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  • Writer's pictureMicah M Rodrigues

The Race.

Yesterday my kids went to their first track meet. It was an important event for many reasons. It was their first school competition, and the first school competition after the lockdown marked the Covid pandemic.

They rode a school bus and ran around with their friends at the meet, enjoying a measure of independence not usually found during a school day. They cheered for their school and other schools. Lined up along the finish line, they cheered the loudest for those kids that were the last runners in any given group. They saw my husband, and I show up for them and the school. Adding our cheers to those of them and their friends. They felt the nervousness of competition and the desire to do well. They strategized, figuring out when they should snack, speed up, and slow down to ensure their best performance.

At race time, I was thrilled to see our daughter striding along with the front of the group. All legs, hair, and smiles as she crossed the finish line at an impressive 7th place. Last week we weren’t sure she would be at the race, never mind at such a pace. During tryouts, she walked part of the way and was told she didn’t make the team. She said it was too hard and too long, but she was also disappointed. When the school offered the chance for kids to try out again, we spent the morning in tearful decision-making mode. She wanted to go, was afraid it was too hard, was worried she would make it and then not like it. I encouraged her as best I could and then left the decision in her capable hands, and, well, you can guess the rest.

That 7th place was a great accomplishment, to be sure. Still, I am most proud that she was motivated by her disappointment, that despite her misgivings, she tried again, and that now she has a sense of what it means to face the difficult and see the potential beauty beyond it. And while we are undoubtedly proud of her, she is most proud of herself.

Our son ran too. He made the team no issue. Attended every practice, nary a complaint in sight. He bikes and plays footy, hockey, and any number of other activities for hours on end with seemingly endless energy. But as he rounded the hill and came into view, he was walking. And he was crying. He melted into my arms on the sidelines. His breathing hurt, he was too tired, his heart was pounding, and he “just couldn’t do it.” I held him, letting him breathe, pouring comfort into him. I told him I would walk with him, hold his hand, run with him - whatever he needed - but with the finish line in sight, he had to keep going. I held his hand over the rope. As we neared the last stretch, he let go of my hand, and as he heard the cheers of the people along the finish line, he started to run. Sweat and tears running down his face, he crossed the finish line at 135th place.

That 135th place is close to last place, but I couldn’t be prouder of him. He kept going. Even when it felt like the most challenging thing. He leaned on me when he needed to and then forged ahead through his difficulty (on his own!). He crossed the line with determination and tearful authenticity - no desire to ‘suck it up’ in front of his school or friends. Red-faced, tear-streaked and panting, I can see that he felt a spark of pride when he received his ribbon. That feeling is buried now - he doesn’t feel proud of himself. He is disappointed he found it so hard and didn’t make it to the next round. But he has also said he wants to try the route again, see if he can do it with a bit more practice, and spent the rest of the evening rollerblading, nary a complaint in sight.

So, despite the meet being over, I am still cheering. I am helping my son see how strong he truly is and how accomplished he should feel. I am supporting my daughter as she discovers new physical and mental strengths. I am watching on the sidelines as they both learn essential life lessons.

Yesterday my kids went to their first track meet. It was an important event for many reasons.

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