On Friday morning, I debated whether I should whisper in my daughter's ear, whether I should warn her not to get her hopes up too high. It was the District competition for swim. She'd easily made it past sectionals and she had high goals for Districts. 30 swimmers move on to districts, but only the top four move onto states.
I stopped myself though after giving myself a talking to about my Midwestern values. It is so typically Midwestern to caution against high hopes. But it doesn't make the fall any easier even if we guard against high hopes. We still have them.
So I don't warn her. And that afternoon, her friends came searching for me at the swim meet and said, "You have to come. Grace is crying inconsolably in the shower."
I lied to the gatekeeper whose job is to keep parents away from the pool.
"My daughter's injured," I told him.
And I found her, her face flushed red. She lay her face on my shoulder and sobbed some more. At Districts, she finished 10th in her 50 freestyle and she didn't swim as fast as the previous year. In her eyes, she had failed, although she finished higher than anyone else on her high school team.
She went on to swim the relays which finished well and made it to the podium for the top eight places. She also swam the 100 back with a decent time.
When the day ended, she wasn't miserable, but she wasn't happy. This isn't the end, I reassured her. She moves back to the YMCA swimming and then onto college swimming.
Today I drove my son home from basketball, a game they won by nearly 30 points.
"Did you see me miss those layups?" he asked. "And the foul shots?"
I wonder why my children and I all focus on the things we didn't accomplish. I think we have high expectations, but maybe we need a contingency plan, a back up for when things don't go the best possible route.
Because, even when my son doesn't make all the baskets he attempts, or my daughter doesn't swim as fast as she had hoped, or I'm not the best possible wife, mother or teacher, maybe we should all cut ourselves some slack. Maybe we can think that whatever our best is on this day is good enough.
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