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Dirt, Drama and Distance

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It is late on Wednesday night, well, actually it is very early Thursday morning and in light of recent actions, I just can't sleep.  My mind keeps ruminating over the past weekend and our recent trip to the San Diego area for Nicholas' final BMX National event until the Grands.  It was an emotional weekend, as it is his last race as a 7-year-old and also because it was a very difficult weekend for him emotionally and mentally.

Per our "new" usual routine, our family arrived at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California early.  And although my daughter chose to stay home for a weekend of birthday parties, fishing and playing with Grandma and Grandpa, everything else was business as usual.  It was nice to be there Thursday evening and wake up Friday with the entire day to spend relaxing.  Well, what we thought would be relaxing... Just a couple practice sessions turned out to be the beginning of a mentally stressful and performance anxiety-filled weekend.  Practice didn't just include the other 7-year-olds Nick would be competing with, it included all the 8-year-olds he would be racing in his new class after his upcoming birthday and at our season-ender Grands in two months.  Nick rode well but was obviously concerned about his competition to the point that it had him nervous more than usual.

I will spare you the ugly details of his emotions but I can report back that Greg and I did awesome as parents.  We kept him focused on him, his abilities, his training and his progress.  We did not talk about the competition and when he was busy playing at the campsite with his friends, dad made sure his bikes were tuned to perfection and I made his favorite oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies.

Nick rode awesome.  Bottom line, the toughest competition is on the West Coast and with 26 riders, his biggest class ever, he had quarter and semi mains before he even qualified to get on the gate for the main event.  Nick made it to his main just fine and with the 5 o'clock sun shining in his eyes as it fell behind turn one, he snapped the gate like a rocket and led the pack around the sweet lines of the OTC amateur track to take home the win.  Sunday:  not so great.  After winning motos, quarters and semis he got squeezed on the inside, had to hit his brakes and came home with a second place.  I know what you're thinking, "second is great for only eight spots and 26 riders."  Yes, it is great but it is not the win HE wanted and certainly not what he is used to.  Learning to lose is a process for the best of champions, especially when it's not something you are used to doing.  Of the 18 National main events Nick has raced this season, he has won 14 of them.  

So, we packed up Sunday and made the nine hour drive home to Northern California and Monday morning, Nick and Zoey resumed life as normal as 1st and 3rd graders.  As parents though, the drama was just beginning....

We spent all weekend in the hot Southern California sun and dirt, only to come home to local families elated at Nick's loss.  Here comes the drama....  We are certainly not unfamiliar with the anticts of jealous parents, but it always amazes me at what great lengths they will go to in order to "vocalize" their opinions and venomous hatred - especially towards a child.

We have message boards for our sport, as many do, that allow us to share stories, concerns, training techniques, bike issues, etc. But unfortunately, they are also a breeding ground for internet "lurkers', those parents who want to blast someone without anyone knowing it is them.  I, on the other hand, am always ready to fire back, the "mama bear" in me but I have learned when and how to do it.  I do it only when someone directly attacks my child and I do it in a manner to remind them that these are children and that perhaps they should remember that they are adults acting worse than children and certainly not performing on a bike like them. I also do not hide my identity.  This time though, I told them to shut up and knock it off.  Good for me, pat on the back and kuddos for being a strong mother, right?  Wrong.  I probably should have bit my tongue and not said anything because this weekend wasn't just his last race of the season, it was also his first race representing a huge factory bike company.  Now, it's not just about me as a mother protecting my child, it's about us as a family representing a company, it's products, it's reputation.  This is something every rider dreams of: the big factory sponsorship and I certainly don't want to ruin it for my child.

So how do we handle the drama for overly jealous or curt parents who just can't keep their emotions and words to themselves?  Well, in my case I handled it head on and directly and yes, it has seemed to work since there have been no new postings.  It has not worked in the past and caused such an uproar in our community that the thread had to be locked and deleted so no one else could post a comment.  The internet is great in so many way - just look at this site - and bad in others - message boards that become breeding grounds for horrible people.

When the drama hits your home track, field, dance studio, whatever... just do your best to turn a cheek and find solace in the fact that it is a new day and your child has moved on.  I know from watching Nick at practice tonight that he has moved on, a little boy jumping and riding a bike. A truly remarkable act of maturity and emotional strength, something that many of these parents could use a dose of.  I am learning from my son one race at a time.

I'm sure with our rapidly approaching season finale Grand Nationals, it will not be the last of the dirt drama.  However, I will continue to stand up for my child as any mother would and distance myself from the negativity immediately following.  As I say at the track, I know who my friends are and I surround myself with them.   A simple lesson I learned from my children.