My kids love running. I guess that makes them typical little kids. I’m not sure at what point in our lives that we stop enjoying just running, but it happens for many people somewhere along the line.
I really hope to foster their enjoyment of healthy activities so my wife and I entered my kids into a weekly race series that is about 6 weeks long. It’s nothing serious but they get to go out, run, and eat a sno-cone.
Both my kids love to run these races but have very different reactions to their emotions before they run. My son is a ball of energy that can’t believe he has to wait on the younger groups to go before he gets to run. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a 6 year old love running the way he does (and honestly be so confident in his running ability)! My daughter on the other hand gets very nervous in the moments leading up to the race.
She’s only 4 so she doesn’t quite understand what nerves are. The first day that we went out she got very quiet as the kids were warming up by doing all the fun stretches that you do with elementary and pre-k kiddos. She also wouldn’t let me get more that 3 feet from her. As the groups went to their separate starting lines (my daughter to her 75 yard starting line and my son to his 1/4 mile starting line) I went with my son to make sure he got set up and knew where to go while my wife went with my daughter.
My daughter runs right before they start my son’s group so I ran back to watch her run. I looked for her at the starting line and saw her in my wife’s arms with tears in her eyes. I went to see what had happened and, with the most heart breaking voice you could imagine, tells me “Daddy, I’m scared.”
My heart shattered in that moment. I didn’t want my little angel to feel like this largely because I knew exactly what she was feeling. She gets that from me…nerves. I tend to be the most nervous person that most people know. Before competitions my stomach is nothing but knots and my mind is racing. To imagine my 4 year old going through that because she inherited that from me was gut wrenching.
I wanted nothing more than to tell her it was ok and that she didn’t have to run and pick her up and walk to watch my son. But if I did that I’d never help her overcome this thing that constantly plagues me. So I did one of the most fatherly things that I’ve done. I knelt down and pulled her in close to me.
Me-“Angel, do you want to know a secrete?”
Me-“Did you know that I get scared before my races and games too?” (they call my crossfit competitions races and my games are the baseball games that I coach)
Me-“Do you know what I do when I get scared? I think about you and Momma and Gehrig and how much I love you guys. I look for you in the crowd and know that you will be yelling for me the whole time and will love me if I win or if I lose. So I just want you to run and have fun. You don’t have to be scared because I love you so much and will love you no matter if you win or not.”
She just said ok and hugged my neck.
She lined up at the starting line about 90 seconds later and took off when they lifted the starting ribbon. She started out in the back and then started running around the other little girls that were running. I could see her start to enjoy herself when she was focused more on the running and less on the people around her. It wasn’t about beating or getting beat anymore, it was about being a kid and running. She finished 9th out of more than 20.
The next week I could still see the nerves in her little body but I asked her if she new how much I loved her and how proud of her I was. She said she did and then proceeded to go out and run with the joy that I see when she runs with me.