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So, about six weeks ago, I pulled a hamstring. It’s not my first pull, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last pull, but I have to say, it’s been especially annoying. I believe Phil Simms would call it “nagging”— I have to be a lot more aware of warming up slowly for activity and not doing anything that really stretches it.
See, as the body ages, the muscles become gradually less elastic. This means that they are both less flexible in action, and less resilient in recovery. This same pull, 20years ago, would have been a little tight for a few days, and then a thing of the past, if it was even a pull at all — 20 years ago, that action probably passes uneventfully. And, I know this, but somewhere in the back of my brain is the memory of a younger, more athletic me (not, actually, that much more athletic), and that tiny part of my brain has a really loud voice when I’m in a competitive setting.
The body isn’t the only thing that becomes less elastic as we age. And, no, I’m not talking about our intellect — we all know that the processor slows down as we get older. Personally, I’d be a lot happier if I could download some of the useless stuff that seems to always be on my brain’s “desktop” (Bill Murray movie quotes, 70s sports and 80 culture minutiae, politics) onto a flash drive to free up some work space.
I’m really not sure if that’s the exact mechanism for how the brain “performs,” but it helps me explain why I go to the grocery store with a list of three items, and return home with five, only two of which were on the original list. So I’m going to stick with that explanation.
But, no, I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about the psyche, or the spirit. The spirit of youth is remarkable in its ability to bounce back from failures, much more than adults. Though, it has to be said, youth is equally remarkable in its inability to separate what matters from what doesn’t. Luckily, as we grow older, we gain the wisdom to discern. At least, in theory.
One of my daughters has recently dealt with a couple of crushing disappointments — things that she wanted very badly, and actually put a lot of time and effort into, have just not gone her way. And, as a parent, it’s really hard to know just how to help our kids process that stuff. To a kid, the old “in the big picture” thing doesn’t really mean that much. It’s all big in their world. But, once she goes through her visceral reaction, nothing stops her from getting up the next day, squaring her shoulders to the world, and facing it head-on.
And I am SO THANKFUL for that spiritual resilience, I can barely express it.
As a parent, I am painfully aware of how many times, on a daily basis, I screw up. As a teacher, who has literally dealt with thousands of students over the years, I am shockingly aware of how easy it is to say one stupid thing, or allow one bad facial expression to find its way out, or, even, sometimes, how I just don’t see what a kid needs me to see. And all you have to do is watch 10 minutes of the 5 o’clock news to see three new stories of the horrors we visit upon our children.
Fortunately for all of us, children are resilient. Children prove time and time again that they have an amazing ability to overcome a lot of what we adults do to them.
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for children — both mine and yours — and the superpower that they possess to take what we do to them keep moving forward. They give me hope.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com
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