Gorilla Girl’s and Monkey Man’s nursery teacher uses the phrase “make it work” when she is cajoling stubborn three and four year-olds to make nice, join the group, or otherwise adhere to the rules of decent, community-oriented behavior. I’ve watched her gently corral a reluctant three year old who was preventing everyone’s enjoyment of the daily puppet show. I’ve seen how she gets Gorilla Girl to agree to wait her turn during meeting. “Making it work” means that everyone relinquishes their agenda for the good of all. “Making it work” helps us put our own needs in perspective relative to the group.
My husband coaches boys cross country, and his team won their league championship this year for the first time in twelve years, against a school with an enrollment almost twice his school’s size. His school’s league has historically been a very competitive conference. Winning the Conference Championship was a milestone for him as a coach and for his team. I joked that beating the perennial league champion was like beating Voldemort.
Winning the League Championship was a stepping stone to an even bigger goal. My husband’s team competed this weekend at the sectional meet in order to earn the privilege to compete at the state cross country meet. I haven’t been able to attend many meets this year, and when I do, instead of really watching the meet, I end up chasing Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man around and off the course.
This weekend was different; Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man were at their tutor’s house, so while they learned Vietnamese, I escaped to watch the sectional meet. Once again, my husband’s team was up against the toughest competition in the state – this sectional frequently produces teams that rank among the top ten in the state. His team had a chance to make the top five at the sectional meet – earning them a spot at the state meet.
It was a blustery and chilly morning with bright sun, and if I had been close enough, I might have seen the glint of sun off all those spikes. At the gun, one of my husband’s best runners got jostled, but maintained his position; he is only a sophomore and the other top runners may not think he really belongs in the front. He does. He is probably the best sophomore in the state. The race was close and by the end, after furiously counting places as we jogged back at forth across the course, we weren’t sure if the team did well enough to earn the fifth spot. We experienced a brief moment of disappointment as we considered the possibility that the season had come to an end. Minutes later, the results were posted and my husband’s team was in fifth place; they were headed to state.
It has been a challenge for us to manage our life as two teachers, one of whom coaches, working full time, while also taking care of two very energetic four year-olds. Often this season, my husband and I have been at odds over the time commitment the team requires from him – which means times away from our family, and maybe a bit of a burden on me when it comes to managing our life, children, and commitments.
When we got word that the team made it to state – only the third time in the school’s history and the first time in 28 years – “making it work” is what came to mind. Talking to parents about what this meant to the boys, seeing the excitement on the boys’ faces, and feeling proud of my husband for pulling off what many thought impossible, made me realize that the short term costs are outweighed by the benefits, and “making it work” is something we all do for the good of a community. He is a better person because of the dedication and commitment he gives to his team, a dedication that has made this team a little bit like a family. And I am a better person because those fifteen minutes on Saturday made me realize how important such accomplishments are, not just for those who achieve them, but for those who support, help, guide, and “make it work.”