Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quitting Is An Option?!?

The race was run, and in the end she came in last. I couldn't have been prouder.

I was proud because besides the fact that I'm her mom and love her unconditionally, it is for the simple fact that she PARTICIPATED and she PREVAILED. Once again, my child reminded me of something I have known, but it became evermore so clear and pertinent to me.

Participation Awards. Whew, there, I said it. Did I just see some of you cringe or give a little eye roll? Or did you clap along with the feel-goods they give everyone? No matter where you are on the spectrum of feelings on participation awards, this blog is a reminder to dish out the verbal, not just tangible, rewards.

I originally got to thinking about this after finally delving into some memory boxes from LONG ago. There were some real treasures in there, but what stopped me short was when I came across the awesome grade school cross country ribbons pictured here. I laughed out loud. I chortled. I guffawed. Seriously...I got a ribbon for coming in 84th place!?!? I just about died....of embarrassment...on multiple counts. But, then I felt much better when I saw that two years later I had improved to 43rd place, and never fear, I got a ribbon for that!

Now let's jump ahead to current day. My daughter participated in the same type of race. We only found out about it a week before the race so she didn't have much time to "train." She is not a born runner nor a natural athlete, so I wasn't expecting a first place finish. What I do know about her is that she is goal-oriented and driven. Could one outlast the other?

In the most achingly beautiful way, it did. 

It was a beautiful Minnesota fall afternoon the day of the race. Within 30 seconds of the race starting I knew the end results were not going to be what she hoped. As the pack of runners pulled away from her, tears were streaming down behind my sunglasses and my thoughts lay heavy on my heart. I know this will be tough for her...All her struggles with low self-esteem and anxiety will come to the surface...It will be a rough night after this...Someone told her she was fat this summer, so this won't help...What is she feeling right now at the back of the pack?...Should I run over and give her encouragement?...Can she sense me cheering her on?...I can only imagine her emotional struggles at war in her mind...Keep on, girl...

The sun was shining, but deep inside this momma's soul was hurting for her. As she came around a curve in the race route I cheered her on. Told her I was proud of her. Told her she could do it. And she did. She crossed the line well behind the person in front of her, but she finished. She was able to hold her head high until we got into the car, and then the darkness moved in. Someone had made a comment about how slow she was, and she crumbled. She knew how far ahead her friends had finished. Besides some physical pain (she had twisted her ankle halfway through the race), there was anger, sadness, a feeling of failure, and so much more.

It was then, during that raw venting of emotions she said something so great.
Me: I am SO proud of you. There were several times when it would have been easy for you to just stop and quit.
Z: I could have quit?!?! That was an option?
Insert dumb silence as I realize I introduced a new, albeit not positive, idea into her mind. 
Me: You could have, but you didn't. I know how hard that was for you, but you didn't quit. And for THAT I'm so proud of you.

I wanted to slap myself upside the head for introducing that idea to her, but it did floor me that no matter how hard her ankle hurt, how much she was hurting emotionally, the idea never came to her that she could have just stopped. Quit. Thrown in the towel. Surrender. But she prevailed. She GAVE HER ALL.

She participated and she prevailed. Would she have loved to get a ribbon for participating? Probably, but in a world obsessed with ribbons and trophies and awards we can never forget the importance of verbally acknowledging the hard work and participation done. I had completely forgotten about those ribbons I earned in the 1980s, but what I hadn't forgotten is what was instilled in me to work hard and try my best at whatever I do whether it was athletics, academics, music, etc.

There is this whole huge world out there waiting for our kids, and so many things for them to experience. Will my daughter become a cross country runner? I highly doubt it, but I do know that she learned from that experience because she participated. She worked hard and did her best. Never forget about the verbal participation award. Never forget about the hugs and high-five participation awards. They are worth their weight in gold. 

Participate. Give your all. Have fun. Learn from it, and then get up tomorrow and do it (or something else new) again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Simply present. 

I LOVE that the shirt she happened to
wear that day said, "Give Your All."

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