This afternoon, my boys had their end of season pizza party for tennis. Since they were each three and a half years old, they have been playing with the same coach, in a kid league that they both seem to enjoy, although I am not raising any Andy Roddrick's over here.
Regardless, their coach is a wonderful teacher who instills a sense of dignity and sportsmanship amongst all her charges. In many cases, some of those kids really need a guiding hand.
Case in point: In our neck of the woods, a strange phenomenon, eerily reminiscent of Madonna (circa 1984) has come to pass. School-age children are obsessed with these silly shaped rubber band bracelets that are worn as Madonna wore her infamous bracelets, and of course are traded.
As a school teacher, you can imagine how distracting these bracelets are, and the potential for all sorts of mishaps when trader's regret occurs.
Last week, after our little Friday Happy Hour pediatrician's foray, I bought Andrew some of those bracelets, just because. He has been so good lately, cooperative, kind to his brothers; that as I watched him look at the packaging with longing, I could not resist getting it for him.
He agreed to share with Matthew, who agreed to share his toy as well. All is well in the world.
Today, an older boy quickly made a beeline to Andrew and finagled a trade. Andrew traded a baseball bat for a phoenix. I watched the whole transaction; unable to stop it, knowing what was going to happen.
When Andrew saw my face as I asked him what had happened, his eyes grew round and his mouth found its way into a tight, small frown, with a slightly trembling chin. He realized that he had not really wanted to trade, and now wanted to trade back. But the older boy would hear nothing of it.
"You can't trade back," the big lug called coldly, as he searched out his next victim.
My little boy put his head into his crossed arms, tears silently rolling down his face, trying to be strong, but unable to keep it together.
Although he had wanted to make the trade, now, he wanted to go back.
I thought back to how many times I had wanted to be older, wiser. And now that I was, I didn't always want it. In many ways, there are days when I could just put my head down too, and cry. Because sometimes the trade sucks.
I tried to comfort him. I do recall telling him that the kid was a punk, which brought a glimmer of a upturned corner of his mouth. But I also tried to make him understand. Sometimes, the trade may not be worth how we feel about it later.
I think of how many people I have seen reach great success in their careers, only because they seemed to have traded their personal lives for them. They go home to cold, silent houses, and the trade doesn't seem that great in those moments.
Or how many marriages fell apart because holding on to anger was more important than holding on to the love that brought them together. And then, suddenly, they had their anger. But their being "right" wasn't worth the feeling of losing someone who you really cared about.
I later saw Andrew grin his sideways grin as the coach called him up to receive his trophy (BTW, everyone gets a trophy, not my favorite thing, but hey, who am I to judge?). He seemed to have moved on from the disappointment.
But I hope that he learned the greater lesson here. Sometimes, what you have isn't worth trading for anything if you are already happy.
I know that I could have been good at some high paying, all consuming job.
But I traded.
I traded the opportunity to be "successful" in dollar signs and be happy doing something that I love.
I can be a mother and not constantly feel at odds with my life and my job (although some days, it does happen).
And though there might be days; when I am standing on the street, holding a sign to fight for my livelihood, that I want to "trade back."
But those moments are few and far between.
Because I come home to a noisy, messy, chaotic home.
A home full of children.
A home full of love.
And there is no one in their right mind who would want to trade that back...