After watching Jackson, the instructor told me that at swim team the other kids will all be several laps ahead of him. She said that he would have a really hard time keeping up and by her tone tried to discourage me from putting him through that experience. I felt so worried for him that I decided to put him in the swim lessons along with swim team.
The more I thought I about this swim instructor's comments, I felt 2 things:
1. I felt so worried for Jackson that he might be the last one every time that I almost took him out of swim team before he ever even started!
2. Because I felt upset that she thought he was so bad, I wanted him to prove her wrong and turn out to be an amazing swimmer.
All weekend I felt worried about his first day at swim team. I warned Jackson that some of the kids were excellent swimmers- that they have been doing swim team for years, so he might fall behind. I encouraged him to remember to swim as fast and as hard as he could in every drill they gave him.
I bought him all the special swim wear, head wear, and goggles, and I prayed for him to have a good experience.
Yesterday when he came home from his 1st day at swim team, I watched him very closely... he was smiling! His lips were blue from the cold water. I asked him if he had fun- he said he did. I asked him if he was able to keep up. He said, "I did great! I swam next to a girl who was older than me, and I even beat her!!"
Immediately, two thoughts ran through my mind:
1. I felt disappointed in myself for even worrying about the swim lesson instructor's opinion. How many times do people think negative things about us, and we prove them wrong? I knew Jackson could swim! He got 3rd place in a triathlon last summer. He can do anything!! Isn't it more fun to prove someone wrong? We all love the underdog who rises to the top.
2. I was of course happy that he was able to keep up, but even if he was lapped 5 times by all the other kids... WHO STINKIN' CARES?????? I was so mad at myself for even beginning to care!!
Jackson was not worried one bit if the other kids were going to be faster than him. He was just excited to try something new. I cared because I wanted to protect him from pain and what I perceived as him losing.
God corrected my perspective quickly when HE reminded me of an experience last fall during Jackson's cross-country season. There was a young boy on his team who came in last at every meet... by a long way. Helping the coach, I actually ran beside him at most practices cheering him on. He had the best attitude... trying his very hardest with his physical capabilities. At one of the meets that wound through the forest, this young boy got lost because he was so far behind the others. He ended up having to quit because he didn't even know where he had gone, and the coaches had to go find him on the trail.
This poor young boy was devastated because after all his training he didn't get a chance to finish... but nobody made fun of him. I remember middle school as being the hardest years of all my years of school because the kids were so mean!!
I couldn't believe the hearts of his teammates.
At the following meet, this same young boy was coming in last place again. All the other middle school kids finished their race; but instead of running off to get their snacks and water, his teammates, including Jackson, all ran back to find this young boy on the trail. I didn't realize what was happening until the pack of middle school boys came running down the hill together towards the finish line.
I sobbed as I watched this young boy run with a look of determination and satisfaction that I had not witnessed before. His teammates ran with him as he ran his very hardest. Just before this young boy reached the finish line, his teammates dispersed and wildly cheered him on. All of us as spectators cheered louder than we ever had before. This young boy was not lost anymore... did not lose.... he had won! He was the champion of bringing middle-school aged boys together to act in the greatest level of kindness and teamwork. Nobody told those boys to jump in and find their teammate. They just did it!!
What if his mother had tried to protect this young man from doing what he really loved? I watched her at the end of each race putting her arm around her champion. Yes, we try our hardest to protect our children from pain. As parents that is our job, but sometimes in our effort to protect, we don't allow them to grow in their courage and strength.
Knowing that his swim instructor said that he would be one of the worst swimmers on the team, Jackson still went forward with excitement and courage to his first day of swim team. He knew that if he was last, he would still be learning and growing in the process. He also knew that he had a fight in him to be better than others thought he could be.
At the triathlon where he placed 3rd, I didn't mention that he was in last place by a long shot after the swim. Abe, his sister and brother-in-law, and I cheered him on but figured we'd be there for quite some time after all the other competitors finished. We were shocked when after biking and running, he was in 3rd place in his age group!
Nobody else should limit us. If God puts the desire in our hearts, HE will find a way to make it happen if we too believe in HIS power.
We can have the courage to try new things... even if it means we're not the best! We are all champions in the process of learning!!