realizing mediocrity

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This morning I looked at my calendar for upcoming events and found this sign on top of it!  I have no idea which of the guys brought this over, last night, but I had to laugh out loud.  My counter is littered with various bottles of alcohol and it seems the boys liked Captain’s Reserve and Fireball, a cinnamon whisky.  At 2 AM this morning I sat at the table, at my husband’s insistence, to try Fireball which tastes like a red hot tamale candy and I must give it a thumbs up.  But I had completely missed the sign.

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Glancing upon the empty trays and bottles I see these six guys demolished a lot of spicy stuff.  In my mind they’re gonna be hating life, today, with all that burning love and alcohol eventually having to come out of their bodies; they definitely entered and ate at their own risk.  If it wasn’t bacon wrapped or smoked in the barbecue it was deemed not suitable fare for a guys night out.

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Whenever I host  women, particularly bookclub, we have wine (rare that we drink hard liquor except for last Friday when we read Look Again) and fru-fru type drinks.  We eat things like: pasta, salad, bread, (my trays were filled with Chinese food) and lots of dessert.   My husband had cases of beer: (3 Dos Equis (green), 1 Dos Equis (brown), 2 Mike’s Hard lemonade cases and any hard stuff in our home, available.  I normally provide two bottles of wine for 10-12 women.  He was feeding SIX males.  I continued to remind him of this as I bacon wrapped and cooked with him.  He also wanted most things spicy: the chili, the jalapeno cornbread and spicy dogs, and I thought he was crazy.  He told me guys don’t do dessert but made his Devil’s chocolate cake from scratch to appease.  But hey!  This is his shindig, not mine, so I happily played sous chef and did his bidding.

When I arrived home at 1:30 AM my very happy husband smirked and gave me a food tour.  There were NO spicy dogs left, nor corn,  half the chili and bacon wrapped asparagus were gone and there was a quarter of a strawberry covered cheesecake left.  But I thought guys don’t do dessert?  The coffee pot was untouched.  My boys were wounded; all they had left to eat were non-spicy bacon wrapped dogs (lol).

This was all after a very long track day and frenzied finish to our work week and month.  In one day I think I got a month’s worth of exercise as I jogged or sprinted back and forth across a high school football & track field.  The hubs assists a wonderful dad who volunteers his time as our elementary school track coach.  Our team is small but talented and I was constantly sprinting to the awards podium to snap the shot of kids receiving awards.  I am, unofficially, our team’s photographer and as I stood on the field, below the stands, I could hear the various conversations and shout outs that parents  yelled to their children.

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As a parent I enjoy the spirit of competition.  I love to watch sporting events and try to filter my encouragements and enthusiasm because I can be quite boisterous; especially with college football.  My introduction to sports, as a parent, came with recreational soccer when the soccer ball would fly by and my eldest son would try to run away from it; for fear that it would hit him.  Even as the boys learned the sport there was always the parent that would scream at their kid; run faster!  Block that kick!  Pay attention!  I know; I was that parent at one time.  As we transitioned into the sport of swimming the competitive nature seemed to increase since we were part of a competitive club.  My boys loved to swim, couldn’t wait to go to practice and loved being in the water.  I imagined the next Michael Phelps.

Then I discovered sport politics.  If you are on the board (of any sports organization) your child can get away with a lot more things.  Recently a fellow mom stated the same thing about PTA and as I thought on this I realized; she’s right.  All of a sudden swim fees were waivered for certain kids, mistakes on the field were overlooked by soccer coaches and kids started realizing the inequity of sport politics.  Unless you are extremely talented, or in the classroom, extremely smart, you can detour from these unwritten rules but if you are the average kid; you will have to work hard and deal with the inequities.    I sadly discovered with club teams that if you’re not talented the coaches aren’t really interested in creating the next Olympian.  You either have the drive and talent; or you don’t.  For everyone else you jockey and line-up for private lessons or volunteer your time to get your child noticed.  That’s just the way it is; everywhere.

As a parent I finally realized it last summer as I spoke to various swim coaches and they talked candidly; during the Olympics.  I like these individuals and some I admire.  But they have to make a living and the bread and butter is in private lessons: which I dutifully did for my boys.  But when your kid doesn’t like the sport anymore, due to alpha parents,  demanding coaches,  and lack the drive; there is only so much money and volunteering one can do.  Much to the coaches and swim team board members’ surprise and consternation, we left our team that we had been a part of for three years.

I thought of this because, yesterday, my youngest son realized his mediocrity.  As a parent I would never tell my child this and each of my sons have come to this conclusion on their own.  My eldest realized he was not a fast swimmer but he saved his father’s life as he dragged him up from the bottom of an eight foot pool.  He is a confident swimmer and enjoys it for recreation; as he canon balls into the deep end.  He is a strong backstroker and has endurance and, eventually, may consider doing triathlons; not for time, but for fun.  My middle son realized this, last year, in swim.  As I think most kids do, he wanted to quit.  Most parents have programmed  their children to quit things if they don’t excel and to expend energy on something that will get them somewhere.  If they don’t make j.o’s (junior olympics) then focus on academic decathlon for your scholarship.  An interesting statistic I learned from the coaches is that most athletic scholarships come from football, baseball, basketball or track and field.  Sports like swim, water polo, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, diving, etc. are much more difficult to obtain; you have to shine and be Olympic material.  Most kids have a better chance of getting a scholarhship to college academically.

Thankfully, for my middle son, he worked through his reasons as to why he wanted to quit and realized he just wanted to swim for a medal.  When it became tough to medal in events he felt he was wasting his time.  This is where we had to encourage.  He realized he still liked the sport and once he discovered that it wasn’t important to medal/ribbon he could just go out there and have a good time.  He relaxed in his swimming, something he excelled at (he’s a breast stroker) and with the encouragement of the one coach I admired; he was inspired and swam his fastest ever.  He chose to leave the sport for a different reason; he wanted to try something new.  This skill, the mental realization of why and understanding talents and limitations, has aided him in overcoming a lot of things; especially academically.  Both of the older boys shared their thoughts with one another and have chosen their true loves.  One loves music; the other basketball and art.

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Thus, at the track meet yesterday, my youngest cried his little heart out.  He and another classmate felt it was unfair; that others were cheating.  They were placed in an older year group for the 400m relay and, of course, got beaten.  He had been most excited to join the track team and found his fellow friends from different schools (he raced against a fellow soccer teammate and admired his spiked hair).  There are no words a mother can share with a child when he realizes he is not as good/talented as he thought.

I reminded him of his love for running, playing with his friends, the spirit of competition.  My heart warmed as the siblings gathered with their group of friends and cheered one another on.  He had to learn to cheer on his classmate, a naturally talented runner, though he fought his envy.  In realizing his mediocrity he learned one of life’s important lessons; one I did not learn until college.  If you are told you are always the best, everyone wins and gets a trophy, you are being lied to.  Because in reality, all is not equal.  There are others that will always be better than you.  If you learn the mechanism to work through these issues, at a young age, you’ll have a better chance of adapting to all of life’s hurdles and losses and eventually, land on your own two feet at the finish line.  It may not be as fast as you hope, to get there, but you will have learned so much more about yourself, by arriving.  We, as parents, do our children a disservice by always telling them they are the best.  And so I told my youngest son.  Mommy is really proud of you.  You ran your little heart out.  In cheering for his classmate and watching him hit the podium, he appreciated the talent and effort his friend made.  And I was more proud of my son for showing that gesture; than in anything else.

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