[Apologies to all who received a mistakenly published unfinished version of this post. Here’s the completed thought:]
Micah’s first track meet was small and doused in big light.
He ran the 4 X 200 m relay that he dreaded and didn’t want to run. Micah was made anchor leg and had no idea what a relay really was and how it worked. All he knew was: “Whatever happens, don’t drop that stick!”
Only four teams competed and by the time that drop-me-not stick came to Micah, the field had spread out so far that he was running his half-lap on that huge track without anyone near. Mid-way through his 200 meters he looked around suspiciously, the thought inside that turning head so clear: Who am I racing here? Anyone? Anyone? Could I possibly be that fast?
Though Micah’s wondering slowed him down, they finished second.
But much more importantly he came in smiling, happy, full of himself in a good way.
He’d been so afraid of all this – running with the kids he’s been watching, competing with them, the long lonesome blue track, the physical effort, the possibility of being slow and coming in last – and he’d just conquered it.
All of those worries will come back when it gets harder, but now that he sees himself as part of the team, one more runner, they may not derail him so easily.
We’ve seen it in Lysle. How he’s grown through this practice. How he’s learning that he can tough it out sometimes, even though that does not come naturally or easily to him and hurts. I’m only learning some of that resilience, physical and psychological, now, in my mid-forties. I want my kids to have it sooner. That sense of being full of themselves, but in a good way. Maybe it’s better to call it filled with themselves, with trust in their own strength and ability, so filled there is no room or need for putting down others. So filled there is enough to go around and help others feel the same.
And, confirming once more that whatever you teach your kids will come to haunt you first, Micah, caught in the upsweep of pride, became quite full of himself in the usual negative sense of the word this morning.”You’re a loser,” he said to me, “because you never run races!”
I take it as a sign of my own growing resilience that I could let the word “loser” slide and let Artie do the reminding that it is unkind.
A little later I thought I’d tease Micah back about his earlier plans: “So you’re gonna quit the running?”
“At twenty,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, when I’m twenty. Because that’s when I’m gonna be a parent.”
I think Micah was telling me that he understands how, in the department of life challenges, parenting can come to replace running races (or writing books or other difficult endeavors). So that’s why you’re not winning more medals, mom, I get it.
Micah’s emotional learning pendulum is in full swing.
Two weeks ago, he was at the scared “I can’t do it, I’ll never win” end.
Now he’s at the triumphant “I did it, I won” end. And he sees others are in that tough spot he was in.
First he points a haughty little finger at them.
Then he tries to figure out why they’re still there.
He’ll be able to find that empathy in himself more and more often, if we keep at it and persist with him through the losing when it comes. When he does drop that stick and has to pick it back up.