A really hard part about being a parent is when you see the sucky parts of your own character peeping back at you from your children. Things that you wish you could change about yourself, have been trying to work on in yourself or plain just want to ignore about yourself – there they are yelling “Hello!” from the eyes of your children. Sometimes I just want to scream, “Don’t be like that! Don’t think like that! Just stop it!” Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s learned behaviour. Unfortunately, in order to speak into the issue, one has to admit the issue in one’s self as well. Self awareness. Gah. It sucks sometimes.
Charlie joined running club. I was so proud of him just for joining because I hate running. I’ve tried running. I’ve really tried to enjoy it because all my cool friends are doing it. I wanted to be cool too! Yet, foot after foot landing on the treadmill only caused more hate. I really don’t like it at all. Granted, running outside is a much different experience than hearing the treadmill shudder and shake under each pounding step (and all I hear with each shudder is “You are fat!”). Charlie even being interested in signing up for the club was something that I really wanted to encourage. Physical activity is so important. Charlie did great over the weeks of the running club. I would ask him each time how it went and he’d say, “It was okay.” I could tell that running wasn’t turning out to be his favourite thing, but he was sticking it out. For that I’m very proud. On the day before the final big run, Charlie said to me, “I don’t think I want to do running club anymore.” I said, “Charlie! There is one day left! Don’t quit now when you are so close to the finish line.” Fiiiine, he said.
The next morning, as we were walking the route of the big final run, Charlie said to me, “I’m not very good at running. I’m never the first. I’m always the last.” There it was. The need to be perfect on the first attempt. In order to be a success, I must come in first, the first time and always, every time after that. Maybe it’s a first born trait. We are the first child in the family. We are the first to take that brand new step. We are the first to cut, lose and grow another tooth. So many firsts, and we firstborns are the very first of the first.
Charlie, I said, the goal in running isn’t to beat the next person; it’s to improve yourself from the first time you started running until now. Do you see any improvement in your running at all? Do you feel that you’ve gotten faster? Yes? Well, that’s what counts! It doesn’t matter that the other people that were the fastest runners at the beginning of the club are still the fastest runners at the end of the club. If you feel that you’ve improved, that’s what matters. Running is really about competing against yourself.
I’m not sure he got it. I hope he did. But I was standing there at the finish line, cheering him on and gave him a high five. He wasn’t the last one to cross the finish line, but he was certainly the first one in our family to complete such an intense run. (I was sweating just from the walk through, and the kids had to do it all again but running, including the uphill switchback!) Charlie, I’m so proud of you! I’m proud of you for sticking to your commitment even when it turned out to be something that you didn’t really care for. I’m proud of you for pushing yourself to try harder. I’m proud of you for finishing well.