Non-athlete that I am, I’ve always felt baffled by things like track meets. I wonder each time I find myself at a place like a track meet if I’m not missing the point of the whole thing. And yet, maternal guilt propels me to trudge my way off to at least one of them per year, where I bring along a carefully packed bag full of athletically oblivious things like hot cocoa, blankets and even a book or two. No doubt the athletic parents of the athletic children look askance at me and these things I equip myself with. Perhaps they wonder what the heck I think I need a book for, since all good parents no doubt watch each of their child’s events with baited breath and in many cases, noisy, aggressive and sometimes even demeaning yelling, hailing strenuously from the sidelines. I do not understand these parents who from my vantage point look to be trying to relive the glory days of their own long expired athletic accomplishment. Sometimes they appear to value winning more than they do the emotional well-being of their child. I do not understand them and surely my lackadaisical attitude toward this and all sporting events is equally unfathomable to them.
To be fair, none of my children are what one might call athletically inclined. If they exert themselves, each of them can get an A on their respective report card in the Physical Education column. But only just. In the comments section, invariably featured are encouraging remarks about their excellent attitudes and their admirable, can-do approaches to life. Glowing compliments on how they faithfully remember to bring their gym strip warm my motherly heart. All the while, however, effusive references to their impressive skills in the various sports being emphasized that term are conspicuously absent. They’re nice kids but they can’t run all that fast. And so sometimes as the mother of said children, I find myself reading during these track meets; I find that it helps drown out the often angry noise of the uber-aggressive parents yelling demeaning comments to their own and other people’s children from the sidelines, enraged as they somehow are at the elementary performances of these elementary school children.
Today is one such day. My little Lucy has signed up for every event known to man. Her heart is willing if her flesh is but a little weak. Enthusiasm spills out of her and she is undaunted as – event after event – procurement of one of the colorful winner’s ribbons passes her by. Finally a parent volunteer hands her an emerald green one, goldly emblazoned with a proud Fifth Place. Lucy’s little brown face beams and everyone who sees her finds that their own face involuntarily replicates the same joyful smile they see on hers. This is a child who makes other people happy. Watching her, I think that if there were a social skills track meet, then Lucy would come home from it with a chest emblazoned with first place ribbons. And then it occurs to me that ordinary life is a social skills track meet and that my little Lucy and her joy-spreading propensities is a star performer. I tuck my book away because I don’t want to miss her smiles.