Letting Go Again

It’s been going on for over a week now.

“I’m nervous!”

“I won’t know anyone there!!!”

“What if I get lost???!!!!!!”

“What if there is nothing there for me to eat?”

“What if I land wrong on the board and hurt myself?”

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This is what I have been hearing from Gracie lately and it intensified as the day drew closer for her to attend diving camp at a large university four hours from home. These are the words of a child whose age is between the first double digit and her teens. Excited but scared to death especially because she knew no one who would be attending camp with her.

She’s good at what she does so I wasn’t worried about that aspect. She has accomplished in three years of doing her sport what it has taken of most of her competitors 6-8 years to do. Learning and practicing wasn’t the issue but being away from home was.

Gracie has always had difficulty separating herself from us. I often wonder if she would have been this way if she had been born to us or if her adoption has played a role in it. Not knowing if people will come back to you or if they will stay with you does tend to put doubts in your head. And as we spent last night together in the city she looked as if she might cry. But I knew that she needed this camp to teach her about courage and accomplishment not so much in her sport but in life in general. That’s what we are suppose to do as parents. We should give our children experiences which allow them to separate with confidence so they will be able to be independent adults when they go off on their own.

Waking up this morning was hard. Her nerves were bouncing all over the place and I was watching as a “bad hair day” started to unnerve her even more. I said all the right things and did all the right things. I asked if she was okay and told her since she could do double rotations she had nothing to be afraid of.  Finally, it was time to go and check into the college dorms. Now, I was getting a little hesitant.

We drove over in near silence with Gracie taking in everything around her. After unpacking and making her bed I saw that Gracie was beginning to get her groove back. Her confidence began to soar (or at least she wasn’t going to let anyone know anything different just like she does when she dives). Just before she was to go to the pool with her group she remembered she had left her water bottle in the car so we dashed off to get it. As we walked back I took her into my arms and said, “You’ve got this baby. You will be okay.”

And with that she lifted her big brown eyes, looked up into mine, let go of my hand and said, “Geez mom, you worry too much!!!”

It was at that moment I knew she would be just fine and that in releasing my hand she was letting go of so much more.

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Sometimes Being A Mom Sucks Big Time

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So today was Gracie’s big meet. For a 11 year-old who has only been in the sport 2.5 years she does remarkably well. She works hard. She practices 20 hours a week. She watches videos of all her favorite Olympic divers and she reads books on the subject. She is the hardest working kid I know but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

Today’s meet was the largest held in the world with 29 states and 5 countries represented. She woke up and ate breakfast. When we arrived at the venue Gracie started crying.Hard. Fast and furious. This is a kid who never cries and goes into a meet exuding confidence. Always. But here she was crying and all the parents on the team were looking at her with big ??? on their faces because they had never seen her like this. She was a mess.

“I feel sick. My stomach hurts.”

“I think that maybe you are just a little nervous. Give it sometime and you’ll be fine.”

“No. I am really sick. I am going to puke.”

“You weren’t sick 10 minutes ago. Are you sure you aren’t just nervous?”

“NOOO I am sick,” she wails.

One of her teammates walks over to her and tells her a story of how sometimes she gets butterflies before competing.

“It’s not that. I am sick,” her body being wracked by sobs.

Back over to me she comes.

“I can’t do this. My stomach hurts.”

“Okay, well here is the thing. I think you are nervous and I am afraid that if I tell you that you don’t have to compete the next time you have a competition you will be paralyzed by fear and you won’t be able to compete then either. So I just want you to go out there and do what you came to do. I don’t care if you finish last. It doesn’t matter to me. Just go out there and try to have fun.”

Bigger tears. Sniffles. Lots. More tears. Huge tears. Rapid tears.

What is a mother to do? Where is the manual on the best way to handle drama?

Coach and team take her over to the staging area. Five minutes later she’s back.

“I can’t feel my hands.”

I’ve always had a fear of drowning and at this point I swear I am beginning to feel water rising to ankle level due to the hurricane of tears.

“Listen if your hands are numb then I have to take you to the hospital.”

“Nooo!”

She sulks back to her team. Obviously this is getting me nowhere fast. Time to switch tactics.

Three minutes later she’s back.

“I’m dizzy!”

“Okay. So go scratch. Go tell your coach that your cannot compete.”

“NOOOOOOOO! I can’t let my team down like that!”

What is a mother to do? What can I say to this tween that will make a difference?

“It is not a matter of letting your team down. It’s a matter of letting yourself down and how you will feel if you don’t compete. What matters is you. I don’t care what you do and in 10 years you won’t even remember your scores. You have decide for yourself if you would feel worse competing or not competing. It is all up to you.Only you can make that decision and I am not going to make it for you.”

“Mom, I just can’t,” she squeaks… gasp, gulp and even more tears.

“Seems to me you have two options. Either you scratch or you suck it up, buttercup, and get out there and do your best in a situation that is not ideal. I will love you either way.”

So she competes and earns two 4th place finishes and one tie for 3rd. Not bad at all for all the tears. For all the “sickness.” For all the doubts. For all the fears.

Later as she stood on the podium collecting her medals she was relaxed. Happy. Calm. And as those medals clanged softly against her chest I realized that the medals I cherish most from this meet are not the ones that hang around her neck but the one that now rests within her head. It’s the one that will remind her that she CAN do what she sets out to do even if she has to work through her fears to grasp it in her hand. To me, that last medal is worth more than gold. I hope she will think so too someday and will treasure the memory of how she overcame all the crap going on in her own head to earn it.

 

 

 

 

Believe

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Today is Gracie’s big diving competition. As a mom, I hate when she struggles. As a parent, I realize struggle is a part of it all but nonetheless one only wishes it all would come easily. It doesn’t.

Last night she cried and I just held her. “Hey, if it is this stressful we don’t have to do it. It doesn’t matter to me how you do, I will love you no matter what. Just cry baby, I am here for you.”

Said all the right words that meant nothing to her at the moment. This morning I sense doubt which I would love to just erase.

You can do this, baby. You have what it takes. You have worked so hard. Believe in yourself. Believe in your talent and hard work. Believe that your body has done this so many times it is almost built into your DNA. Believe that in 30 years it won’t matter and you will not remember your scores. Believe this is fun. Believe that your biggest fan is me and that YOU are what matters to me. And believe that you can do anything you set your mind to.Believe. Just believe.

The Princess Returns…301 Days To Fix This

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Last week was poignant.  The baby of our brood headed off to Science Camp for five days. It is a rite of passage in this neck of the woods and she didn’t want to go. She has never been able to spend the night at friends houses because she would get “homesick” and end up back at home at 3 a.m. Obviously, this was a big deal.

Sometimes it is interesting what people are afraid of. Gracie is a champion diver. She falls from dizzying heights and lands in water that can be sharp and chill you to the bone. She has the courage of Spider Man and flies higher than a squirrel; yet nothing was scarier for her than leaving her Mommy and Daddy behind.

We tried many things to convince her that she would have a wonderful time up in the woods and that she wouldn’t miss us one iota. We bought  tons of “girly girl” hair accessories  so she could perform magic on her cabin mates hair. We bought a disposable camera for her to take pictures of all the fun she would be having. I stuck “love notes” in her suitcase that she could open one day at a time.

And finally the big day arrived. In the morning she sniffled a bit in protest but by the time she arrived at school she was talking with her friends like she had everything under control. A few minutes later she rode away on that big yellow school bus, hand out the window, waving goodbye with a big smile on her face. The last thing I saw of her was the back of her head while she giggled away with a friend. Then she was gone for five long days.

Yesterday, the big yellow school bus returned and with it a more confident and secure young woman. We hugged (Oh Mom, do we HAVE to!)and Gracie related a few choice camp facts. Then she went off to claim her luggage while I called B.

“We’re screwed,” I told him.

“Why’s that?” B replied.

“Because she now knows she can make it without us. We are no longer the people who keep her safe and secure in her mind. We are now officially relegated to accessory mode. ”

It was then I heard Gracie’s sweet voice.

“Come on mom, I need your help carrying my suitcase.”

And it was then that I realized that although I may be regulated to accessory status, my little girl still needs me a little bit even if it is just to carry a portion of her load.