Just finishing the race is winning

Beautiful bougainvillea
Beautiful bougainvillea
White jasmine

I love, love, love this time of year in Joburg, the jacarandas are out, the bougainvillea is luminous and I got the most stunning invitation to go and drink bubbles under a pergola of white jasmine last weekend from a divine bookish mate. Sadly, I was unable to take her up on her offer as the daughter was in the midst of a sports tournament.

Yes, we went to our first tournament in over 18 months this past weekend. It was a water polo festival and we started off watching online which is so clever and allows me to ask really dumb questions as I still don’t fully understand the game (rugby I get, water polo not so much). I spend an awful lot of time saying, “What does that mean?” and “Oh, well done, darling!” when the daughter has just been kicked out the pool for attempting to drown another player.

The great thing with the online version (besides no one being able to hear my comments) is that the kids get the chance to commentate – which is beyond hilarious, I think the daughter has found her new calling! But nothing compares to watching it in person so we were THRILLED when half-way through this particular festival they announced that we would be able to go and watch.  

There were warm hugs exchanged with the other parents:

  • Me *as I went in for the hug*: are we allowed to do this?
  • Other parent: We are using protection, it’s fine (we were both wearing masks).

Not knowing whom people are under their masks is something I still battle with, I don’t recognize anyone, and the husband can’t hear a word anyone is saying, so we make an attractive pair of old dodderers. I sat for a full ten minutes staring blankly at a woman who seemed vaguely familiar and I realized why she was so familiar after another mate introduced us – turned out to be the daughter’s teacher from her old prep school whom I know very well. Sorry, Vicky!

There was a lot of reminiscing at the match, we remembered how we moaned at the endless games we had to watch, now we were ecstatic to get up at the crack of dawn and sit on the side of the pool to watch our team lose. Yes, you heard me right, we knew we weren’t going to do brilliantly because tragically, our wonderful young goalie broke her thumb and so various other members of the team – including the daughter – with no goalie experience had to stand in for her.

Stand in Goalie at the tournament
Stand-in Goalie

They did this with good cheer and I said to the one player who was very sad about chalking up another loss, winning is easy, it’s easy to be gracious and kind to your opponent when you’re winning but losing well shows true character. Not being bad losers, still having fun, not giving up even though the odds are against you, that’s a true test of character and let me tell you, they passed with distinction.

As Brené Brown points out in her fabulous documentary The Call To Courage on Netflix – sometimes just finishing the race is winning.

Pic 3

The benefits of Covid are few and far between, but I feel that this is one of them. The participation in the sports’ tournament, parents being allowed to watch felt more important than who actually won. I have felt this for a while now that all the things that seemed of PARAMOUNT importance pre-Rona have now been put in their rightful place of NICE but not life and death.

I guess that’s what happens when you are faced with a real life and death situation.

The daughter has a wonderful coach who said to them, “Winning is nice, but playing well is what’s most important.” And he is not just saying it, he lives it, he wasn’t standing on the side of the pool, screaming, telling the kids how stupid they were. He accepted that they were doing their best under difficult circumstances.

Coach addressing the players at the tournament
Coach addressing the players

This is very important to keep in mind as the kids start writing exams.  

At the tournament
At the game

The Headmistress of the daughter’s prep school gave a great speech at the one assembly that I have not forgotten all these years later. She told all of the parents assembled that they need to accept that there will be one area in life where their children will struggle. It could be academics, it could be in the arts, in sport or even socially but there will be something, everyone in life has their own set of gifts and abilities and an area they struggle with, the trick is to find what you’re good at and that thing might not even be offered in school.

It’s difficult when some kids seem to sail through with no effort, getting As for everything whilst others struggle just to scrape through. It can feel like school is the be-all and end-all of everything and if you don’t do well, your life is over. Obviously, it’s easy with the benefit of age, (a tiny touch of) wisdom and some life experience (including my very mediocre C aggregate in Matric) to point out that in fact school is a very, small part of your journey and just because you didn’t crack it academically doesn’t mean you cannot make a success of your life. But it is true. It is NOT the be-all and end-all, and you and your achievements matter even if you don’t get twelve As for Matric.

Of course, life is complicated, and it can be that the ones who are up for 12 As feel genuinely terrible if they only get 11. Sometimes it’s more freeing not to be competing for the top prize. Comparison is indeed the thief of joy so focusing on your own journey is really the key to contentment.

Something that might not be a big win for someone else might be a HUGE achievement for you. So I guess my message is that we should stop worrying about what everyone else is up to and get out there and celebrate our wins. Also, when we do experience disappointments, it doesn’t help to run away from those horrible feelings, we have to allow ourselves to have a three day sulk and our very own pity party and then pick ourselves up and move on.

The Morning Show
Last Girl Ghosted

Film/TV recommendations: I started watching the second season of The Morning Show. I didn’t think I would have the stomach to watch anything that mentioned Covid, but I’m actually finding it fascinating to trace back those first days in lockdown.

Book Recommendations: The Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger. I love Lisa Unger’s books, I can always count on her for a twisty, intelligent thriller. This one is about a girl who meets a guy on an App, gets ghosted, finds out all sorts of unsavoury things about him, and then tracks him down. Gobbled it up.

Last words of wisdom: when the tournament finished and the lovelies won their last game which was a small consolation for getting their asses kicked the whole weekend, the daughter went off to get her first covid vaccine and I have to say that felt like a real win.

Good luck to all the kids writing exams, happy Halloween and happy reading! Xxx