So here is the Middle School story I know you have been waiting on the edge of your seat for.
I recently took a weekend trip by coach bus to Rochester, NY where my daughter and her teammates competed in the New York State Science Olympiad.
I was not exactly jumping up and down at the prospect of this trip. Seven hours on a bus with fifteen middle schoolers, followed by an eleven hour event day, a late group dinner and an early rise for the seven hour trip back home is not high on my bucket list. If you are an extrovert, this might be a wonderful prospect. But for me, the classic introvert? Torture.
Loud bus, unruly kids, endless hours of small talk with parents I don’t know, questionable food choices, unfamiliar sleep situation, and a full weekend of large group logistics. Ugh.
Despite my misgivings, there was no question that I was going. My daughter qualified for the event and being there to support her was important to me.
Since I was locked in, I decided to change my attitude. It occurred to me that if I was going, there must be a reason. There was something I needed to learn, someone I needed to meet or an experience I needed to have. I figured it would be in my best interest to be open to it instead of having a grumpy attitude and possibly missing what was right in front of me.
As it turns out—my preconceived notions were all wrong.
The kids were a dream. They are an incredibly well behaved group and the ride up was quiet and relaxing (please no science nerd jokes here). The kids watched movies while the adults read, did work and talked.
The teachers/team leaders were fantastic. They have a wonderful rapport with the kids and handled all of the event coordination with little need of the on call parents.
The biggest job we had as volunteers was arranging meals and carrying around the massive amounts of food that we brought. Of course we had enough food for two weeks rather than two days. But what else would you expect?
We parents hovered mercilessly over the kids. We desperately wanted the kids to need us. But the truth was that they were perfectly fine without us. They knew where they needed to be, they knew what they needed to bring and if anything we parents were an added burden as the kids were held up by us questioning them about things that they had already handled.
While we tried to ignore the fact that we were only there for food and moral support, we got to know each other. I was surrounded by a diverse and fascinating group of parents. I wasn’t stuck with small talk at all. We shared many hours together and had true, deep conversation on a countless number of topics. The connections made and the discussions I was involved in were by far my favorite part of the weekend.
I brought my own food to fill in when there wasn’t a choice I was happy with.
I got to stay in my own hotel room for the first time in forever.
So the kids were great, logistics were handled, the parents were interesting, I ate perfectly well and even got my own room and two good nights sleep.
All of my fears were unfounded. Had I not changed my attitude beforehand, would I have noticed? Or would I have humphed and grumphed through the weekend, missing all opportunity for connection?
Or, would my bad attitude have caused me to have a bad weekend? Would I have become a self fulfilling prophecy if I had brought my grumpy self and expected the worst?
Was the weekend perfect? Of course not. Had my daughter not been involved, would I volunteer to spend 55 hours going back and forth to upper state New York? Nope.
Am I glad I did it? Absolutely.
I got to see how independent and single minded a group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders can be. I got to bond with a group of moms who I might never have the opportunity to spend time with again. I made new friends.
As an introvert, these types of situations can cause anxiety and sometimes a very bad attitude. Even if you are an extrovert, just deciding you don’t want to be somewhere can cause the same problem.
Being aware and consciously making a choice to be present and engaged can make a world of difference. This can add happiness in your life AND can be the difference in someone else’s life.
Don’t become a self fulfilling prophecy. Bring your best self and see what happens! You just might be amazed. I was.
P.S. For those of you wondering about the competition itself:
It was an experience builder (ha-ha, is that code for “we didn’t do well” or what??). This is only the second year the Middle School has participated in Science Olympiad. The team’s 2nd place finish in the Regional competition was thrilling and completely unexpected.
We entered the State competition with the understanding that the same handful of schools win most of the prizes every year. That was exactly what played out during the awards ceremony. Our kids were disappointed, but anxious to qualify again and do better next year.