by Mariah Ashley
My son Jacques is not a joiner, not a jock and let's just say not terribly motivated.
Upon my insistence, he has committed himself to participating in a high school sport. Since he abhors football, is bored to death by baseball and can't dribble to save his life, he is running on the cross country team.
The "unofficial" team training started in July under the very loose control of three senior brothers, triplet captains whose parents were Olympic runners. The coach has devised a running program that divides the team into three categories: those who will go on to be Olympians like their forefathers, those with gazelle blood in their veins and my snoozy soon to be sophomore son. After the team warms up together Jacques is left plodding along alone in his size fourteen sneakers while the other boys with normal sized feet rocket past him.
Each morning at 7 a.m. we have same routine.
"Jacques get up it's time for running."
"I don't want to go today," he pleads from under a mountain of blankets. "Can't I just run on my own?"
"No!" I insist, shaking the lump of blankets that contains my son. "You are part of a team; that means you run with the team. You joined this team, so you need to BE MORE dedicated!"
"But I don't run with the team. I run on my own. How about I run with you? Mother-son time?"
"Nice try. The captains need to see that you are showing up. It's about being together as a team. You need to BE MORE social."
"I don't care about that." He groans, rolling over and scooting like a 6' 1" caterpillar toward the far end of his bed.
"JUST GET UP! YOU ARE GOING!" I shout, slapping the lump. "Really, you need to BE MORE motivated."
The teenage lump finally rises and I drive it to the high school and park inconspicuously so as not to embarrass it. I notice a few cross country kids sitting on picnic tables at the far end of the parking lot. The lump doesn't move from his seat.
"Jacques, aren't you going to get out?"
"I'll wait a few more minutes till the rest of team shows up," he says reclining his seat all the way back, making himself invisible.
"Why? What's wrong with those kids? Why don't you go sit with them?"
"I don't like them," he mumbles. "They're seniors. They're jerks."
"It's weird to want to sit in the car with your mom. You should BE MORE friendly. Go ahead, get out of the car and go sit with your team," I insist pushing him out the door.
He makes his way reluctantly over to the older kids and sits down awkwardly at the far end of the table. Without a word directed in any direction he stuffs his headphones in his ears and stares at his phone. The rest of the team chats casually. This is painful to watch. The other boys are older, fitter, confident. Shirts are stripped off, flirtations exchanged with the girls running team and then they are off like a pack in one direction with Jacques running off alone in the other. My heart breaks a little for him and I fret about him for the next hour while I wait to pick him up.
When I arrive back at the school the whole team is in the field playing, Jacques included. I watch from my inconspicuous parking spot. He's smiling and laughing and sweating. I think, "This is good. This is just what he needs. To BE MORE involved, connected, social." My heart soars a little.
A few minutes later they wrap up their game and Jacques climbs in the car.
"Looks like you were having fun!"
"Yeah, except I was picked last."
Crack. Don't mind that sound, it's just my heart breaking again. "Oh, sorry kiddo, but you are the youngest."
"Mom! I was picked last behind the super socially awkward kid and the pervert!"
"Um... well... (come on mom brain, THINK! there must be something you can say to make this quintessential teenage pain situation seem less bleak) Um, the awkward kid and the pervert kid run with the older kids and they probably just know them better." I offer lamely.
"It's okay mom. Once in dodge ball I was picked last over a kid with a broken arm," he says, chuckling at his own joke. True story."
I spit out the water I was drinking and am struck by two things at once. First, absolute awe at my son's amazing self-deprecating sense of humor. And most importantly two, the answer to all his problems which is, all this kids needs to BE MORE of is... himself.
I look right into his twinkly eyes and say, "Jacques you are one of the funniest people I know. One of your best qualities is that you can laugh at yourself. So many people, myself included aren't good at that and you know what? People love it! I love that about you. That's the Jacques I wish the team could see. Next time you get picked last just tell them the dodge ball joke and see what happens."
The next morning we repeat our reluctant oversized caterpillar routine. When I pick him up from practice the team is finishing up another impromptu soccer game.
"How'd it go?" I ask hopefully as Jacques gets in the car.
"Fun. I was picked last again."
"Sorry kiddo." I offer.
"Don't be! I told them the dodge ball joke. They all laughed. Then I called myself the LVP (least valuable player). They thought that was funny too. Then I tried really hard to be good in the game. I think I was pretty good. I was proud of myself."
"I bet you don't get picked last next time." I say optimistically.
"Oh, I hope I do. I've got another joke lined up!"
Pulling out of the parking lot our conversation is interrupted by Jacques waving goodbye and shouting "See you tomorrow man!" to some of his teammates.
It occurs to me that my lazy, confidence deficient teenager with comically oversized feet has a thing or two to teach me about how to BE MORE. There are only six months before Imaging USA 2015. Since accepting the invitation to be a speaker, I feel more anxious with every day that passes. I have a belly ache just writing this.
I worry I don't have valuable enough information to share. I worry I am not clever enough. I worry I won't speak good well. I worry that people will think I'm full of it. I worry my outfit will be all wrong. I worry I will die of fright, dehydrate from sweating, get booed off the stage, or giggle uncontrollably, the latter of which is definitely possible.
I worry no one will laugh at my jokes (just kill me now). I worry I won't be able to relax and be myself. I worry people won't like "myself". I have a repeated vision of my co-speaker Trish standing on stage staring at my backside as I break into a run and don't stop until I reach the hotel where I crawl under the blankets and make myself into a 5'6" caterpillar blanket lump.
Watching Jacques transform over the last week from shy to funny guy has made me realize that my attitude will never do. I need to practice what I preach so I can preach what I practice. If he can face a team of older, stronger, faster, boys and BE MORE himself than I can certainly BE MORE fearless and look across a room full of my peers who have come to find their own answers on how to BE MORE _______(you fill in the blank).
I think BE MORE goes perfectly with the 2015 convention. Everyone who goes to Imaging is looking for answers about how to BE MORE something. More inspired, more creative, more organized, more informed, more artistic--there's no end to the MORE we can all BE.
What do you want to BE MORE of? Register right now to come to Nashville to find out! You can do it! BE MORE adventurous. BE MORE open to learning new things. BE MORE likely to visit my program and clap really loudly when I am done! Shameless plug I know, but I want to help you BE MORE ________.
Just don't ask me to come and help drag you out of bed at 7 a.m. You'll have to figure that one out yourself. There is a limit.
About the author:
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van, grew up on a cranberry farm and
is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.