The Breath Holders
You know that moment of silence when a kid goes down on the ice? He goes down hard. And he doesn’t quickly bounce up like he normally does.
He’s barely moving. He’s cringing. He’s hurt. And he’s not trying to hide it.
“Get down on one knee!!!!” the coach yells as he races out onto the ice in sneakers, negotiating staying on his feet while simultaneously trying to get his ass there fast.
The little bodies, confused, quickly drop to a padded knee, resting their sticks on the ice. Standard sportsman conduct when a comrade is hurt—it doesn’t matter what team the hurt kid is on. Get on your knee.
The last time this happened I noticed the response in my body.
I’m holding my breath.
Armpits tingle. Instant sweat down my right pit.
I’m suddenly unreasonably hot, and way too young for hot-flashes-thank-you-very-much.
The coach is crouching down over him now.
Then, panic hits me.
I look around. Shit, is that my kid? It looks like my kid. By process of elimination, I scan the other boys and spot my son.
Eyes closed, sigh. Relief.
Relief only lasts a nanosecond. I’m holding my breath again.
My kid is fine, but someone else’s kid is not fine.
I’m holding my breath again. The voice in my head saying, please let him be okay, please let him be ok, please, please, please…get up, get up, GET UP!
I sit up straight.
Hands clasped tightly in front of my heart—thank you!
He rises with the help of his coach and skates off, supported. The boys rise to their feet and start clapping as they pat him on the back on his way by.
I’m clapping. Tears of gratitude well up in my eyes.
Every time this happens to another kid, I feel like it’s practice for when it’s going to happen to mine. What’s up with that?
If I rehearse this event enough in my head, will I be able to handle it with grace when it happens? Or will I freak out? Will it suck less if I practice now? Or am I squashing my joy just a little bit each time?
What happens when you fall?
Do people lower to a bended knee when you were down?
Do people applaud when you get back up?
Who’s holding their breath for you?
What would you do differently if you knew when you gave it your all, people would treat you with kindness and respect?
No one’s going to scream at the kid, “Get up! Stop being such a wuss!” Would you say that to someone else?
Would you say it to a kid?
My guess is no.
Even if you can’t hear them cheering for you, it’s because they’re probably watching you and waiting, holding their breath.
You can’t hear them if they’re holding their breath.
Waiting for you to stir, stand up, try again, or try something else.
When you do, they’ll applaud. You might not hear them – if they’re high up in the stands, or if you’re busy listening to people criticizing you.
The people on one knee, the breath-holders, and the clappers are still there. In your section, watching your bad-assery in your arena, cheering you on. You just can’t hear them.