A few weeks ago I was at the market in my hometown. As I was rifling through the avocados, I saw a lady looking at me.
I didn’t recognize her.
But she kept giving me this knowing glance.
I looked back down, concentrating hard on my avocado selection. But I could still feel her eyes on me. I forced my head to stay down, but my rogue eyeballs disobeyed my orders to not make eye contact. I glanced up quickly.
She was still looking at me.
I thought to myself, oh NO, it’s someone from high school… and I don’t recognize her. Don’t embarrass yourself, Angie! Don’t make eye contact again. Run for the hills. Dive into the lettuces man, anything!
Out of my periphery, I saw her approaching.
But when she walked up to me, she said something I never saw coming.
“You’re Zoë’s mom, right?”
Shwew. That was a close one.
She said, “I’m Aiden’s mom.”
Ah, Aiden. Little summer camp, eleven-year-old nerdling. Such a little cutie. So shy and smart, yet slightly withdrawn. A phoenix in the making.
I said, “Oh yes, how is Aiden?”
She smiled and turned her head down, and said, almost sheepishly, “I’m not sure if you know this, but at camp last summer Zoë picked Aiden first for kickball.”
I nodded and smiled. I already knew. But instead of admitting it, I said, “Oh?”
She continued, “No one has ever picked Aiden first for anything. He came home that day squealing about it.”
I smiled. There were so many memories rushing through my mind of my own childhood, that I almost couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. I forced myself back to the present.
Aiden’s mom. Focus.
She perked up a bit as she said, “This year Aiden tried out for the soccer team for the first time. He’s not the best player yet, but his coach says that he tries harder than any kid out there.”
I smiled again. Only bigger this time. My mind returned to my childhood.
I said, “Congratulations mama, you’ve raised a fighter.”
She said, “I just wanted you to know what Zoë did, it meant a lot to Aiden. And to me.”
I almost over spoke. And just said too much. But instead I just hugged her, and we went our separate ways.
Do you ever over speak?
Lordy, I do.
There are too many times when I just say too much.
Experience has taught me that if I just hold onto my words for one extra second and utilize that lovely thing called a filter, there are sooooo many things that just don’t need to be said.
You see, my first reaction was to blather on about Zion and the autism, and the reason why Zoë has her great big heart and looks out for the underdogs and is such a great kid, blabbity blah blah blah. That oration would have likely lead to a 10 minute dissertation about the joys of parenting superstar kids, and all the wonderful things they have accomplished…and then onto how much my childhood challenged me, and what a fighter I’ve become….
but guess what?
I utilized that one second of filter and realized, that moment wasn’t about me.
Or Zion. Or even Zoë.
It was about Aiden.
And how one little gesture by my sweet-hearted little tween, gave Aiden the spark he needed to set blaze to a roaring, uncontainable fire.
That’s how you make a fighter, my friends.
I should know.
Thirty years ago, I was Aiden.
I was the chubby, awkward kid. I had wild hair and a wild spirit and very little affinity for what was popular. I had tons of friends, and a few really close besties. But when it came to being picked, I just wasn’t picked first.
But finally one day in the 6th grade, I was chosen. I was picked to be the lead in the school play. And that one little glimmer of favor gave me the drive to fight for and earn what I receive.
Sure, I still knew defeat in the years to come. I was beat out for leadership roles, and solos, and team positions, and leading roles in plays more times than I can count.
But I knew victories, as well. So I kept fighting.
Because that’s what life is.
A balance of wins and losses.
I look back at my childhood, and yes maybe at the time it was painful for me, but that’s only because I couldn’t see the bigger picture. It hurt at the time to not always be chosen first, but I believe now that it molded me into who I am today.
I am so thankful to have had teachers who did not coddle me, or hand me awards I didn’t earn. They didn’t divide us into two separate groups to save our feelings. They let us be chosen. So that is a life lesson we learned at a very tender age.
I am grateful for family who taught me that when you get knocked on your arse, you don’t lay there to get tea and sympathy. You get your butt up and go back at ’em twice as hard.
I didn’t know that being a portly and artsy little fireball would turn me into the Wonder-mom, fighter extraordinaire I am today.
Yet somehow it did.
That warm summer day last year, Zoë did something wonderful for Aiden.
He doesn’t know yet that he will likely always have to fight to prove himself. But at least now he has the fire to do so.
And if you ask me, he will totally pull a Zuckerberg someday.
We need to stop sheltering and protecting our kids from every scratch and bruise that life may hand them…because those are the exact experiences that will help prepare them for a life that isn’t going to just hand them trophies and certificates.
And if you forget everything else today, remember this: the good you choose to do today can impact the world forever.
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