Ben participated in his first track meet yesterday. His first practice was earlier in the week and he is not yet completely sold on the merits of this sport yet. This is not surprising, however, given that Ben would much prefer to hang out with his siblings, play video games, or do something with his friend across the street than participate in anything that might give the allusion of missing out on something better. Nonetheless, off we went at 8:20 a.m. to race like the wind amongst 300 other young athletes. Remarkably, we were the first of our team to arrive at the track. This act in itself was worthy of a ribbon!
I'm not entirely sure why, but the morning's events started off with the two longest races; the two longest, that is, with the exception for the extremely daunting 800 metre (1/2 mile) which is run at the very end by the die hard kids (or perhaps more aptly described, the kids of die hard parents who are living vicariously through them and urging them on). I do not recall seeing Ben ever running 200 or 400 meters at a time before, at least not in a flat out run with no other purpose than running. I'm sure he has easily gone these distances and more playing "Capture" at the cabin or tag in the back yard, but this was different and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The kids lined up out of my view half way round the track. I couldn’t see Benjamin and I felt a little anxious about how he might be feeling…and how he might do. Was he nervous? Did he need me there to offer him starting block encouragement? Would he remember to stay in his lane? Would he keep looking straight ahead? What if he trips?
The gun went off and I waited in anticipation for his jewel blue shirt to appear. There he was! From his staggered start position, he was moving up among his peers and then he was breaking out ahead. I am sure I was yelling louder than any other parent in the crowd. “Go, Ben, go! Go! Go! Keep going!!!” And then I saw him looking to the side…the thing I told him not to do…to see where everyone else was. “Look ahead! Keep going! Don’t look back!” I continued to yell. While looking to the side, Ben visibly slowed down slightly, seemingly unconcerned about winning, but appearing comfortable and at ease on the track. As he ran past, I ran with him. I am sure I looked a bit silly with my big ole camera bag - a banana resting on top - flung over my shoulder, running with camera raised, and yelling my pretty little head off. “Go, Ben, Go!!! Eyes ahead! Run!” The banana fell off somewhere in my brief sprint and was later handed to me by a giggling mom. “You lost your banana,” she laughed.
In the end, Ben finished this 200 metre race in second place, behind a boy who passed him just after he started looking off to the side. It was a proud moment for Ben and for me. He'd done an excellent job on his first race! It was a natural teachable moment for us both as well – “don’t look back when running your race.” It's likely, had he not looked back, he would have made first place. But that's okay!
(*for some additional thoughts on this teachable moment as applied to me, click here.)
|Moving up from his staggered start|
|Moving into the lead position|
|In the lead and looking off to the side..."will that guy in the red catch me?" or, perhaps, "hmmm, I wonder where Mom is."|
|2nd Place!! First ribbon of the day and a proud moment.|
By the time we left the track (we had to leave before the shuttle run and the dreaded 800 due to another commitment and the fact that the meet ran a little long), Ben finished with a ribbon in every event that he participated in. In fact, he ended with the above mentioned 200 metre second place, one fourth place (in the 400 metre), and FOUR first places (100 metre, 100 * 4 relay, running long jump, and the baseball throw, which is the predecessor to the shot-put).
AMAZING!!! Was I ever a proud mama! Not bad for a novice or for someone who really isn’t sure whether he likes track. I am hopeful that Ben will decide that he likes… maybe even loves...the sport. I know he feels good about doing well. Yet, I hope along the way he finds he enjoys it even if he doesn’t win a ribbon every single time. I hope that along the way that I can reassure him that I am proud of him even when he doesn’t place or come in first because he is looking off to the side, enjoying the moment, or simply has an "off" day. I hope that along the way, he can develop a positive “work ethic” and perseverance toward something that doesn’t always seem fun. More than anything, I hope that somehow, Ben can gain glimpses of God during his moments on the track and within this Mom cheering him on from the infield or stands.