new world of language that is completely foreign to me.  There’s the ERGO’s (short for ergometer) they do on a regular basis (a simulated rowing machine basically to measure their performance) and the quads, fours, eights, sculls, firsts, seconds (referring to crews) and then cox, stroke, bow (boat positions) etc.  I know the cox is typically a smaller boy and sits at the front of the boat, but that’s about all.  And then there’s unique rowing terms to learn, like “catch a crab”, “jumping a slide” and “feather”.  And we’re not at a beachside playground.

With every new sport comes equipment, in this case there’s the specialist (read expensive) uniform, a rather snug all in one rowing suit.  Naturally my men-children being very different, one wears this with pride, as do all the senior rowers, and the other one simply believes it’s far too “gay” and therefore chooses the fitted shorts and singlet – really it doesn’t look very different, but psychologically it clearly is!  We should be thankful they don’t need any shoes for rowing – saves us a small fortune having them barefoot.

For a short period this season the boys actually ended up in the same quad crew – it didn’t last very long, but it’s bound to happen again.  Part of me thinks it’s a good thing they’re apart, and part of me likes the idea of them doing something together in a small team – good for their mutual respect for each other.  We’re yet to attend our first official regatta for the boys.  I’ll be fascinated to go to a Head of the River event as a parent to see how it compares to those I attended at Barwon River as a teenager.  Just like the Melbourne Cup, we weren’t there to watch the rowing (or horses), trust me!

“Ready all, Row”