Putting others first

Jun 08

There’s nothing that gets me more than someone doing the right thing for someone else, especially at a cost to themselves.  I’ve been on the blessed receiving end of this many, many times, and it touches me deeply every time.  I’ve been having talks with my kids about this perspective as we are going through the summer.  Be the last one to choose your seat in the van.  Eat whatever popsicle flavor is left after everyone gets theirs.  Agree to play the game she chooses.  Hang up your sister’s towel for her when you hang up your own.  It’s service.  Service is good for the soul.  Making someone else’s day with a kind act is usually much more rewarding than whatever “thing” is self-serving in the situation.

(Needless to say, these conversations are coming about because of hollering arguments over wet towels, rolled eyes at chores, van-entering injuries, and popsicle freak-outs.  Keeping it real, folks.  Always real.)  Perfect, we are not.

One day when I was eating lunch at Maren’s school with her this spring, I saw a teacher eating at the big lunch table of one of the classes with a group of boys.  The teacher came up to say hello to me as lunch ended and I asked him why he was eating with the kiddos — they weren’t kids from his homeroom class.  He said that one of the boys in the group was “Star of the Week” for his class, and that usually on Thursdays when you are Star of the Week, you invite someone (parent, grandparent, etc.) to come to school to have lunch with you.  When this teacher saw that this little dude didn’t have a VIP guest come in for lunch, he filled in the role.  He gave up his personal lunch time to give this kid what was probably the highlight of his Star of the Week week, if not his month.  That’s the kind of role model I want my kid(s) looking up to: doing something kind for someone else, even at a cost to yourself.  When I complimented him for doing such a nice thing, he shrugged it off.  “It was the right thing to do, and it was fun.  We talked video games.”  Such a gift to those boys, and the teacher is such a gift to our school!  (This is one story about one teacher, but I could tell a bunch more about other teachers.  We have a Dream Team!)

One of my longtime friends has been putting together photo books for me.  She knows that I am overwhelmed, so she’s just doing something that she feels is in her wheelhouse as a way to love me.  She messaged a bunch of my college friends, asked them for pictures and made a book of our college years.  She’s been coming over, sitting at my computer and pulling my pictures for her projects.  She’s going through my blog, adding pictures, and making books.  I love having these memory-keepers.  She sees me and is using her own free time (and who has any of that in this stage of life?!) and energy to help me tell my story in a tangible way.  Such a gift, and such a sacrifice of her own resources to bless me.

I got a great compliment about Greta loving her friends recently.  While at camp last week, one of the kids was jealous of Greta and did a few things to try to get Greta’s attention in a negative way.  My friend, the adult in the room, said that Greta was able to appropriately ignore and deflect the negative attention and keep her cool in such a way that it did not detract from the activity at hand or create a kerfuffle.  So there’s my boisterous G–holding it together and keeping calm in the face of a challenge.  I was proud of her for giving her friend grace that day!  That is Greta using her power for good.

Maren swam four events at last night’s meet: 50m butterfly in the medley relay, 100m individual medley, 50m individual butterfly, and the anchor of the 200m freestyle relay.  All of these events are made harder by the fact that she moved up to a new age bracket which means she has to complete a legal turn at the midpoint of her 50m races (and the distance she is swimming in competition is double that of last year.)  The IM (individual medley: one lap each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) is a brutal race for the summer swimmer; my childhood coach was wise enough to know that I would have cried before I swam that sucker and she never entered me in it.  This was Maren’s first IM (though she just corrected me; she swam it at practice the morning of the meet.  Does that count?)  Maren also is diving smoothly for the first time.  (Lots of dynamic growth in the first two weeks of the season–this is why we love the immersion of summer swim team!  It’s challenging but light-hearted and fun.)  At the start of the night we joked that her last race of the night — the freestyle relay — was going to be her easiest because disqualifications are harder to come by.  It is so easy to get disqualified via technique and turns in her first three events, but she did great!  Her butterfly stroke is legit.  I was so proud of her.

For the last race of the night, they combined the 9-10 boys and girls freestyle relays, so there were three lanes of boys and three lanes of girls.  The three swimmers on Maren’s relay earned her a strong lead, and she confessed to the parent at the block before she dove in she was nervous because it was up to her to keep the lead.  She dove in as the anchor for the freestyle relay with a sizable lead, and did a nice, long, low streamline…. until she surfaced and began stroking confidently in the adjacent lane.  While underwater, she went under her own lane line, and ended up in the lane next to her!

It was an honest mistake, and one that she wasn’t aware of until the confusion of nearly colliding with an oncoming swimmer in “her” lane, and her father gesturing her to move over as she approached the turn.

As her mom, I thought Oh No! on many levels.

She’s going to be embarrassed.

She just got disqualified, which means that her three teammates also got disqualified.

Her team lost first place.

The whole pool saw her mistake and there was some good-hearted chortling-in-fun around the pool.  No mockery, just some “whoopsey daisy” type comments.  (The whole community is fun-filled and good-hearted.  No one yelled at her!)

I circled around the back of the block as she emerged from the pool surrounded by her teammates.  The three sweet girls on her team gave her high-fives and told her, “Great swim!”  “Good job Maren!”  “You did awesome!”  There was no mention of the error, no shaming, no other comments that could have ruined the event/sport/spirit of my daughter.  They were all smiles and just as cheery as they were before the race.  I, her mother, was of course still so proud of my pink-cheeked girl who swam her heart out.  I was perhaps prouder of the three little girls who found, called out, and celebrated the successes in Maren’s failure.  It was their supportive voices around her that allowed Maren to carry herself with dignity, if not pride, as we left the meet.  Her tears of embarrassment were few and (mostly) forgotten today thanks to their immediate reactions of grace.  They set aside their own loss, disappointment and frustration for the sake of the heart of one of their own.  That’s a team people.  That. Is. A. Team.

Thanks to the three little girls from Maren’s relay team.  I hope your mamas read you this so you can know what a positive difference you made for my Maren last night.  (But also please note to all: Maren IS embarrassed about this; she will laugh about it one day, but today might not be that day.  Please be sensitive and let’s keep it as a blip in the memory and not tease/talk about it going forward.  It was just a story I wanted to tell because we should all be proud of the perspective of the kids on her team.)  



  1. Mommaj /

    Great message Jen and one that Grown-ups could also benefit from!!! It’s always better to treat others as you would want to be treated ?

  2. Cindy Mitchell /

    Jen, totally enjoyed your story.. A lesson for all to learn…Thoughts and prayers are with each and everyone of you… You are a fantastic Mom.. keep up the great encouragement that you give to your girls..

  3. Jen Roesch /

    Yay Greta! Yay Maren!

    Love this post Jen. We push “kindness” in our house and it’s so good to hear how your girls are living it out or experiencing it from others. Gives this momma some hope that one day, my little chicks just might get it. Thank you for this!

  4. Kim Bunn /

    Great message, as always. I want to work on this with my kids as well. I am glad Maren is doing so well on swim team. It is so fun when they find their niche. 🙂

  5. Erin allen /

    Summer swim team!! So many special memories of us from swim team?? love this story!!!