Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Losing It...

I’ve been in one of the longest writing slumps of my life. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged!
I was doing everything I could to find a way out of my intense case of writers block. And who knew that Erma herself would pull me out and save me?
I own a good chunk of Erma’s works, and I read them from time to time. This last week, I was reading “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” and that’s when I saw the inspiration I needed.
Right on page 152. Here it is…
“Kids go all through their lives learning how to win, but no one ever teaches them how to lose.
… Just think about it. Most kids don’t know how to handle defeat. They fall apart. It’s important to know how to lose because you do a lot of it when you grow up. You have to have perspective- how to know what is important to lose and what isn’t important.” –Erma Bombeck

See, the reason this inspired me so much and brought me out of my writing slump is easy.
We just went through this recently.
Amy decided on her own that she was going to enter the talent show at our community fair. For an 11 year old girl, in the midst of changing and growing up, I thought this was an especially bold move. I have not pushed the kids to do activities they aren’t interested in, so when she got the paperwork to get her entered into the contest, I knew she meant business.
And she practiced and practiced her song. I will forever have the lyrics to “Undo It” by Carrie Underwood burned into my brain because I heard it for 10 days straight. But here’s the thing. I knew my daughter was doing an excellent job. But there are other kids out there who also were going to do an excellent job. And there are only so many winning slots. It’s not that my daughter COULDN’T win, it’s that we didn’t know if she would. You never know what can happen in situations like these.
So before the big show, we talked about it.
“You realize,” I told her, “it’s not often that you will win something like this on your first try.” It’s not that I don’t believe in you, but I want you to be ok if you don’t win.”
And my sweet mature daughter (whom I can no longer call my little girl) understood. “I just want to try it to see what it’s like. I’ll just do my best and we will see what happens.”
The night of the talent show, we did her hair and makeup, got her in her new dress, and headed to the fairgrounds. She was nervous, but if you didn’t know her like we do, you wouldn’t have a clue she was sweating bullets. On the outside, she was calm as a cucumber.
Her song was number 6 in the order of things.
And the girl who was going first? She was singing the same song as Amy.
Now, I’m not going to say that the girl butchered the song or anything. She did a fine job. But I knew that if Amy really let loose, she would knock that song out of the park.
The contest kept going (including a 5 year old boy who did the thriller dance, which was a crowd favorite) and finally it was Amy’s turn.
She took the stage with grace and poise. And as her song began, I saw something amazing.
I saw a young woman pouring out her soul on-stage. She was really telling the story of the song. Her emotions matched the intensity of the song. She was performing with such passion, and doing it in front of about 400 people with 370 of them being perfect strangers. It didn’t matter to her that the same song had already been sung once that night. The song now belonged to her, and no one was going to deny her that. She owned it.
How I wanted her to win! My entire heart ached for her to place somewhere in the competition. Just something to encourage her to continue on this journey of performance. It’s her gift, and while it’s raw and untrained at this point, I know that given the right opportunities she will one day bring a stadium of people to their feet in uproarious applause. I could see it, but more importantly, I could see how much she enjoyed it.
We waited for the contest to come to the judging portion. And as the judges deliberated, I prayed with all my might. “Let her place. Let her place.”
But when the names were called of the winners, Amy wasn’t one of them. (Neither was the girl who sang the same song.) She didn’t place, she didn’t win.
As a mother who wants nothing for the best for her babies, my heart broke for her. For a moment I realized one of the hardest things for a parent is to watch your child lose at something that’s important to them.
As Amy came up to the grandstands where her family and friends were all waiting for her, we saw the other girl. Same song girl. And she was throwing a FIT. Bawling her eyes out and carrying on like someone had just killed her puppy. Loudly yelling “It’s NOT FAIR!”

Yet Amy just carried her head high, with a genuine smile on her face, and said to all of us, “Well, that was fun! And now I got the first one out of the way! I’ll be ready next year!”
My heart did a complete 360, going from broken up for her to being so proud of her I could hardly speak!
Because I discovered that one of the hardest things for a parent is to watch your child lose at something that’s important to them, and see them be a sore loser.
For the rest of the night, Amy laughed and joked and proved that she wasn’t just putting on a brave face in front of the crowds. Sure, she was a little disappointed, but it wasn’t going to ruin her night.
I’ve got to tell you, I have never seen a more beautiful loser than her- which in my book makes her a winner to the million factor.
And we are already looking for songs to sing next year…