Track season is officially over. For middle schoolers in my district at least. What that means differs from one family to another, I’m sure. For us, it means a bit less chaos in our afternoon schedule and a bit less laundry. And, it turns out, a lot more is ending as well.
Oldest has never been the sporty-old-spice kind of guy. When we signed him up for T-Ball back when he was 4, I’m not sure who was more pained by the whole thing: him or us. We were the ones writing the park & rec check and chauffeuring him about the metro area, but he was the one out pulling the clover and digging in the grass with sticks. We had shrugged our parenting shoulders and bought into the whole “let them try stuff and see what they like” gig and he’d gone along with it to an extent. He was quite pleased with the team name (the Yellow Spiders) because it was, in his words, the “only original suggestion in the bunch, Mom.”
So you can imagine my surprise the Friday before Spring Break when Oldest came home from school and paused long enough on his way to play MindCraft with his friends to say, “Uh Mom, I need to get a physical and stuff. For track.”
It turns out Oldest is just as susceptible to peer pressure as all the other kids. Or in this case, coach pressure.
If you are an adult working with kids and you wonder if you actually are making a difference in their lives, hear this: my 12 year old son, who thinks a good time is pondering string theory, playing video games, and reading novels, went out for track because he adores his math teacher who just happens to be the track head coach. I’m sure the fact that Mister Soandso is a marathoner played at least a bit part in Oldest’s decision making process. But the lion’s share of that decision rests purely on the shoulders of his coach.
In case you are wondering, I was unprepared for Oldest to go out for track. But a physical was procured and running shoes purchased along with shorts and tee-shirts and suddenly I was the mother of a middle school athlete. For me, that mostly meant washing uniforms and packing extra granola bars, picking him up after practice and driving to track meets. But it was also something more.
I got to watch my son flourish.
My son is not the athlete who broke any school records or a single race tape. In his words, he is “terrible but having fun!” But every time he ran towards that finish line, usually the last runner on the straight-away, he gave it his all. And his team mates cheered and strangers clapped for him. Not because he was last, but because even though he was last, he gave each race his best.
I won’t miss driving his forgotten uniform to the school or sitting in the rain. But I will really miss seeing Oldest run that mile, way behind the other boys but crossing the finish line anyway.
The nice thing is that although this track season has come to an end, I know it isn’t over really.
Part way through the meet yesterday Oldest came and sat by me. I figured that once he’d gotten a snack he’d go back and sit with his friends. But instead he sat there and cheered on his teammates and told me who was a nice boy and who he knew and didn’t know. And then, as we cheered on the seventh grade boys 800 meter relay team, Oldest leaned over to me and said with a twinkle in his eye, “I think I’m going to run track all the way through until I graduate from high school. It’s just so much fun!”
Sounds like the season’s end won’t be coming any time soon. Instead, what really has ended is Oldest’s previously thought of who he was and what he could do.
ps. On behalf of all the parents and grown-ups out there that love kids, thank you teachers and coaches for making kids’ lives better. By giving of yourself, you’ve made their dreams bigger.