Saturday, June 21, 2014

The World Stage

I just returned from the States two weeks ago, after a really hectic 16 days trip accompanying my nearly 10 year old boy for the most exciting competitions he had ever joined.

A while ago, I wrote about the pains and gains of opportunities. It was all about the two competitions that M signed up for this year. In end March, M and his team mates represented their school in the Destination Imagination 2014 and emerged National Champion. A week later, they also won first place in another competition, the Odyssey of the Minds 2014.

After bagging two national championships, the team had only one day of rest before resuming 3 weeks of incredibly long hours of preparation and training for the DI Global Finals that would take place in Knoxville, Tennessee and the OM World Final which was to be held in Ames, Iowa.

A few days after the SA1 exams in May, the entire team flew to the States, accompanied by two teacher coaches and parents. I left Singapore with a heavy heart, knowing well how much I would miss my babies and how much  they would miss me. But I was determined to have fun and also to do my best supporting M, which was the reason for accompanying him on this long trip.

The trip was eventful, filled with many highs and lows. With so many kiasu parents around, all protective of their offspring who are also highly competitive young beings in their own right, there was too much "politics" for my liking. The team was supposed to be a team, working harmoniously towards a common greater goal. But of course, before they could reach there, there would be conflicts, struggle and lessons to learn. Such is the reality. The process was not easy, with some kids shedding more tears than others and some parents enduring more heartaches than others.

I have always been a believer of raising my kids to be resilient and confident individuals, so in times of hardship and setbacks, they would remain confident of their own abilities, be optimistic and never give up. Throughout this trip, I saw for myself how much my first born has grown. When faced with challenges and setbacks, he was so brave and resilient.

I was constantly in awe by his confidence and abilities as I watched him contribute during trainings. I love it that he was not a follower, nor was he a copycat of others' ideas. He definitely has a mind of his own, with strong opinions and great flow of ideas. His strengths lie in his ability to see the logic amidst the chaos, and without a doubt, his technical mind is one of his biggest contributions to the team's overall strengths. I saw how fast he learnt to negotiate during Pin Trading, a wildly popular fringe activity at the Global Finals where participants would trade their team/country pins with other participants. His initial trades were disastrous, since he had no clue what to do, and he was persuaded by older glib talkers to trade valuable Singapore pins for near-worthless pins. Though I was so tempted to intervene and save him from the trades, I decided to let him learn the lessons the hard way, at least for a start. He learnt very quickly through observations later and a few pointers from me, and managed to rid those near-worthless pins for really cool sets. As he progressed in the pin trading over the week, his collection grew more and more impressive, and so did his presentation and negotiation skills.

Besides the training and competition, I also got to see how he independent he had become when he stayed in a dorm with just his team mates throughout the competition. No, he did not have to cook his own meals or washed his clothes, but he was all ready to stay in his own room, unpack his luggage and look after his own belongings and not once was he scared or needy. At mealtimes, he went to the dining halls to choose his own meals, made his way to the team table and had his meals with his friends. I saw him interacting and playing with his friends and also how he stepped back and just watched others play. He was so comfortable with spending time with others and also equally at ease with being alone. He was never bored. He could always find something to occupy his mind. (Though this is something I already know, I must admit I was very happy to notice it on the trip.)

The biggest reward for me was to be able to spend all the precious time with him and be with him on this valuable journey. But for M, there are lots of rewards. Amongst them, one of the best must be the results.

The team won 2nd Place in the Destination Imagination Global Finals 2014 and World Champion in Instant Challenge, out of 104 teams.

They also won 6th Place in the Odyssey of the Minds World Finals 2014.

Unlike some of his team mates who cuddled their medals and trophies to bed, M only looked at them once since he returned from the States after placing them in the glass cabinets in his room, next to his precious collection of fossils.

In a way, I am glad he is not crazy about his medals and trophies. After all, the experience is far more important than the result. As long as he reminisces and reflects on his experience, and learns from the lessons, I consider this a worthwhile journey.

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