Number 3 is in eighth grade this year, and he decided to join the cross country team, mainly because Number 4 was on it last year and she had a lot of fun and also did really well, and I think he felt like he was missing out on something.
Plus it’s a short season, it doesn’t interfere with swimming, and it really compliments his swim training.
I also think he has secretly been doing it for another reason.
Every year the kids have a bunch of fitness tests at the beginning of the school year.
There is a push-up test and a sit up test and there is a mile run.
There are records for each of these tests, and being pretty competitive, Number 3 knows what all of them are.
And he has been talking about the school mile record for a month now. At least.
Probably since the first week of school.
So he has been running on his own, in addition to cross country practice, with his eye on that record.
We live very close to the middle school, and he’s gone down there a couple times to practice.
Last week he was ready for the test. He was psyched and he was slightly obsessed.
He went to school last Tuesday morning with his sneakers packed.
I wished him luck and told him to go for it.
He was so excited.
To be honest, I had to go for a run and I altered the route I had planned on running, in the hopes I’d see him out on the front field of the school.
I didn’t see him, but I had no idea what time his gym class was, either.
I thought about him all day.
As soon as he walked in the door I asked him how he did.
“It wasn’t today,” he told me. “I had the wrong day.”
So he had some extra time.
In fact, he had nine extra days.
And today was the big day.
He went to school feeling excited and determined.
Again, I thought about him all day long.
Number 3 doesn’t love school, but he LOVES sports, and he loves a good competition, and he was really looking forward to running this mile.
I didn’t drive by the school today. I just waited for him to come home.
He walked in the door at 2:45 and looked right at me.
“How was it?” I asked him.
“MOM.” he said to me.
Number 3 is kind of a jokester and he’s got a pretty good poker face, so I never really know what to expect from him.
“I missed it by one second,” he said.
I waited for him to tell me he was just kidding. That he had gotten the record.
But he didn’t.
He wasn’t joking.
The record was a 5:44.
And he did a 5:45.
That’s not too shabby.
But I felt pretty badly for him. He was so bummed.
“Do you think they’ll let me do it again?” he asked.
“If I had another chance, I know I can do it,” he said.
I know how he feels. And boy did I think about asking for a quick second.
But then I snapped back to reality.
“Do you think the guy who had the record before you got a second chance?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, half smiling and half heavily exhaling.
It was not the outcome he’d envisioned.
It was not the outcome I’d envisioned.
Seeing your kids experience failure (although a 5:45 mile is by no means a failure) is so hard.
I wanted him to get that record. I really did.
But this experience will help him somewhere, at some point in his life.
It might help him handle a much larger failure. It may help him push himself so that he reaches the next goal he sets for himself. It may just be a moment he needs to have in his memory banks for later on down the road.
Who knows exactly what the lesson is he learned today.
Maybe there is not a specific lesson at all.
But one thing is for sure.
Tonight, Number 3 is a little stronger, a little wiser, and a little bit more humble than he was when he walked out the door this morning.
And I’m not so sure I’d be able to say the same thing had he actually broken that record.
So I guess, when all is said and done, today’s failure was actually a really good thing.