Yesterday Will and Nate swam in a meet, as they do most Saturday mornings in the summer. This was an away meet for our team, Lee Graham. When we entered the pool there was a giant homemade sign that read, “Welcome to the Slowest Pool in the NVSL.” I do not know whether that pool is one of the slowest around or not, but it did create an interesting dynamic, and helped highlight the vivid differences in my sons.
Nate was in the first race, the 25 meter freestyle. Although he won, he added a full second to his time. As he circled the pool and made his way back to the team area, he passed Daddy Will and me, and said, “that pool is too cold.”
Later he swam the 25 meter butterfly, added two full seconds to his best time, but still managed to get first place. Again, he passed by post-race with a smile, “that is a slow pool!”
But Will had a different kind of morning. He was distraught by his less than best time in the freestyle. Winning the race wasn’t enough. Getting a great time wasn’t enough. He didn’t get his best time, and he claims that is always his goal.
In the backstroke he lowered his time by more than a half second (which is a LOT at this level), but since he got second to a boy two years older than him, he was disappointed again. The child wants to win every race, and he wants a best time every single race. It’s ridiculous. He’s way too hard on himself. Yet his goals do motivate him to work hard so it’s something of a double-edged sword.
Nate, on the other hand is so optimistic, so inherently satisfied, that there was obviously some rationale for slower times. It couldn’t be him. Not in his mind. And I love that because I do not have to worry about him being too hard on himself. No sir, that is not a concern. But again, not sure that maybe some degree of self-reflection and willingness to take responsibility wouldn’t be a good thing. Nate has a wholly different sword, but it too is double-edged.
Could it be that Sammy will be right in the middle — driven and self-reflective but not so so hard on himself. Could it be? Time will tell. He is ecstatic to be part of the swim team, and very much looks forward to his races, but it’s too early to characterize his competitive drive.
He’ll probably be completely unlike his brothers and yet not in the middle either. Because as Paul writes in Romans 12 (a chapter which reads like a quick view of the Christian life), we are all members of one body (the church), but have different functions and gifts.
It’s gratifying as a parent to learn how God has gifted a particular child. You hold a helpless babe in your arms and you love them, but you mostly know the way they look, the way they smell, and the incredible softness of their skin. You do not know what they’ll be like. Maybe they throw up if you let them cry for more than fifteen seconds, like Nate, or maybe they’re stubborn as a mule from day one like Will. Or maybe they are tactile and cuddly from the very first breath, like Sam. But until they grow up a bit, it’s really hard to tell how they are gifted. It’s like solving a mystery, and it’s fun. But it’s also a responsibility. My job as a mother includes encouraging their gifts. They need to learn from a young age to use the gifts they’ve been given for God’s glory, as a means of worship.
That’s a lot to ask of a ten- and eight-year-old, but you know the saying, most of what we learn is caught, not taught. So that means I need to use my gifts for God’s glory, and as a means of worship. That puts it all in perspective. Tonight I am praying about how to do that. May God show me what that looks like. May I be faithful to use my gifts for His glory, and heed the words of Peter: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace…” 1 Peter 4: 10.