It is Cross Country season.
I've been quietly (and not so quietly) nudging Skip in the direction of signing up for the Cross Country team. Hey! It's a sport. He can do it BY HIMSELF, so he doesn't have to worry about idiots on the "team" who have pushy parents, or who have bad sportsmanship, or who belittle other members of the team, bla bla bla. Not that Skip's ever been on teams like that, she says, looking skyward and whistling...
Anyways, Skip's not really much of a team player. He's the Lone Wolf. And finding a sport that works for him isn't all that easy. So when Toni called to say that Cole had signed up for the Cross Country team, I started putting the bug in Skip's ear.
"Hey, your BFF is going to be running cross-country. Wouldn't it be a fun thing to do together?"
"I hear if you're on the cross-country team, you don't have to run so many laps during PE..."
"Hey, that cross-country coach is really a flaming hunka-hunk o' burning manhood..."
(oh right, that was what I said to Toni... never mind)
And Skip seemed mildly keen. At least he didn't dismiss the idea right out of hand.
Every day when he'd come home from school, I'd ask about Cross Country.
"Have you signed up yet?"
"Oh!" he'd say, as he slapped his forehead. "I forgot to sign up. I'll do it tomorrow."
Eventually, I stopped asking. He obviously wasn't as keen on things as I was.
So imagine my surprise when, last Friday, he said "Oh, mom. Don't come and get me at 3 on Monday. Cross Country practice starts, and I'll be running until 4."
The mind boggles. It really does.
Monday rolls around, and I'm one of the proudest mothers on the planet. My son, under his OWN steam, signed up for Cross Country. *preen preen*. I didn't have to go in and be the meddlesome parent and ask to speak with the coach, and hand over Junior's orthopedic shoes, and special vitamins, and request that he put on the sunscreen, and only run in the shade before 4pm.
(yeah, like THAT would happen! If I did that the coach would NEVER be my friend... [see previous entry])
So I snag Nate from his school, and then I snag Kelly from hers, and we go home to wait until 3:45, when we'll drive down to Skip's school, and watch him finish up his first Cross Country practice.
At 3:45, I've just given the kids the one-minute-warning: the "You'd better go potty now, or be prepared to hold it until 4:30" shout, when there's a rustling in the garage.
Nope. Bigger than a mouse.
Nope. Bigger than a rat.
And then the garage door (into the house) bursts open, and Skip is standing there, face flushed, sweaty, and out of breath. He's carrying his trumpet, and has the 89-pound backpack on his back.
So much for Cross Country, I think.
"Mom!" he moaned, looking completely forlorn and bedraggled, " I forgot! I walked home, and I got to the [regional cross country track - which is right across the street from us, basically] and saw the high-schoolers running, and then I realized that it was practice, and I missed it!"
He slumped down on the floor beside my computer, and looked miserable.
It was now too late to go back and get in on the practice. What to do?
I quickly emailed off an apology to the coach (only a little teeny bit of the meddlesome parent coming to the forefront), and asked if Skip would still be welcome at the second practice (which was Tuesday - they practice every day after school). And then I told Skip that I was really quite impressed that he'd managed to walk ALL the way home from middle school WITH a full backpack and trumpet, and had managed to do it in under an hour. It's probably two miles. Maybe more. And it's ALL uphill. And then I gave Skip a big Gatorade, and some palmiers, to drown his sorrows.
The coach emailed me back in the evening. Of COURSE Skip was still welcome on the team. "Runners seem difficult to come by, and we take ANY and ALL, whenever they can show up!"
So Tuesday, just in case, after I'd picked up Nate and Kelly, I took them down to the Middle School, where we hung out after the final bell, just to cut Skip off at the pass, should we need to.
It was unnecessary. He came charging out of the boys' locker room in his full school garb, ready to take on the world. And he was smiling.
Yup. He was on the team.
Yesterday was the first Cross Country meet of the season for Middle School.
Skip went into it having had a SINGLE practice (which consisted of running around the neighbourhood near the school, and out into the open space by the lake. Nothing that really prepared him for the actual race. But hey! You've gotta get your feet wet sometime.
At first, there was just a lot of milling around, waiting to see what was going to happen.
Then the older kids ran, with Skip and his buddy Cole cheering them on.
Then it was time for the 6th Grade Boys to line up.
Aaaaaaand, they're OFF!
Once around the track, then out into the wilds surrounding the school...
Looping around up in the school grounds, and finally back onto the main field, for one last trip around the track before heading to the finish line...
He was not happy how he finished, but I couldn't be more pleased.
He FINISHED THE RACE!
I don't care that he came in 44th. This was his first time EVER running ANYWHERE, and he actually RAN the whole thing.
His buddy Cole, hopped up on some honey-and-caffeine creation, left him in the dust and came in somewhere in the 30s. I swear, that kid has boundless energy. A bee-bee tossed from a slingshot couldn't have caught up to him. (or bounced off of obstacles with quite as much vigor, either). As I was waiting for Skip to finish, I heard Cole's dad reading Cole the riot act about Good Sportsmanship and How You Better Not Gloat Around Skip If You EVER Want To Play X-Box Again. Heh.
As I was walking away from the field with Skip, I put my arm around his shoulder, and told him that I nearly burst with pride, watching him finish that race, and that I was so proud, and how this is a GREAT way to start the season. He's got his own personal "best" time, now, and he's gonna have a great time watching himself beat that time. And next time, if he comes in 39th, he'll have made such a huge improvement, I might just bust a gasket right there from all the pride overload.
He still was feeling a bit down. Fortunately one of his mentors from his Boys Chorus was running in the 8th grade event. That boy finished 2nd. Skip really looks up to him. And while I was walking back to the car, I saw Marco pull Skip aside and say something to him. Whatever it was, by the time Skip got in the car, he was grinning like a fool, and he even joked on the way to rehearsal (yes, it was a full day yesterday! and hard on the sinuses, driving 2 pre-teen boys who'd just run 2-mile cross country races... 'open a window!"), and left the car with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step. Maybe it was the endorphins kicking in, but it's been a long time since he's really been enthusiastic about singing practice.
I think this is the start of something great.
I just hope he doesn't think he's gonna be taking ME with him on the 2-mile runs he has to take over the weekend. I'm here for encouragement and cheering. NOT as a running buddy.
At least, not yet.
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