Tonight I watched you stand out on that diving board, so tall and proud. You have worked so hard for this all season, conquering all the fears you had of having all eyes on you as you dive. I watched you take a deep breath and launch yourself backward, twisting in the air in a way I can’t even comprehend, and landing gracefully in the water.
You’re ultra-competitive. There isn’t a sport in the world that you aren’t good at. And even when we’re bowling, you turn it into a competition. Not in a mean way, just in a way that makes it all a little more fun. You’re the life of the party. People love playing games with you. You’re focused, and you’re fierce out there, no matter where there is.
You went to this dive meet today to win. I knew that. I waited for them to call your name, and then I rose from my chair in the upper deck to get a better view. You dove four rounds, each time as you put your toes to the end of that white platform, I held my breath. I didn’t exhale again until those scores were read. “Okay, fives and sixes. That’s good. That’s solid.” Then, I went back to my chair, burying my head until the next round.
When the preliminaries were done, I waited again as they called your name. Then I went down to the deck to find you. You were warming up again, another round, this one the finals. I could see by the look on your face you were fiercely determined to rise in those ranks as well. I bit my lip and returned to the observation deck.
You walked out onto that board, toes to the edge one more time. I watched you bounce, arch backwards, and land flat on your back in the water.
No scores this time.
“Good try, AJ.”
You had failed the dive completely. 50% of your final score would now be zero. There’s no way you would come in anything other than 16th now.
Last place in the finals that you had hoped to somehow earn a medal in.
I saw you as you got out of the water. Shoulders slumped, but face stoic. I wanted to run down to the deck and hug you, because I know that stoic face so well. It hides pain. But, your far more appropriate brother got to you first. He clapped you on the back.
He must have said something comforting, but encouraging, all at once. We’re not sure which one of you is older for absolute certain, but you are larger, you always have been. In that moment though, you looked small next to him. He was propping you up the way I dreamed of having a sibling do for me. In a way they never did. I saw you nod, take your towel, wipe your face and wait.
They called your name one more time.
This time the observation deck went silent. Please, I pleaded.
Again, I inhaled sharply.
5. 5. 6. 6.5. 6.
You had done it. You had been brave enough to walk back up there in front of everyone, after a colossal mistake, stand there proudly, and tried again.
I am more proud of you for that than for anything else.
I met you on the pool deck again. You bit your lip hard. I said all the things I could think of to make you feel better. I told stories of my own failures. I told you it was okay that, just with me, you could cry and that I wouldn’t think you were weak. Ever. Because, tonight, you are the bravest boy I know.
And so, you did just that.
You never would have done that two years ago. You would have waited until I tucked you in the bed, turned the light off, and then you would have cried in the dark, all alone. This time, you hugged me and cried into the front of my shirt, the way every boy does when their heart breaks over a perceived failure.
You’re not failing at all though, AJ.
You’re winning in all the best kinds of ways.
We dried your eyes, and when they called your name you took your place in the 16th space and took your ribbon with a smile and a polite ‘thank you.’
–FullPlateMom, who is most proud of her kids when they brush themselves off, but show her their tears and fears too. We work so hard for that.