Today was what we used to call "Field Day" at C's elementary school.
Nowadays it's called "Super Kids Day" but it's basically the same thing -- individual events of physical skill, stamina, and dexterity that gets the kids outside for most of the day and ensures a good night sleep for just about everyone involved...especially the parent volunteers.
I was assigned the starting line of the 200-yard run, which is a long way for the little ones to run -- especially after they've just run the 100 and 50 yard courses before they even got to me.
Still, it was fun to help out, I got to watch C do her funky, straight-arm running sprint to victory in both the 100 and 200 yard runs, and the weather was rather cooperative.
What was painfully shouting out to me was how sadly out of shape many of the kids were. One little 1st grader in particular broke my heart, not only for the limitations her prematurely bulky body placed on every aspect of her physical activity, but for her obvious desire to want to keep up with the other kids. I've crossed paths with this girl (we'll call her Carnie) in the past, which is why the sadness I felt upon seeing her struggle with herself today was heightened somewhat.
Awhile back, C was invited to a birthday party at our town's pool. I took both girls to the pool and left C to enjoy her party while splashing around with PK in the shallow end.
Carnie wasn't a member of the birthday party (different crowd), but just happened to be at the pool at the same time. Once the party action moved to the aquatic activities, she did what any typical 7-year old would do and swam over to join a group of familiar faces.
At one point, I was involved in one of C's favorite pool-time Daddy/Daughter games -- what she calls the "Toss me up in the air," game. Granted, this game has gotten harder as C has grown up and older, but I can still muster the strength to pick her up by the waist and toss her several feet up and over into the deep end.
Then her friends wanted to play. No problem. It's a relatively harmless game. I asked each kid how far they wanted to go, picked them up and tossed them for a giggly splashing-good time.
Until it was Carnie's turn.
Sadly, I couldn't lift her up and out of the water.
The game ended and they all swam off, seemingly happy to move to a different section of the pool for more wet fun and frivolity.
So when Carnie lined up today at the 200-yard start line against another girl of similar portly proportions, I started them off as I did the dozens of other kids who came to my starting line.
But I felt angry and sad for Carnie at the same time.