As a parent I’ve always thought my role was to teach my children. But what I’m truly grateful for, this Thanksgiving, is the a-ha moment that slowly emerged from my subconscious depths. My children have been placed in my care; for them to teach me.
to be selfless. humble.
The “proud moments” came the moment my firstborn emerged from the womb. His first smile, first coo, etc. etc. and continued with each of my younger sons. I had been raised to “be the best” and always shoot for number one.
Life had, by age eighteen, thrown me for a loop. My father passed in 1989, the day after Thanksgiving during my college break, and it was the first time I experienced the taste of bitter disappointment in all areas of my life. Blazing anger. I had done something wrong for my father to have been taken from me; from us.
And throughout my adult years, before kids, I believed this. I strove and pushed harder, worked longer. I stayed away from my faith; believing that the black and white deeds before me marked the person I was, what I would be. I was a scientist and only the facts mattered. Winning. Pride. It took over everything.
Last weekend I stood amongst a group of parents watching our amazing band program take second place in a band championship. The kids, accustomed to the accolades, were bitterly disappointed; tears overflowed. The parents questioned the whys and biases. Of course we all want our kids to have the best, be the best. I, too, like to win and felt the sting. But as I considered these sentiments I spoke aloud how grateful I was; that our kids could experience humility. A few parents gave me disapproving looks and turned their backs on the school parked right next to us; the winners.
Then a dad began to organize us to stand in lines. We were creating the parent tunnel; to uplift and encourage our kids. The anger and disappointment that pervaded our group began to dissipate with a purpose in mind. Soon our tunnel was long and while the school, who won, cheered amongst themselves; other high school band members emerged from the stadium. Our parents encouraged them to run through our own tunnel; high schools whom we’ve competed with for the last three months this fall. Surprised, the kids ran through as parents stuck out their hands for high-fives. We were all caught off-guard and gave it up. They deserved it.
The disappointment was forgotten and instead, tears coursed down my own cheeks; not in sadness…but with JOY. The change of mood was instantaneous amongst the adults as teenagers whooped the end of a great season. We congratulated parents of the winning school; who could only respond in startled surprise. In society we have always been taught to win and to shout it out to the world. Winner take all.
I wanted to shout-out myself. There are other bands who competed who took home nothing. There is nothing wrong with second place. I would choose to be last place, if only to be part of a program who understands what matters. It’s not about winning. It’s about doing your best and always encouraging; even if it doesn’t go the way you want it to.
Life, in a nutshell.
And to an almost empty field, the shivering parents stood until at long last, the rhythmic thump of the bass drum could be heard in the distance. The stadium lights had already been turned off. As our kids, walked abreast through our tunnel, parents and families said the words that mattered; the ones we all long to hear.
Great job guys. WE LOVE YOU!!!!
This Thanksgiving, may you be grateful for what you have. To accept and forgive past disappointments and to embrace what lies before you. I continue to march, to find my way, with my children pushing and expanding my limits to discover what really matters. In the hustle and bustle of cleaning, preparing and getting together with family and friends I will “give it up”; not just this Thursday, but in the boring every day. This parenting job is thankless and selfless. Some days I feel like I’ve “won” my point; others I am the biggest loser. It is humbling but I proudly give it up for as long as I am able. May you share these words in abundance forever and always.
Thank you. You’ve given it your all. I love you.