Yesterday I went to my first track meet since I was a kid. It was quite a show! My soon-to-be-seven-year-old daughter was finishing her week of “Track Camp”, a serious-sounding name for a week of playing Tag and Ships Across The Ocean, mixed with a few laps around the track. Thus, I wasn’t exactly expecting her to be pole vaulting and throwing discus, but I actually did hold out some secret hopes for her running and jumping prowess. Of course I am heavily biased, but I have seen her go. She outruns me around the house, and she is sporting some pretty good muscles (you know, as six-year-olds go!). So I kind of thought the track meet might be a coming-out party for her, a discovery of something she would excel at and take confidence from.
Well, not so much. She wasn’t bad. She just wasn’t a hero. And the funny thing was this: it didn’t seem to matter at all to her whether she won or lost. Unlike her fairly competitive parents, she just isn’t very into that side of sports. As a result, she doesn’t seem to either gain or lose confidence from the results. As baffling and uncommon as that is, I find it totally refreshing. After all, isn’t that what the coaches and sports psychologists of professional athletes are trying to instill in them? A kind of independence from circumstance, not affected by luck or momentum.
It is how she is in school, too, according to her teachers. At conferences, they tell us she plays with every kid openly and patiently, even the boys who have just been totally obnoxious and rude. When I asked her this year if she knew why she went to the Gifted & Talented teacher’s room almost every day of the week, she had no idea other than “to work on math” or “to work on reading” or whatever. When I explained that she was blessed by being more intelligent than most kids, it didn’t phase her at all, and she never spoke of it again. She somehow just absorbs her situation and finds joy there, no matter who else is there. After the first day of Summer camp, our conversation went like this: “Did you meet any new friends?” “No.” “You didn’t talk to anyone?” “Nope.” “Was it fun?” “Yes!!!” Same thing the next day. On the third day, she met some new friends. “Fun?” “Yes!!!” It just doesn’t matter to her. She hasn’t had a bad day at camp all Summer. We should all be so lucky.
Her little brother, meanwhile, had his own fun at the track meet. Even though he was too young for camp—still four for a couple more weeks–and just a spectator, he was more busy than all of the competitors. He explored, as he always does, every nook and cranny of the new space with the specific intent of discovering all the ways he could turn it into a funhouse. He loves making his sister his partner in this adventure, as they are quite a pair in a new place. The novelty completely stirs them, and I am completely amazed by the variety of ways they can find to create fun and excitement out of thin air. I am so envious of their creativity and zest for amusement.
I am also envious of my son’s demand to be heard and be a part of the action. After all of the big kids finished their runs, he demanded a turn to run around the track. Captivated by his spirit, I, of course, conceded to his order. He coaxed my daughter into a 400 meter race—in his Crocs, no less—and joyously crossed the finish line in victory. Then, “I wanna do it again!” His spirit is relentless.
He seems to have staked a claim to his right to pursue Joy in whatever way he sees fit. So he goes after it with fervor, whatever it is. In one moment, he will demand that I play along with one of his jokes to make his Mom and sister laugh. In the next, he might order me away for a few minutes so he can have some time with his “imaginations”. But mostly, he is ordering me from one amusement to the next in his never-ending search to find and provide greater enjoyment in this wonderful game called LIFE. He is a born performer and makes friends wherever he goes. In most cases, you would say his confidence is through the roof. But then it’s not. I have to twist his arm to go to the child center at the gym or any new thing without his big sister. Suddenly, I have this uncertain little boy on my hands that needs lots of hugs and reassurance. Forty-five minutes later, when I come to pick him up, he practically owns the place. It is such a high-wire act. I so admire the way he conquers his insecurities and completely flourishes, never allowing his spirit to be held down.
What are they going to be when they grow up? Who knows! When my daughter first started day care at six months old, she brought us home some awful germs. On my very first day home alone with her, I was as sick as could be, totally vomiting and unable to get off the sofa when I was not in the bathroom. Amidst my misery, I was completely in awe of her as she just sat in her swing across the room, staring at me with the sweetest, most empathetic eyes. I swore right then that she was destined to become a healer of some sort. When she graduated pre-school, she said she wanted to be a teacher. I don’t know anymore. What I do know is that the world will be better for having her in it. As for my son, I have always guessed he would be some sort of entertainer. Even before he could speak, he would work hard to find ways to coax a laugh and a smile out of people, then give a look of satisfaction when it was achieved. No matter what he chooses, it seems clear that making people smile will come along with the package.
They take you on a ride, these kids. You simply don’t know which way they will turn their lives from one moment to the next. The only way to stay with them is to live in the moment. Living in the moment. It is just about the most important lesson any of us can learn in life, and kids teach it best. The other lesson they teach me so beautifully is to be authentic. Live your Truth. Just be yourself. Relentlessly yourself. Don’t bother with what the crowd is doing or what it means to someone else to be cool. Just do the thing that makes you feel like you. Following them around every day is the best education I have ever had. I feel so incredibly blessed that they take me along for the ride that is their lives. Whatever twists and turns they take, it never fails to feel beautiful and magical to me.
How about you? Who in your life brings you that sense of awe and amazement? Open up your journal and your heart. Are there children in your life? How much do they mean to you? Do they take you to that place of wonder and fascination? Why do we not allow our grown-up selves to be experienced this way? Can we take the edge off our jadedness and begin to see our peers as the amazing creatures that we all truly are, and can we let down our guards enough to let ourselves be seen as the unique, beautiful creatures that we have been since we were babies? Has the premium on fitting in caused us all to lose our shine in the hopes of not sticking out? Is the magic still there under all our self-censorship? I hope it is. I hope we are not naturally less fascinating and less divine as we age. Even if I am my only audience, I want to still be magnificent and awe-inspiring. I want to be what my kids are to me. Do grandparents still see that in their adult children, or do they just rev it up again with their grandchildren only? How will I observe these two magicians when they are my current age? I guess I have to wait and see. I have a feeling it will be a fun wait, though. I am already grateful for all that is to come. Are you? Leave me a reply and let me know: Who keeps the magic and the moment in your life?
Just be you,