it is a brisk summer morning and the pool is still as glass. six kids, all nine and ten, stand on their blocks staring at the man in the black and white striped shirt, waiting. . . they look determined, focused and amazingly brave. they crouch to take their marks, and a loud horn sends them flying into the unsuspecting water.
at the other end of the pool, my heart beats in my ears and my fingers clinch in anticipation. my son is on the third block and it doesn’t matter that he is nine or that this is summer swimming, all he wants is to finish with a time that leads him to his current measure of success, the state meet.
success (noun): the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
how we each measure success, at any point in our lives, determines our relationship with the people around us, ourselves and our world. his first individual race ended in tears, he felt failure pulling at his heart. it didn’t matter that he finished in the top ten, this is not his measure of success. he was upset at himself, he was upset at his world.
as a mom, you know that the truest measure of success is the ability to jump when that scary horn sounds and more importantly the ability to do it again even when you feel like you can’t. baa hum bug, “don’t talk to me”. but soon the closed attitude begins to soften and he needs the pep talk one more time. i join him under his makeshift hermit shell (a wet towel over his head). we both emerge remembering that you can only succeed if you try and having fun sometimes makes the pain of defeat a bit easier to manage. he smiles, heads to the heating area and tries again. . .success. before his body even hits the water, i already feel the success of character, but my heart pounds hard for his success.
you see, i have thought a lot about this over the last few days. kids put a great deal of pressure on themselves and we add to it whether we think we do or not. i know what he wants and i want it for him. i might just want it more than he does because i know how good it feels to reach that goal even if with time it disappears. how we measure success and how we reach it propels us on or holds us back.
i try to remember we can’t always feel success and failure is what builds character, humility and empathy. . .he needs that too. i try to remember that success is just desire realized. . .
there are so many small successes in our days we just need to remember to see them:
today my six and four year old crossed the street together and returned a neighbors things. as they returned home from the errand they wanted to do “alone”, they smiled with accomplishment-success-
today my four year old shared his time on the trampoline without a fuss (crazy but true)-success-
today i made a salad from my garden for myself and a friend-success-
as he pulled himself out of the pool, wet with a job well done, he asked for his time. . .his coaches scooped him up in their waiting arms as i watched from the other end of the pool. my smile carried me the 25 meters that were between us. his wet feet pounded the pavement, his arms wrapped tightly around my neck and all he said was “thank you”.
wet feet: feet that reach for your success. . .whether they are drenched with water, sweat or determination, just get them wet. success is how we define it for ourselves. with our kids, it needs to be tempered with reality and a remembrance that a taste of failure only makes success that much sweeter.