Today was track and field day for grades 3-6 at school, which meant that the Boy (who’s in 3rd grade) would compete in four events of his choice. His picks were the dash, the long jump, tug-of-war, and hurdles.
His first event was the dash (50 yards, I think), early in the day. The 3rd and 4th graders were divided into groups, and each was assigned someone to race, though the point wasn’t really to race against each other, but to clock their best time.
Still, when two people are running alongside each other down marked lanes, and a person holding a stopwatch waits for them at the finish line? It’s a race.
Before the Boy’s turn, I walked down toward the finish line to try to get some pictures, and to see his effort from the best direction. When I looked back toward where he waited to race, I saw that he had been paired with a much taller boy. Yep, a 4th grader. Even though I knew they were competing against their own classmates, not each other, I started to worry for Boy. I didn’t want the other boy’s height and stride advantage to shake my son’s confidence. And I secretly hoped that the other kid really hated athletics, and had spent the last 47 Saturdays and every day after school playing video games. (Yeah, I know.)
At the signal, they were off, and my Boy kept pace with the older boy. Then, when they were about 3/4 of the way, Boy looked over at the other kid and saw that he was edging ahead a little. Determination crossed my son’s face, and he dug deep and pounded out those last yards with all he had.
And it was a tie. He, a 3rd grader, tied with a 4th grade boy.
He was excited. (I was, too.) After the other boy walked away, there were
lots of a couple of high-fives. (I didn’t consider, until just now, that the other kid might have thought, “Well, crap, I tied with a 3rd grader.” Suddenly, I’m not sure I’m a nice person. Anyway. I’ll think about that later.)
I returned in the afternoon for his last event, the hurdles.
Before I continue, I should tell you that I’m not one of those parents who drags her child down to the ballpark to practice pitches in the light of car headlights (not saying that’s a bad thing). I won’t force a sport on my children, and I feel quite certain that if my son or daughter wants to try out for other sports (beyond soccer, which they both played this year), that they will express that wish and we will help them achieve it, as much as we can.
Earlier in the week, Boy tried out for the relay event for today and didn’t make the cut. And though he was disappointed, he had the attitude that he wanted to try again next year, and maybe he would be faster then. I think it’s healthy for children to realize that things require effort, and that not everyone is good at everything. The disappointment is part of it all. But so is running as fast as a 4th grader when you’re just in 3rd, if you’re lucky.
Back to the hurdles…
This time he was matched with a boy from his class. They got the signal and took off running. There were four hurdles ahead of them.
My son reached the first one, and jumped (leapt?) over it. Then, his foot caught, the hurdle fell, and so did he. He ate it, big. Arms and legs and shoulder and forehead hit the ground at once (fortunately, it was just grass). My breath stopped. My heart broke for him. Was he hurt? His time on the ground couldn’t have lasted more than a two seconds but seemed like a whole minute.
And then he got up. Without dusting himself off or shaking off the fall, he took off running. He cleared the last three hurdles with air to spare and finished the race. I met him at the finish line, along with his classmate and the time-keeper. He blinked back tears and rubbed his forehead. Are you okay? we all asked. He nodded.
“Do you want another chance to run the hurdles?” the other woman asked.
“No, thank you,” he answered.
Within a few moments, he had recovered completely, and sat down on the hillside with me. We talked and watched the rest of his class compete. “Look how well Michael is doing,” he pointed out. He had good thoughts for everyone, even after his own embarrassing moment.
Are these things harder on parents than they are on our children? My VBF posed that question when I called her from my car, after the events ended. The whole time I sat with the Boy, I wanted to cry, for him. Because I know that things like that are embarrassing, and I want to shield him from that. And, because I was moved. Without ever seeming to consider giving up for a second, he got up and finished the race. He never shed a tear over the whole thing, though I know if it had happened to me when I was in 3rd grade (or maybe last week), I would have needed a few moments to compose myself and to grab a shovel for digging a hole in the ground to hide in. But he was fine. (If he had cried or showed his disappointment or embarrassment, that would have been exactly right, too. But I admired how he rolled with it, and didn’t let it devastate him, as it would have me, at his age.)
So, yeah, I’m proud.
The boy has heart, I think.