Full Speed had a respectable seventh place finish out of thirty-seven at his school’s bee. The difference between him participating as a fifth grader and now is unbelievable. He used to be the smallest, now he is among the tallest. His voice, the depth of which I found unsettling, held steady as he spouted off each letter.
I no longer saw a boy on that stage. In his place stood a confident young man.
Leading up to the competition, T.Puzzle and I continued a lively debate. He believes a person is awesome only if they are winning. I still hold that awesomeness is static. Sometimes that expresses as external achievement, but mostly it is comprised of intangibles. I do not fault T.Puzzle for his perspective. Our culture exalts individual, external success. Winning makes sense to him. I get that.
Maybe Full Speed did not technically win the spelling bee, but from my view he demonstrated what it means to succeed. He had the nerve to get up on that stage and compete with all eyes of the auditorium zeroed in on him.
I couldn’t do that.
I probably wouldn’t even be able to spell my name right in that situation.
When it was all said and done, he bounced back quickly. He did not entertain the notion that misspelling a word defines him a person.
I was beyond confused. While my eyes were seeing Full Speed line up with his teammates near the high jump area, my mind could not comprehend it. It was like if you were at my house and I walked down my stairs wearing a Cardinals jersey. It would make absolutely no sense. If you were a Cubs fan, and odds are if I let you in my home, you were,… well, at the least you would be anything but a Cardinals fan…, first you would feel confusion, then as it sunk in, you would feel angry and upset.
That’s exactly how I felt: confused, angry, upset
First of all, Full Speed up to this point in all of his entire life, had never even attempted to execute a high jump. Secondly, he barely cleared the waist of one of his man-sized teammates. I wish I was exaggerating for effect, but sadly, I am not. This kid towered over Full Speed. He looked like a line-backer while Full Speed looked like a scrawny equipment manager (albeit a highly adorable one).
Thankfully, the high jump took place well off the main area. Most of the crowd was focused on the excitement of the relays that circled before us. The bad news is, Full Speed’s high jump attempts played out exactly as you might imagine.
For his ‘warm-up’ jump he actually went under bar. Yes, you read that right….under. For his remaining three attempts he managed to at least level himself out with the bar to a degree, mainly shouldering the bar and launching it off the two poles that held it up. There was no grace to be found in these movements, mostly it looked like he was being electrocuted as his arms flailed around helplessly. I have to give him props for consistency, I mean he demolished that bar every single time. I also appreciated the polite way he helped replace the bar to its proper positioning for the next kid in line.
This was a parenting moment that I had to go big picture. This is where what you see before you is so off-kilter, you just shrug your shoulders and say, ‘no big deal’. This is just a blip on the road of life and let it go. I secretly held on to hope that he might get a chance to compete in another event. One hopefully, that required his feet to stay planted on the ground.
Shortly after, the ominous clouds that had been gathering decided they were done with this particular track meet. Within moments, rain was pummeling its way through the crowd and we all scattered like ants to safety. I was separated from Full Speed for a bit while the fate of the track meet was determined. Eventually, as mother nature continued on with her very bad mood, the meet was called and I caught up with him.
Once we were back at the car away from the noisy rain, I asked him point-blank, “Why on earth did they ask you do to the high jump?”
“I volunteered,” he replied.
Turns out, four members of his team were no-shows and there were lots of gaps needing to be filled. As his coach had run through the litany of events that needed a fill-in, Full Speed volunteered for every single one.
He was denied on all counts.
That is until the high jump was called out. No one was willing to step up so what did Full Speed do?
He stepped up.
Can you imagine the amount of courage this must have taken? Since Full Speed has a pretty good hold on reality, he had to have known it was going to end badly for him.
He did it anyway.
This kid may have lost the high jump that day, but he won my respect.
He has all it takes to be a winner. The kind that matters. The kind that isn’t afraid to take risks.
I don’t enjoy being one of those moms who focuses on their children’s academic achievements. I try very hard to stay in my own lane and thankfully, my boys seem to have a handle on their academics. However, I have an Achilles heel:
Full Speed’s math grade
He sailed along until fifth grade. Then he came to an abrupt halt, adjusted his sails and kept going. Same deal in sixth grade, he had a bit of a rough start, the teacher intervened and then all was well. In fact so well, he got into honors Algebra for his seventh grade year. I thought that meant he had the chops to handle it. And he mostly does, but sometimes, he just doesn’t. Where I struggle is that my intuition screams loudly that it isn’t a lack of ability, it is a lack of effort. Can I get an amen?
Regardless, after a very up and down 1st-3rd grading periods, Full Speed managed to harrowingly acquire a ‘good’ grade thus far. As Full Speed gets set to head into the fourth and final grading period for honors Algebra, I asked him if he would consider putting in his maximum effort upfront as opposed to the rollercoaster performance in which he seems to gravitate towards. His reply?
As Mad Dog and I gathered around the corner table with his colleagues from the weekend awards’ summit, someone asked me if I had recovered from the Tiki Bar from the day before. My hands immediately went to my ears at the sound of the words ‘tiki’ and ‘bar’ as my body shuddered at the memory. Not because of my day spent at the Tiki Bar, more likely, because of the after-effects of my day at the Tiki Bar.
It had all started out innocently enough. Mad Dog and I had a rare opportunity to go to the hotel’s gym for a workout together. We were making the most of our kid-free getaway while also celebrating the enumerable accomplishments of Mad Dog’s incredible work team. You can’t not have fun celebrating other people, this awards’ summit is seriously one of my favorite events of the whole year. Post-workout we continued our charade of having zero responsibility. We parked ourselves at table by the Tiki Bar for an oceanside lunch accompanied by some ridiculously awesome cocktails. Our intent was to enjoy a drink or two, then head back to our room to get dressed up for dinner date. It quickly went off the rails (in the best possible way) from there. We found some friends hanging out at the bar, pulled up some barstools and proceeded to not leave for another 10 hours. I tried to blame Mad Dog later for not supervising me better, but he promised he had done his part. The problem was all his friends and colleagues were courteously buying me cocktails without his knowledge. I honestly don’t know how many drinks I had. This all eventually led to an epic day/night of fun and laughter but, you know where this is going, the aftermath of which I payed for dearly.
I was extremely disappointed I had to miss a good portion of the events the following day. I truly wanted to support Mad Dog and his team for all the hard work leading up to this summit. However, I simply could not. Mad Dog had to tuck me in and with lots and lots of Gatorade, I made a slow and steady recovery.
I was so worried about how people would react to my absence but across the board, everyone was so supportive and understanding. I had no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. They all said that a mom should be allowed to have a carefree night of fun.
I’m in no way suggesting that you need to go on a massive bender to reclaim your individuality, but it’s okay to let your hair down on occasion whatever that looks like for you.
Never forget the wild-child that lived in your heart as you grew into womanhood and beyond.
I was having a moment. I had been cruising through the week and then, I wasn’t. Mad Dog has been gone for over a week and won’t get back for a few more days.
I have no reason to complain. My boys are older and they are about a thousand percent easier to manage compared to when they were small. We also do lots of fun stuff together like special dinners out and movie marathons. It isn’t perfect but it works.
However, we all miss Mad Dog and after a while, this feeling of missing him creeps over us and then it’s harder to be our best selves.
Yesterday, as I tried to order Full Speed’s track uniform (yay! He made the track team! So what if all he had to do was show up, basically, he made the team at ‘hello’, still….he made the commitment to be on a team…woo-hoo!), I lost it. Why? Part of it was that it was about my one-hundredth action item of the day, and the other part was that Full Speed is one of the hardest kids in the world to find clothes that fit properly. I can’t explain it but he always seems to fall in between regular sizing. I had stared at the computer screen completely flummoxed as to what size to purchase when I finally pulled the trigger. As I printed out the receipt I realized after all that agonizing, I had ordered the wrong size! Yes, in the grand scheme of life it is no big deal, but it felt really big right then and I started to cry.
Full Speed came over to me, put his arm around my shoulders and said:
“It’s okay, Mom. Everyone makes mistakes. I just appreciate you buying the uniform for me. I know you miss, Dad, too. Because you miss him that’s probably really why you are upset. I understand.”
I had to admit, the kid made some good points.
Then, it dawned on me…I got ‘mommed’.
He basically said every exact thing I would say to him if the tables were turned.
I’m grateful he had the empathy to comfort me. Nice that some of what I say to him sticks.
Today was better.
Here I will share a photographic art installation which symbolizes how well I am managing.