90% of life is just showing up.
Nic ran his second Penn Relays Tuesday night.
I had an email from Jr boy #4's mom last Thursday letting me know that he was too busy for track. Thus, Nic moved from alternate to teammate. On the train ride to the relays, Nic was right there in the crush of teammates (4 to a 3-seater bench, two deep), sharing his Big Nate book and cracking wise with the rest of them.
I was also aware of the subtext; Nic was sitting with the senior boys, who were setting the example for the junior boys, who look askance at Nic. He's physically slow, he's different, and yeah, he's going to slow everyone down, but he's still a member of the team. And guess what--if he didn't run, none of you would be running.
Nic, alas, can't see any of this.
I do my best to reinforce what he can't see.
I strike a deal with Nic; if he surrenders his hat AND doesn't look over his shoulder, he gets money to buy a snack.
He surrenders his hat. He runs with focus.
But he is a good 10 seconds slower than his teammates in the 100s--an eternity, comparatively speaking. Nevertheless, he runs his heart out. And his team runs theirs. And they come in last place, by 1.24 seconds.
I think of the woman who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom and the whole ethos of "If you can't be in first place, why bother?"
I bother because place here is not the point. This is the one area in my son's life where he gets to experience first hand what teamwork looks like. He doesn't always get it, and he often makes loud, tactless comments that warrant correction on the subject. Fortunately, this is a fairly forgiving bunch of kids who are not afraid to correct him when he needs it, especially if I am not there to do it myself. I have modeled for them what correction looks like, and they are all phenomenal mentors for him as a result.
He is learning something I couldn't possibly teach him on my own. Likewise, he is teaching us all things we couldn't possibly learn without him.
We all win.