There are people whose mouths write checks their bodies can’t cash, whose bravado is bigger than their brawn. Who can be guaranteed to bristle at the slightest confrontation.
You might think this is something with which I’ve gained familiarity by virtue of being surrounded by adolescent boys. Nope. If anyone around here is prone to chest-thumping smack talk, it’s me. I’m a big talker, and without anything in particular to back it up.
There’s something about suggesting I sit something out, or wondering if I have the chops for anything in particular that will inspire my most irrational behavior.
I have two years of high school cross-country as evidence. I slogged my way through the first year, hating every step, to prove my dad wrong when he called me out for volunteering as team manager in order to earn a letter without doing any actual, athletic-ish work. I signed up for the second year to prove I don’t ever do anything to prove anything to anyone.
Then there were two seasons where I umpired my kid’s little league team even though I’d never actually even played baseball, or probably even watched a whole game. That particular behavior brought about by a team manager who shot off his big, dumb man mouth:
“I dunno, I guess a mom could do it.”
Most recently some smack talk has gotten me into a fairly challenging trail run that’s going to happen in a little over a week, for which I’m woefully underprepared.
I’m not being modest, I’m really underprepared. I just ran a half marathon last weekend, on hills. I wasn’t ready for that one, and it’s taken the better part of a week to regain the ability to navigate stairs without yelping at every step.
It’s not my fault. I’ve been busy. My normally not quite so pathetic rigorous training regimen has devolved into something like this:
Monday – Friday: Too busy to run. Settle for burning however many calories I can ardently berating myself for not running.
Saturday: Scheduled long run turns into a medium-length run, which is mostly slogging along at half pace in between long intervals of leisurely strolling. Burn a bunch of guilt calories to make up for the miles.
Sunday: Lie on the couch, moaning about how stupid running is. Promise myself I’ll do better next week.
Did my crappy training stop me from pummeling my legs on that silly run? Nope. Never has before.
The point of all of this is not how stupid I am (a much longer blog for some other time) but how confounding it is I ended up with a son who appears to be coming at life from the other end of the smack-talk spectrum.
I told you earlier about how much I love track season. Track is the ultimate slacker-parent’s sport.
There’s a teensy problem with track as it turns out. We’ve attended several meets in which the only thing my kid ends up competing is long jump. It’s not that he’s particularly enthusiastic about long jump, mind you. He’d actually rather do hurdles and sprints – events which a bunch of other kids are also enthusiastic about, apparently. These other kids are the ones consistently willing to muscle their way to the front of the line, unlike my son.
My kid’s not a muscler. Even though he could probably give some of those kids a run for their money, he’s not going to make a big stink about getting a place in any event that’s already full. Instead, he waits in line every week for his turn to jump into a big sandbox.
Here’s where we run into a particularly challenging aspect of parenting for me: knowing when to stand up for my kid, or insist he stand up for himself, and when to cool it. I certainly could, and I certainly have, elbowed my way to the front of a line on his behalf, and then turned to see him pretend he has no idea who that crazy, loud woman is, gesturing at him to join her.
He doesn’t seem to see the point in the chest-thumping thing. He’s never been a big talker, either.
And so he does the long jump. And while he quietly waits in line for his turn, I suppress the urge to go give his coach a piece of my mind about the crappy system he has in place for sign ups that’s keeping the less assertive kids from getting to do the things they’d like to do.
I mean, it’s just track. Right?
I want my kid to be fierce when need be, to advocate for himself when it’s important. At the same time, I’m learning to live with the fact that he doesn’t bristle at every perceived slight.
He and I have talked about this difference between the two of us. He says he’s perfectly capable and willing to stand up for things that matter, if a friend is being bullied, for example. But track’s just track, he says. If he can’t get into the event he wants, he’s okay with the opportunity to perfect his long jump.
And I’m learning to be okay with him being okay with that.
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