It's a beautiful Monday morning and Nick got off to school as usual; oatmeal, vitamin, shower, essentials, backpack with standard lunch and a quick walk across the street with mom and sissy to first grade. Sounds easy enough, and it needs to be as our family is on the cusp of one of Nick's biggest races of the season. We should be excited, anxious and talking it up and we are, that is my husband and I - alone and out of ear shot of Nick. You see, one of the biggest mistakes a parent can make just prior to a big sporting event, or for that matter, any performance event, is "talking up" and making haste of the days prior. Especially if you are leaving town, taking your child away from all his comforts. I sound like I know what I'm talking about, a little "know-it-all-ish", I know - but I do.
I have lived every extreme scenario with my son and after three months of very painful emotional stress, anxiety and depression in my six year old, he is showing all the signs of his confident, first place winning, sweet, energetic self. He is looking "back to normal" and Greg and I intend to keep it that way; nothing short of a miracle in our house but still a MUST! We have even gone to great lengths in this dire economy to hold onto our motorhome because with travel comes more anxiety about getting back and forth, living out of suitcases, taking bikes apart, etc. Well, our motorhome is Nick's home away from home and a true solice to him at a huge National. It is his place to get away, play with his cars, watch a movie, color; whatever he needs to unwind. Greg and I don't make him share or invite friends in if he doesn't want to, it's his space and needs to be treated with the same respect as his bedroom at home. He has his old bedroom bedding, all his clothes, same foods from home, cups, plates, etc. This sounds extreme but when you are dealing with a highly sensitive child who also suffers from severe performance anxiety due to his compulsive desire to be the best, it is extremely necessary.
Greg and I have had about four different parents, from different families, that we know and see weekly, approach us in the past week to tell us that Nick looks so happy and is riding incredible. They have noticed a change in us too; a completely different attitude and method of handling Nicholas. Greg and I knew we had to do something different and reading is power but acting on our intentions is true miracle work. It is hard to change how you handle yourself, especially during a bad race or tantrums or frustration. But that is where all athletes begin and end, at home with us, their care givers, parents, family and friends. Nick sees our eyes at his level now, I have bruises on my knees to prove it. He doesn't get approached in the chutes waiting to race, just a thumbs up from the sidelines. He doesn't need to hear "move over", "pump", "block your inside", etc., he's experienced and knows what needs to be done to win. He also knows exactly what he didn't do when he doesn't win so we don't even talk to him at the finish line. We let him come to us, help with his bike and helmet, offer water (the ONLY drink my son has while racing), and now, I offer a notebook and pens/pencils for him to draw on. He releases his stresses on paper, most children do if given the opportunity, and will often "write/draw out" his intentions and goals on paper. He will show himself in the front, with a trophy, he will write a story to his buddies he races with about winning. Yes, he is only six and in first grade but again, he is a HSC and very intense and exceptional. He internalizes everything and therefore needs an outlet to express those emotions and feelings without being pressured to talk.
So again, in four days we leave for a 1600 mile round trip to his biggest National in almost three months. I am very nervous but I am confident that at the end, on our way home, Nick will have a smile on his face, pages of great artwork and stories, and likely, some awesome hardware to add to his 2009 trophy shelf. We will watch the videos of his little sister racing her first national at only four years old; laugh at her stopping and starting. I will cry too, like now, because in the end, I will have another new set of memories with my family. Times that I am blessed to have with children born of God's pure love and joy - children that are growing up way too fast to think about four days away. I will pack the morning of, while they are at school and until then; we will eat dinner at our table, talk about wall ball at school, get our math and reading done and maybe we'll have some bubble fights outside. But no matter what, we will live each day as normal and loving as possible and Friday morning when Nick wakes up in the motorhome; he will eat his favorite breakfast of pancakes, sausage, milk and eggs. He will practice in the huge arena with his teammates and he will spend three days racing; in four days....
God bless you parents out there raising students and athletes and remember the words of a wise woman (thank you Dr. Aron :)): to have an exceptional child, you have to be willing to have an exceptional child.