Back to School and What it Means to Fail

Dear O,

I will never forget that day this past June when I found you beneath the bleachers. It was the day of your first track meet and I swung by on my lunch break to watch you, to snap a photo, to thumb through all the red and blue ribbons on your chest.

Instead, I found you hiding, your backpack on, you asked me to take you home. And when I asked why your shoulders began to shudder and the tears began to flow. You had lost all the events you were certain you would win. How could they all be faster than you? You have always felt the wind in your hair, barely felt the ground beneath your feet. You were certain there wasn’t anyone faster…that you would win this race.

You didn’t though and pinned to your chest, just the purple participation ribbon.

I sat with you under the Apple Bowl and I accidentally cried with you. I didn’t mean to. It was ridiculous really.

It is good for kids to lose sometimes. I know this.

It is no big deal. Of course it isn’t.

It is just a grade four track meet. And yet…

You whispered “why is everyone better at everything than me” and I was undone.

I did not take you home. We pushed through the last events. We cheered for the other kids who feel like losers. You rode the bus. You were brave. I was so proud. And you need to know…THIS is what it means to win.

Life was easier, wasn’t it? When I made sure that the kids we played with were nice to you, when I choose activities I thought you would succeed at. You have to fail at things now, face conflict and I must confess, it is so hard to watch. In fact, it is nearly impossible, because the truth of the matter is  I have more faith in you than is logical too…you are a super hero in my universe and my eyes don’t seem to see you with much realism. My pride in you is something like intoxication, all I see is the miraculous wearing flesh, shock, and awe that you came to be in our home after I nearly gave up that dream.

We are not called to succeed the way the world sees it. I will never hope that for you. You are a part of the upside down kingdom where the last are first and the weak are the strongest. You are called to seek placement with the broken-hearted and the system weary and the unloved ones. You are one of the joy dwellers, the hope bringers, the peace keepers, the light holders. Most of all we are grace chasers, picking the crumbs we need, leaving a trail behind us. 

That is a lot of words isn’t it? It boils down to this: Our legacy is love…of God and man. That is all.

So forgive me, when the fear of man looms large and I care more about how you behave than where you heart really is, and I seek to compel your facade. Sometimes I want you to be the best athlete, the best student because it is fun to win and because it matters that you work hard in whatever is set before you. Always remember, your success or failure in any of it doesn’t define your worth, will not change your true status, cannot make your dad and I more or less proud of you. That issue is settled…remember? I have no capacity to see you rightly. I think mamma eyes are glory laden and perhaps we can only see the heaven in our kids…an extraordinary capacity to ignore the hell.

Wherever you fail, you will find me there beside you, seeking the hidden treasures and finding ourselves walking on water. We will find beside us those who fall through our societies cracks, the perfectly shaped holes for the meek and mild and we will walk beside them.


With all my love,

Mom

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