Guess what happened on Friday?
It was the 2nd annual Turkey Trot at M’s middle school. You might remember that M won the Turkey Trot last year. She was the top finisher and girl winner for the 6th grade. It meant quite a bit of glory. Later, some of the grown-ups said that they were even more impressed when she walked home after school, hauling the eighteen-pound frozen turkey.
As Turkey Trot season rolled around, we started out confident. Cute W planned to take the afternoon off to watch the run. I kept teasing M, “You’re bringing your mama a turkey, aren’t you?” Then I started lobbying to have a Friend Thanksgiving if she won. We could cook up the turkey and throw in some stuffing and cranberry sauce and invite all of her friends. I thought it was a clever idea, and a great way to finally get her to host something, since she never, ever wants to invite friends over to our house.
“No, Mom. We’re giving the turkey to charity,” she said.
“But, this could be fun. . .” I wheedled.
“Or, it could be braggy. Serving turkey to people I beat at winning a turkey.”
“But you’d be sharing the spoils of victory. . . .”
“Let’s share with people who need food. Seriously, Mom, what do you have against the homeless?”
Damn, she’s good. You can totally tell she’s got non-profit-attorney blood running through her veins.
But as the Big Day approached, we all stopped counting chickens.
M wanted a repeat victory. Bad. Usually, she’s chill. She is very good at being quite indifferent to the vagaries of middle school social life, for example. Which seems to be part of her mystique.
But, leading up to the Turkey Trot, M started going for runs. On the morning of the Turkey Trot, M requested a water bottle. “I’m going to hydrate all day,” she announced. This girl wanted to win. This made all of us a little nervous. One of M’s friends is a runner, doing track while M was doing soccer this fall. Surely she had a great chance. Then, as the day approached, Cute W decided not to come, after all. “I’m afraid that if she doesn’t in it this year, I’ll be the jinx.” I thought that this was silly, but when I told M what Cute W had said, she thought he shouldn’t come, too. “I mean,” she said, “What if he took that time off especially to come watch, and then I lost? He probably just shouldn’t come.” Well, I sure as heck was coming. And win or lose, this year I’d be prepared. I packed up extra warm clothes, a water bottle, and a couple of plastic barf bags. Just in case.
And then, she won. Again.
Which was awesome. She was so excited. She’d been nervous all day, she said. For the rest of the weekend, she kept saying out of the blue, “Guess what?” We’d reply, “What?” and she’d squeal, “I won a turkey!!”
But I felt a little bad, too. There were plenty of kids who were there just to have a good time, happy to participate. That SO wasn’t us. We were in it to win it. And then, I’m sure that there were other kids who really, really wanted to win, and didn’t. My kid is just so freaking lucky that sometimes it feels downright unfair to root for her.
Her grades are excellent, she is conventionally attractive, she starts on her soccer team. When middle school started she decided which people she wanted to be her new best friends, and suddenly they were. As far as I know, her first serious crush became her boyfriend. The first time she went to Dave & Buster’s with a bunch of friends, she got in line with a bunch of people for the giant claw game (you know: those total scam arcade games where you try to get a stuffed animal, and it drops every time?). She successfully clawed and won three different items in a single grab. That single incident is emblematic of her impossibly charmed life.And yes, yes: there’s effort there, too. She works for her grades, and she practices soccer footwork. But she also doesn’t have any learning challenges to overcome, and she has a devoted soccer-fiend dad.
I try to remind her that she is extraordinarily privileged. At some point Cute W and I let her watch Louis CK chatting with Jay Leno about being a “little white girl in America,” and I think that she honestly took it to heart. She tends to love reading stories where girls overcome adversity, including memoirs like I Am Nujood, Age Ten and Divorced. And, closer to home, I’m always trying to ensure that she’s using whatever social power she has for Good instead of Evil. She was talking about someone off by themselves, and I jumped in, “Wait, did you try to include them? Remember, if someone’s alone, it’s really easy to help them feel included.” And she responded with, “Oh my gosh, Mom, I know that because you’ve only told me, like, a million, jillion times!” And I sat back, feeling very pleased with myself. She is also fortunate to have an excellent mother.
But it gets a little awkward sometimes. Like when I’m cheering at a soccer game: the best cheering is when the teams are only a couple of points aware from each other. If our team gets too far ahead, I feel morally obligated to start bucking up the opposing team. So, standing, shivering, along the Turkey Trot Race, I yelled for all the kids whose names I could remember. But I yelled for M, too.
That child needs a little adversity in her life. Other kids should get a chance to be winners. Even as her mother, it feels cosmically unfair of me to root for her above all others.
But root for her I do.