I have a boy in my life. He is ten. He is a complex soul, different from other boys, yet fits in brilliantly.
Just before this school year began he told me, "Mom, I don't think I am going to do any after school activities this year." I knew exactly how he came to this conclusion. You see, he rides the school bus. A school bus that takes over an hour for him to get home. This, combined with his schedule anxiety, I knew he was making a calculated decision.
On day two of his new school year he told me, "Mom, I am going to try out for the swim team." The swim team is the only competitive sport at his level in the school. This is the kid who runs in the opposite direction from competition. Not to mention he has never, ever swam competitively. In my mind I thought this is not the time to start. But out loud, in my supportive mom voice, I said, "Great!"
Being a parent is tricky. We know our kids need to fail sometimes, yet it churns our insides compelling us to soften their fall. I secretly hoped he would change his mind. Despite his confident persona he struggles with self-esteem, probably like 99% of the other kids. Oh, I really wished he would change his mind.
I looked up online the requirements for making the team. He had to swim 200 meters in all four strokes, know how to effectively do an underwater turn flip and dive in properly. All the while making a competitive time. After seeing these requirements he was sure to change his mind. Not so! Without access to a pool to practice he went on youtube to view the strokes. I smiled at his perseverance.
As the date grew closer we all grew butterflies in our stomachs. He assured us that he knew there was a slim chance he would make the team but he was still going to try. When we discussed his nerves it always came back to being worried about taking the second bus after the try outs. His older sister agreed to stay after school and meet him for the second bus. After all, what high school girl would pass up an extra hour to hang out with friends?
He has three sets of swim trunks; two western style and one chinese style. The western trunks resemble California cool surfer shorts while the chinese are tight, like a speedo, though longer. He had to wear the chinese style. After all, have you ever seen a competitive swimmer wear Billabong? Of course, the right trunks were nowhere to be found. A ha! This would be the snag that would cause him to throw in the towel. Again, not so. He stayed up until the trunks were found. What was the driving force behind this determination?
The day came and I prayed numerous times throughout the day. I prayed for a modern miracle that everyone would be worse than him. Selfish, I know. I prayed for him to posses divine talent that we did not know he had. I prayed mostly for his delicate self-image to not shatter when he didn't make it.
At 4:30 I texted his sister, How did he do? Her reply, good. Good? What does that mean, good? She followed up with, he came in last in the first race and second to last in the second race. My heart took a swan dive and I knew my prayer for strength was the one we needed. I texted, you stayed to watch? She said, yes, all my friends went to Jenny's to get food but I stayed to watch him. I even went over and gave him a pep talk between races. How did I ever doubt her love for her brother?
I texted him, how did it go? His reply, I am tired.
Later that night,as we watched the iPhone video his sister took, he said, "Before I tried out, the lesson I thought Heavenly Father was teaching me was; you don't always get what you want. Now I think the lesson he is trying to teach me is; trying out is just as important as making it." At that time I realized my prayers were answered. Not the prayers for miraculous swimming skills, but all the other ones. For kids who love each other and who are strong and confident and of good character.
He went to the second day of try outs on his own. We have not heard if he made the team, although we know the answer. But it really doesn't matter. He gained more from those two days in the pool than a whole swimming season. So did I.