This past weekend my “one and only” competed in his very first kids triathlon and if there was a prouder mama there, you would have been hard pressed to find her! He swam, biked and ran his little heart out and at the end of it he was thrilled to run into the waiting arms of his cheering section! (Well, that may have just been a momentary diversion on his direct path to the snack table, but I digress…) He didn’t finish first, he didn’t finish last… he finished. And for a little guy who has a “slight” (read: MASSIVE) tendency to lean towards perfectionism, his pride (and relief!) was a thing of beauty.
You would think that a high five and a few mama tears of joy might have been the end of the story, but unfortunately the overall experience was somewhat tarnished by some of the things we witnessed while we were there. Dads yelling at their kids to “Stop breathing like that… breathe properly!!”… moms shouting in the not-so-distant distance “ What are you doing?? You’re not even trying!”… parents shaking their heads in disbelief and bemoaning the “certainty” that “there’s no way he/she is going to win doing it like that…!”.
Seriously? Perhaps I have low expectations but if my son is breathing at all, I’m a happy mama. Not trying? How do I know? Maybe he’s thinking I could be cheering harder! Not going to win? Couldn’t care less… My only hope was that he finished… in one piece… and didn’t turn into a popsicle in the process (It was crazy cold out there!!).
When did “being the best” become the ONLY option? I remember playing softball, ringette, hockey, etc. growing up – sometimes I had a great game, sometimes not so much. Sometimes we won, sometimes it was a disaster. People won, people lost… but at the end of the day everyone seemed to understand that it was mainly for fun and 90% of us were never going to make it to the ‘big leagues’. And that was okay.
Why is it that these days, all kids need to be the “Tiger Woods” of their chosen sport almost immediately upon exiting the womb? Whether you’re smacking golf balls, swimming laps, shooting baskets or even ‘tickling the ivories”… did I miss the memo stating that everyone needs to be a superstar??
My question is this – if my son has to be “the best” at something, and we all need to get him immersed in whatever that may be ASAP, aren’t I picking what I want him to be good at? There are the few rare “phenoms”, like Tiger Woods, who seemed to destined for certain things (although perhaps we won’t pay too much attention to where that eventually got him!) but they are most certainly the exception rather than the rule. A phenomenon is, by definition, a “singularity” or “unusual occurrence” – not the norm. So why do we all expect that everyone needs to conquer the competition?
My 7 year old is a smart kid, who is kind, caring, empathetic, inquisitive and makes me laugh until my sides hurt. He swims, is a red belt in taekwondo, has played soccer, enjoys rock climbing and may even check out snowboarding this Winter. Is he the ‘best’ at any of these things? Nope. Will he be at some point? Probably not. But if he decides that one of these things – or even something else – is his true passion I will be there to support him 110%, whether he’s 1st or 101st.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my son dearly and obviously want nothing but the best for him. The difference is that I’m completely okay with letting him decide what that might be. And until then, I will continue to be his biggest fan, supporter and champion.
He’s already talking about the possibility of another triathlon next year. Maybe he’ll do better… maybe he won’t. (Maybe it will be warmer!) And that’s completely okay with me.