There was a heavy frost on the ground this morning. I am hoping that there are not distraught farmers out there with ruined blossoms. For me, it is nice to have a break from the blackflies and a cool mist over the pond.
I went to T's track meet yesterday and watched her hit a hurdle and fall on the track during her race. It was quite a tumble. Shoulder, knees, all hit the ground and she fell in a heap. The crowd gave a little gasp, but she got up and kept going, even after hitting a second hurdle and stumbling again, and finished the race.
My gasp was an interior one, and I had a knot in my stomach as I watched her pull herself up and carry on.
Another mom next to me said, "She's tough. Good for her."
It is never easy to watch your child fall. Even when they're 17 you want to run over and scoop them up and say "Are you okay?" But you mustn't do it. Letting them recover from their own falls is one of the most important parts of being a parent. I always applaud moms who see their toddlers fall down and wait for them to get themselves up. "You're okay," they say, after a glance from the child who looks to her for cues. Oh. I guess I am okay. They accept it and move on ahead.
Yesterday's race reminded me of one of the most poignant eulogies I have ever heard. It was at the funeral of my friend's mother, who died about 12 years ago. This was a tough, sporty, no-nonsense mom who had often reminded me a bit of my own mother. One of her four daughters came up to the lectern to speak.
"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional," she began. She had recently seen these words on a church marquis and they gave her the seed of an idea of how to pay tribute to her mother. She recounted a phone call she had had with her mom a while back. The daughter, Maureen, was complaining about various troubles in her life - job loss, a sick child, financial woes. "Excuse me, Maureen," interrupted her mother, "but the last time I checked, we weren't in Heaven yet."
The message was: Life is not paradise. It is hard, and you just have to deal with it.
Maureen told another story about her mother that involved a running race. It was the annual church picnic, an event highly anticipated by all four sisters because of the running race that took place each year. When the year came for little Mary, age 5 or so, to finally take her turn at the starting line, she was filled with high anticipation of winning like her sisters. It was a big deal. Her mother stood behind her at the starting line.
On your mark! Get set! Go! Off streaked Mary, who tripped over a shoelace and fell flat on her face. Devastated, she got up, tears streaming down, and turned back to her mother for consolation. "No, Mary. Go on, finish the race," said her mother to the weeping child, waving her away towards the finish line.
Off went Mary. Meanwhile, her mother ran around the side of the field. She was standing at the finish line with open arms when Mary crossed the line.
That story always makes me weepy. It is one of the hardest and most important things that parents have to learn to do. You have to watch them fall.
Life is full of mishaps. You can't avoid them. You have to let your children get themselves back up. Let them recover and finish on their own. You can be there for them after they have been there for themselves. That is what makes a person grow to be strong and able, ready to take what the world has to throw at them.