He might think he's getting too old to talk to me anymore. He might be thinking that he's getting too old to need me much anymore when he's had a spectacularly rotten day. He might even be thinking that there is no way I could ever know enough to know what to do to make him feel better.
Pshaw. Whatever. Even his dad knows he's wrong on all counts there, because Coach is always telling me that I'm the only one the Teenager will tell anything to.
Let me back up a couple of days for you......
Friday was the Invitational Track Meet. His first EVER. Twenty-six different schools, and you had to be on the Varsity to even be considered for participation, and then it was only select members of the Varsity team that were chosen to compete in events. So we were thrilled to find out that he was selected for even one event, the long jump. The first event of the day. His dad and I were there; we'd taken the entire day off from work to watch him. His jump was so awesome.....19 feet. Coach overheard one of the other athletes, after Jock's jump, comment: Damn. White man CAN jump! With that, we headed into the afternoon events feelin' pretty good.......
Turned out that he didn't make the finals; he placed 11th. Not bad for his first time competing in this event, and against multiple jumpers from each school. He was just as proud of himself as we were. So far, so good.....
The thing I'm discovering about high school track meets is that often, the decision on who will compete is made shortly before race time. Going into the day, he was only slotted to compete in the long jump. Somewhere mid-afternoon, he was told he'd be running in the 400 meter relay, too. Cool. Very cool. Even it it WAS the last event of the meet and scheduled for 8 o'clock that night.
We get to race time, and find out he's running the first leg of the relay. Despite the fact that he's always run the second leg in practices, and at the smaller meet a couple of days earlier, everyone was confident. At the crack of the gun, he was in third. By the time they had reached 100 meters, he was in front. By the time they reached 200 meters, he had a good lead. At 300 meters, he pulled up sharply like he had hurt himself; but he kept running until he handed off the baton, coming in third and having lost the lead. Then he walked to the field inside the track, and collapsed.
I don't know what you would have done, but every maternal cell in my body freaked the heck out. He didn't get up until well after the race had ended. No, his body wasn't hurt. Not really. His pride was. Apparently, having started out sprinting, his body simply quit on him before he could finish. The team didn't win the race; and to be honest, I wasn't really watching at that point so I don't know where they came in. Didn't matter to him, though. In his eyes, he'd screwed up. They lost the race because he didn't run better to start it.
And that's when he told me he wasn't going to talk about it anymore. Okay, fine. I could let it go.
Twenty minutes later as we're all walking to the truck; Coach, Bug and Jock's best friend Junior walking ahead and giving me a chance to talk to him again; I just asked him what the coach had said.
He said I had heart.
What did your teammates say?
That I did a really good job, and no one blamed me. Doesn't matter though; I know it was my fault.
Really? 'Cuz you weren't the only one running.
And I shut up again. I've learned a thing or two in nearly 17 years of parenting this boy. When I stop talking is when he starts. We went to dinner, and ran into a couple of his teammates; including one of the other boys on that relay team. Where they again told him how great they thought he had done, especially considering he's NEVER RUN TRACK BEFORE. I told him again how proud I was of what he HAD accomplished that day, and how he should be too. By the end of dinner, he was laughing again. Smiling again. Throwing peanuts at his best friend and joking around with his little brother.
And later that night, when it was just he and I sitting on the sofa not talking, he looked up at me and said
You want to know what my time was on that 400 meter lap? 53 seconds. Even with slowing down like that I had the best time of anyone on the team. And that's something to be proud of, Mom. Thanks for being there for me today.
He might think he doesn't need me anymore, or that I don't know what will make him feel better. Whatever.