As I drove home from Houghton College my heart was both heavy and light at the same time. Tears rolled down my face, tears brimming with pride and despair. Luc was on the bus behind me riding with his team…. and being part of a team has been his dream for a long time.
I felt despair because I just wish one thing….. one thing…. would come easy for Luc. His entire life, everything he has done…. has been 9 times harder than it has for other kids. Open heart surgery. School. Sports. Making friends. Every single thing has come his way as an obstacle. He works 9 times as hard. Every single time.
At the same time I wished that one thing in his life would come easy….. I know that it can’t. The worst thing that could have happened at this track meet, would have been for him to run some incredible time. When things come easy we become complacent. When things come easy our ego inflates and too many of us gain a false sense that we are superior to others, and that’s not who I am raising, nor who we are. If there is one thing that Luc has learned…. it’s that everything worth accomplishing comes with work. In Luc’s case though…. EVERY DAMN THING comes with an incredible amount of work.
It was Luc’s first indoor track meet, his first ever track meet, his first ever event as part of a team. He attends a private school, but is eligible to run for the district. The fact that he walked into a team of 130+ kids, in a huge school he’s never been to, to run in events he’s never comprehended before, he knows not one single person….. that in itself was the first accomplishment. I know adults who wouldn’t take that on.
The first few weeks have gone really well. He sustained a minor calf injury on Thanksgiving that set him out of track for a week. He consulted the team trainer and worked at rehabbing because he wanted to get back to business. He rode a spin bike and stretched every day. He returned with just missing a few days and picked up fine.
I dropped him off to ride with the team early Saturday morning. Four busses took the kids to Houghton. The head and assistant coaches took a group of Varsity runners to a meet in Ithaca, so 4-5 coaches were in charge of this group.
I followed down to Houghton in time for the meet to begin. I have never been to an indoor track meet either. Luc was sitting with the team, but alone in the bleachers. The facility was amazing. Teams were everywhere. As the meet got underway Luc and I consulted the meet program to determine where and when he would be running. As the meet moved along a few kids on the team asked Luc what he was running, introduced themselves, which gave he (and I) great relief. These kids clearly have their social groups established and I told Luc that we needed to give it time for the team bonds to form.
It was soon time to get ready for Luc’s event. Some of the kids were kind enough to help us understand where he would line up, and when he should get to the starting line. I had hoped that the coaches would know which kids were here for the first time…. but it may have been Luc was the only one. Luc began doing some warm ups and I began googling. I sighed, and a guy next to me asked if I was ok.
“I was a swimmer growing up.” I confessed, “This is my son’t first meet and we really don’t know how this all works.” He said he was a college scout and gave me a quick rundown of how these things worked. He explained to me what a waterfall start was, the rules for running the 600m when there were more than 6 kids in the heat, and where kids usually gathered. He asked me if Luc’s coaches were there, I said yes but also confessed I was hesitant to ask them for help because Luc was embarrassed that he didn’t know, and I am so afraid of being “that mom”. He smiled and assured me that they likely didn’t know this was his first meet and he knew them…. they were good folks.
Thank you to whomever you were college scout guy!
As we were watching the 300 …. I realized we had a massive issue. The starting gun. Luc looked at me in panic. He’s not good with really loud sudden noises. Shit. He said he needed earplugs, then he said he would just start far back, then he said he could just plug his ears. I knew I needed a plan.
Thankfully there were eight million heats of the 300. We stood right next to the starter. We took a look at her set up. See… not a real gun…. see how it’s attached to that thing…. let’s see if we can figure out the pattern…. ready…. set….. BAM. It took eight million heats….. but thank God we did that. He was fine by the time it got to his event.
I sent a very nervous Luc to the infield where it looked like his teammates were gathering. He had the event, heat and his number written on his hand. He accidentally walked in front of a girl running and got yelled at by another team’s coach. Cardinal sin in track. He really and honestly didn’t mean to. I could tell how badly he felt about it by the way he continued to the infield. Afterwards he was distraught, he tried to find the girl to apologize but we couldn’t. He’s still upset with himself today. I assured him that it was an honest mistake. He learned from it. He won’t do it again. He’s really hanging onto it.
As I watched him in the infield I nervously asked the coaches if they could just make sure he’s ok. One of them looked at Luc across the track and realized how terrified he looked, and immediately went over.Through the girls’ 600m I watched as Luc’s teammates talked to him, the coach seemed to be giving him some pointers. See. All I had to do was ask. My paranoia of being that mom got in my way.
Finally Luc’s event was up. He fell into formation and he was off. He ran wide, lane 2 and 3 adding precious meters to his race. He ran well, he ran strong. Throughout the 600 I felt so proud. Not only for running but for everything he had overcome to get onto that track.
He finished 19/21 with a 2:13. I asked him if he had fun. He said yes. I asked him if he did his best. He said yes and he could not wait to do it again, because “I can do better.”
He cooled down and I showed him the video as he requested. “I ran so wide mom!” He said, and I realized he wasn’t upset with himself. He watched again and again and again as I wondered what was going through his mind.
“Mom I can run faster if I just get closer into lane 1.” I smiled. I like when he does things like that. He does something hard and he looks for a way to make it better. Then he wanted to know what the state time was for the 600m. 1:24. “I wonder if I could ever do that.”
This is where my worry about being that mom kicked in. I explained to him that he could accomplish anything in the world with the right attitude, the work, and taking good care of himself…. but reminded him we can never lose the fun or passion in the process. I don’t want him to be that kid who runs themselves into the ground to have a hip replacement by age 25. My goal in this whole endeavor is to have fun, learn to be a good teammate, stay healthy and fit and to do what you want within this realm.
He’s in the hands of good coaches. Who care more about the person than they do about the ability. I see too many 10 year olds running varsity (or insert other sport here) in other places because their parents are pushing them. Whether it be to live their own failed dreams or to get scholarships. What I can do as his mom is to support whatever he wants to do. I can help him with recovery and eating well and doing his stretches at home. I can listen to his dreams and aspirations and keep him grounded.
When he got off the bus he was so excited. He was so happy to be part of a team, and he still doesn’t really know anyone just yet. But he’s part of something, and that is amazing to me. That in itself. If you know Luc’s story….. you know that we were told he would grow up in a group home. To which of course I said “Fuck off”.
Running has been amazing for him in more ways than running alone. He’s been running 5K’s for a few years now and it’s helped him hone the social skills he has worked so hard to develop. It’s given him an outlet. It is fun for him. He stays focused on school while other kids are playing video games. He’s healthy and fit. It’s helped him in so many ways.
Yesterday I found him making a binder. In it he placed his team’s code of conduct, the meet program, his number, and a few other things his coach sent out. “I want to keep all my stuff from my meets” he said. Then he brought me his computer to show me a quote he searched for online, one that said what he felt. He asked me to write it out on an index card. So I did:
I realized when I wrote this out…. that he knows he’s always been an underdog. At the same time he’s well aware of those who love and support him. At 15 years old he knows that he has what it takes to accomplish anything, because of everything he has endured in his life.
His goal is to see how he can do next week, just by getting into lane 1. He googled and studied the rules of passing. I conferred with some friends (thank you Amy, Jennie, Nick and the Wev!). I like that he’s coming to this with curiosity. He’s wondering about other events. How they work. How they would fit him.
This is what I was hoping for. A fire. A light. Something that grabs him a little bit. My job is to keep him grounded and support his quest. Whatever his quest may be. I also need to stop being so afraid of being that mom and ask the coaches if we need help. There are too many kids to keep track of to give 1-1 attention like that.
This kid and I have learned a lot together (and Curt…. I don’t know why it seems I left him out!!!!). Nothing has ever come easy for him and I have had to finesse a lot of situations without helicoperting but supporting and helping him develop the ability to drive himself forward. There is no manual for this stuff. My goal is to raise a good, independent man who knows how to advocate for himself and others. Who is strong and trustworthy. Who thinks of others deeply.
He is actually all of those things right now.
Later Sunday evening he scrolled through the meet results trying to figure out what girl he walked in front of on the track. He would like to send her an apology. To me, that speaks volumes about who Luc is.
As I pulled into the high school a few minutes ahead of the team busses, I took a deep breath. My tears dried, like they always do. My moments of wanting an easier path for Luc pass, like they always do. His path has never been easy and it will never be easy. As he assembled his green binder though I realized…..he appreciates this. He knows his path is harder. Everything he accomplishes he does with incredible determination, courage and grace.
This is no different.
Side note: Curt wasn’t at this meet because he ran “It’s a Wonderful Life 5K” with some friends. He ran a 19:06. Curt is on the right below….. and the guy on the left, turned 70 that day. We have had a wonderful life knowing him. He’s a legend.