She’s not much of an athlete, my 10-year-old daughter Addy. At least, that’s what she’d declare about herself.
She’s the type of kid who’d rather read a book.
Or write an incredibly creative story about a giant and a giraffe and a mermaid and a bag of chocolate chip cookies.
Or tell you a joke she made up herself, one that will make you sincerely laugh out loud.
When it comes to athletics, sure, we parents have tried to convince Addy otherwise. Over the years she’s played on soccer teams. And taken dance lessons. And played Frisbee and ridden bikes and gone hiking and been tubing behind a boat.
She likes the tubing. She tolerates hiking.
The rest of it?
So when it came to her running in a 5 K fun-run this past December, Addy told me outright that she’d rather not, thanks just the same.
Mostly because the forecast called for unseasonably low temperatures the day of the race.
It wasn’t like she was unprepared. Through most of the year, Addy participates in an after-school YMCA program called Girls on the Run.
As parents, we like the program a lot. It’s one that Addy enjoys, mostly because she hangs out with her friends. And each semester the program builds to the place where the girls all run a 5 K together.
This is Addy’s last year in the program. She’s participated in four of these 5 Ks already. The girls run the race with coaches, and each semester my wife and I have switched off who runs which race with her.
This December, it was my turn to run again. Only one problem—
I didn’t want to run this race either!
Blame the cold weather again. A harsh icy blast was blowing across our region with a high of 28 projected for race day with a low of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, (-17 Celsius). Brrr.
We could both drop out of the race if we wanted to. I had other things I could do. She did too.
The night before the race, I found myself deliberating on all those “big-scheme-of-thing” questions.
This race wasn’t a hill we parents needed to die on, but I still wondered what sort of message dropping out might send—even if we had our reasons.
See, the point is not about coming in first in these Girls on the Run races.
It’s about proving to yourself you can do hard things.
And I agree with that. I’m not a tiger dad. I’m just old-fashioned. In the big scheme of things, I believe any kid should learn to put his or her shoulder to the plow.
You’re going to need to draw upon that skill of determination plenty of other times in life, and confidence emerges when you purposely don’t shy away from a task simply because it’s difficult.
But would she grasp the greater lesson?
The morning of the race dawned clear and cold.
A slight wind blew. The thermometer outside our house read a frosty 14 degrees F., (-10 C.).
We dressed in layers. I drove Addy over to the race course. We registered, got our numbers, stretched, and hung out waiting for the race to begin.
Addy and I took our places at the starting line. The starter’s pistol sounded, and the run began. We took off at a good clip—and, to my surprise, we stayed at a good clip.
We ran on graveled trails in the crisp winter air. We talked as we ran and joked around and walked a few times, and then went back to running.
When the race was over, it turned out to be Addy’s best time ever.
“Y’know Addy,” I said on the drive back home. “A girl who can run a race in 14 degree weather is a girl who can do pretty much anything.”
I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye to gauge her response. She was grinning. Not broadly, but just enough to let me know she heard. And when she spoke her next two words, she spoke them securely, just under her breath, much more to herself than she did to me.
“I know,” she said.
Question: what difficult things have you done just to prove you could do them? If you’re a parent, how have you applied that principle to your children’s lives?
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