Really, that’s all I need to write and so many of you nod your heads and think, yeah, I know. But maybe it’s more fun to give you the details of my latest encounter with teenage boy in the wild.
Daryl had a track meet.
It happened to be in a town not too far away so my husband took on Hal’s soccer practice so I could go watch Daryl run. He was to run in the 800 and then the anchor leg for the 4×400. I was particularly excited to see him run the relay.
So off I headed about 30 minutes down the road from home, found a parking spot (which was fairly fortunate), paid my entrance fee, and sat down by myself in a crowd full of strangers to wait.
Not too long after I got there, they called for the 7th grade boys 800. About 6:15, I watched the very large group of mostly gangly, awkward looking boys line up at the start line. The first thing I noticed was that Daryl was not wearing the new, specialized, spikes-included, long-distance running shoes we had bought him. Why wasn’t he wearing the shoes? Why had we bought the shoes if he wasn’t going to wear them?
And then the race began. He fell behind pretty quickly. This doesn’t look good, I thought to myself. By the time he came around on the second pass, only four boys were behind him. To his credit, he still kicked it into gear and ran his heart out to the finish line. But he certainly didn’t look like a kid who had finished 4th the first time he had run this race.
He didn’t come up into the stands to see me – even though I had texted my exact location to him. I asked if he was OK. How did he feel about the race? “Had a cramp” was his response. Ok, when is the 4×400? “Soon, I think.”
I know now that there are just a small handful of variations of track meet schedules. And the 4×400 is not that soon after the 800.
I watched the 100m dashes. I watched the 110 hurdles. I watched the 200 races and the 300 hurdles. I watched all of these for 7th and 8th grade girls and 7th and 8th grade boys. All the while, hoping to hear first call for the 4×400. It didn’t come. My butt was numb. My phone was nearly dead. No one to talk to and not enough juice to lose myself in a game.
So I watched a small slice of the 400s from my car as I charged my phone. And I knew that the 4×400 couldn’t be anywhere near the 400.
Back in the stadium, they made the first call for the 7th grade girls’ 1600. I cried.
I mean, not literally, on the outside, tears streaming down my face, but on the inside, yes. I was going to have to sit through four 1600’s first? And then essentially two more with the girls’ 4×400’s?
“I think the 4×400 is last,” my son texted me.
“Yes, I figured that out,” I said. “Why don’t you go ahead and come get your note so you can ride home with me?”
“But it’s the last race.”
“Yes, but it’s still faster for you to ride home with me than ride the bus. Come here.”
That’s when he stopped talking to me. Convenient.
About 9:15, he showed up in the stands. Limping.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I hurt my ankle. Nate is taking my spot in the relay so we can go ahead and go home.”
Three hours. I had sat there for three hours!
“When did you hurt your ankle?”
“During the 800.”
Three hours. I had sat there for three hours.
“Why did you wait so long to decide you couldn’t run?”
“I kept hoping it’d start feeling better.”
Did I mention how butt-numbing bleachers are?
“Did you ice it?” I asked.
“Did you tell your coaches?”
“I didn’t know where they were.”
Three hours. I sat and waited for three hours while the boy merely hoped his ankle would feel better and did absolutely nothing to enhance his chances that it would. And said nothing to me as we texted back and forth. Three hours.
That’s when I noticed he was wearing the new track shoes. The ones he hadn’t worn when actually racing – he was wearing them now.
“Why didn’t you wear those during the 800?” I asked, pointing. He shrugged.
“It was a longer distance.”
“They are long distance shoes.”
As we began the drive home, he told me, “Coach had me do the high jump!”
“What?” I asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? When did you know?”
“It was earlier in the meet. I figured you couldn’t be here anyway. Coach said he saw me play basketball and knew I could jump.”
“But the motion is completely different,” I countered. “Had you ever practiced the high jump?”
“Which coach said he’d seen you play basketball?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know. He told you in person, didn’t he? Which coach was it?”
“I don’t know. They look the same.”
I’m surprised I didn’t run off the road at this point. I had previously met one of the coaches and knew he was black.
“Daryl! You do realize that that’s the most stereotypical racist thing you could say? ‘They all look alike’? I mean seriously.”
“I didn’t say they all look alike. I said these two guys do. They are about the same height and sometimes they wear glasses and they are both bald.”
“I can’t believe you. You see these guys every day and you don’t know who is who.”
(To be fair to him, he joined athletics part way through the year so he missed introductions. I’m guessing he can distinguish these two guys from each other but doesn’t have a good handle on which one is Coach X and which is Coach Y. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)
Conversation continued on for a few more minutes before his face became lost in the glow of his phone and I stared at the dark road ahead of me and pondered what I could have done with those three hours. What he could have done with those three hours.
Like maybe finish the major science project due the next day that he had thoughtfully tried to complete the day before but couldn’t because he had forgotten to bring home the rubric? The project that he had been given days or weeks before? The project that he would now have to stay up even later to complete?
I also thought about how sorely disappointed I was to not see him take the baton and run. How that three hours and the additional 30+ minutes that I likely would have waited would have been all ok if it meant I’d see him run.
But I didn’t. I waited ignorantly for an ankle I didn’t know was injured, didn’t know wasn’t being treated, didn’t know wasn’t known by the coaches. Because. Teenage boy.