Friday, December 3, 2010

My Superstar

As it turns out, Olivia (my eldest), is something of an athlete. She's 5 of course, and I am being a stage mother. But in all seriousness, the girl can run! This is her (5 year age champion) in the front middle (yellow shirt). Tiny little munchkin in between all of those big kids. All of those serious athletes. I could just die with pride.

She really practised hard in preparation for this day.

In the afternoons, on the way home from the school bus, we stop the car about 2 km from our house (it's within the boundary of our property) and I let the kids take turns of sitting in my lap to 'drive' home. It's a farm thing. This year, however, Liv has decided to let her out 200m from the house so that she can run home. I'm not kidding. Clearly I was from different stock. I NEVER would have wanted to run home! Drive home, yes. But RUN home... NO WAY! But that's what she does. We stop at the last grid, and she runs home, way out in front of the car. Grinning from ear to ear the whole time.

So when it came to the sports carnival, where the Preppies (her year level) were running 50m, the stage Mum in me took over. I knew she had this in the bag. If my little girl can run 200m so quickly at home, she could do 50m no worries. The real issue wasn't the distance itself, it was mostly that she had never really run against anyone else before, and didn't fully understand the notion of 'competition.' So how do you instill 'run your hardest, and try your best' into your child, when all you can think is 'Flog them! Run so fast, that you can sit and watch them walk in 3 minutes later!' So I just went with, 'Hey Liv, this is a race. So run your hardest, try your best, and have fun! Oh, and no need to wave at Dad and I - we'll be waiting for you at the finish!'

And then the race was on. CP and I were cheering her on, and she got off to a fantastic start. But wait! What was happening??? Why are you stopping Liv?? Keep running! GO! GO! Run sweetie! Run! And then just as it looked like her competition was about to beat her, she stepped it up and barely beat them over the line. But it was CLOSE. We were (okay, I was) so proud! Okay, we both were, but I was relieved too.

Me: Hey darling! How good was that?! You did so well! I'm so proud of you! How do you feel?
Liv: Good. (Big hug)
Me: For a minute there, I thought you were going to stop! You normally run so much faster at home! But boy am I proud of you! You gave it your best!
Liv: No I didn't. I felt bad for the other girl, and thought it would be nicer if we could run next to each other.
Me: Oh okay...


So yeah. And then she completely surprised us by winning long jump as well!

Considering I don't have an athletic bone in my body, I was completely amazed by her efforts. Clearly those genes don't come from me, however, my mother would be quick to point out that there have been other good athletes on our side, even if those genes did manage to avoid me entirely. So anyway, looks like athletics could be her 'thing'. Lucky, considering the limited range of community options for country kids, when it comes to extra curricular activities. It's either athletics, league, swimming, pony club or ballet (if you are prepared to drive more than an hour several times a week, there are a few other activities available too). My child will probably never be a world class ballerina, pianist or cellist There is no one close by to nurture any latent talent. So it's good that Olivia likes athletics.

Today we had her swimming carnival. Olivia is not a 'champion' swimmer by any means, however one thing the girl does have is confidence. Her PE teacher called me last week to ask how I felt about putting her into a 25m swim event, when he wasn't sure she could really do it. It seems that Olivia felt that she was more than capable, and had even discussed the possibility of swimming on the side of the pool, so that she could stop if she needed to. I swear that my heart could have burst with pride after that phone call. And then today, on the way to the pool, she told me that she just can't wait to hear people cheering for her. Amazing.

And so here she is today.

That's my baby up the back with the two 'first' ribbons. But I have a confession. I thought they were 'participation' ribbons. Sympathy ribbons. I was wrong.  But let me go back a bit to explain.

I took my other two (smaller) babies to the pool with me this morning. We wanted to cheer Olivia on. We knew she would be in a few races that would probably be too hard for her, and we wanted to let her know that we were proud of her. Anyone with small children would understand what a nightmare it is taking them to a pool. Especially if you are there to watch another child. I just don't have the number of sets of eyes that is necessary to keep all of my children safe all of the time. So yeah, I was frustrated. And it was raining. So I was cold, and wet too.

But there we were, cheering Liv on, and she was loving it!

She was grinning from ear to ear, swimming her little heart out. Well, more like 'monkeying' along the edge of the pool, but she tried so hard, and I just love her for it. But you definitely couldn't call it 'swimming'. So we cheered, she grinned, and she did this three times before finally coming and telling me she was tired.

And she got her ribbons, but I truly didn't think they were 'firsts'. In all honesty, there were only one or two of them in her races. So at lunch time, when her three races were over and she had dried and dressed herself, I suggested we head home. Olivia wasn't keen on leaving. She wanted to stay and cheer on her friends in their races. I looked at Sam and Darcy - dead on legs - and then told Liv that we could stay for two more races to cheer on her friends. And cheer she did. She did the war cry. She ran up the side of the pool, calling out the names of her team mates and friends. She clapped and smiled. I was so proud that my baby girl had so much more team spirit than even I could muster. And when the two races were said and done, we went home. As we left the pool, Liv asked me what would happen if she got a medal at the end of the day? And herein lies my confession.

I truly believed that there was no way Olivia was in the running for a medal. I had two smaller children crying and almost sleeping in my arms. I just wanted to go home, and so I made excuses for what would happen with medals and said we would find out what would happen on Monday.

And then this afternoon I learned that Olivia took out Age Champion. And my heart broke. I mean it really broke. Oh me of little faith. I broke the news to Olivia, who was still smiling, and still excited about how the day panned out. She told me we can sort it all out on Monday. I love that girl. And I know she will go to sleep tonight dreaming of stars. I really love that girl. I have learned my lesson too. But I'm not going to dwell on this one. I am lucky. As much as there are restrictions that come with living in such a remote area, I am lucky that I am even in a position to attend my children's sporting events. And so, as it turns out, Olivia, who not only possesses 100% confidence that she can do anything (even if her ability is far less as far as percentages go), really can do anything. The swimming is the clincher. We don't have a pool. We drive 40km to access ANY pool, and yet she can still take out age champion. Go figure!

If my children wanted to do ANYTHING, they certainly can. It just means a lot of miles in the car. Even for league, the 'district' covers more than 500 square kilometres. Some weekends families drive over 4 hours in order for their children to play competitive sports. Crazy. But it's just what we do.

I am certain there is a 'soccer mum' just itching to get out of me. Right now I'm happy to hide her away safely   within the confines of our property. So long as my children are happy and having fun, I'm happy for them. I just want them to do their best, try their hardest and be proud of the fact that they have had a go. And be supportive of other people too. Just like Olivia was in her 50m run, and when she was supporting her friends and team mates in their races in the pool. It was more important to her to run and swim together with the other competitors, than it was to win. And that's more important to me than any ribbon or medal.


  1. Olivia sounds an absolute charmer, Jess. She looks so proud of herself with her ribbons.

    I understand the dilema of the 'good' parent who wants to encourage good sportsmanship while battling their own competitive spirit. A few years ago during a discussion about something to do with sports, my daughter Leone (now in her 40s) said she knew when she was little that when I said, "Do your best" I meant "Just win". I was dumbfounded - but couldn't deny it. I guess parents and children communicate on a sub-conscious level sometimes!


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