Manchild 1 “ran” his first race on Saturday. It was a 1K associated with the half-marathon Micah and I ran. We started talking it up months ago but didn’t register him until the morning of the race. The unpredictability of the 3-year-old kept us from banking on anything. Who knew whether he would be sleeping in the stroller or having a screaming fit in the middle of the sidewalk when the race began? And then there was the issue of being an overbearing parent, forcing my child to try to find joy in the same things that I find joy in. Heaven forbid I engender a hatred of running simply by loving it so much. So we waited until the last minute to hand over our $5. At the appointed time, he said he wanted to do it and we crossed our fingers that he wouldn’t change his mind during the hour wait.
He didn’t. But he was very tired, so pardon his crankiness as he did not want to participate in the mascot dash or draw on a race bib for himself. But as the 1K start time drew near, he perked up a bit. Grandma asked him if he was ready to run his race and he said he was. The countdown started and with each number, his eyes got wider and he started bouncing in his shoes. The race started and he was off. He ran about a quarter of the distance before his tiredness caught up to him. “You can walk whenever you get tired,” Grandma told him. “I’m tired,” he said and walked the rest of the way.
I wish I could have seen it and watched him start bouncing. I wish I could have been there to cross the line with him. But I’m also kind of glad that I missed it. I’m afraid I would have been a little bit too wound up about it. Maybe I would have tried to get him to run more than he wanted to. Maybe I would have gotten impatient with his pre-race mood. Maybe I would have been overly pushy if he was unsure about running the race or overly disappointed if he had decided not to do it at all. But it turned out well. As well as I could have possibly hoped: he decided to run the race on his own, he was excited about it, he finished without needing to be carried or having a breakdown.
I have vague hopes of my kids growing up thinking that running races — and running in general — is just the way things are done, of having it be as much a part of their lives as storytimes or summer vacations. I hope they don’t get turned off by it when they find out they aren’t the fastest runners out there, or because they feel that it’s a dorky thing that their dorky parents do. I hope to see them cross many more finish lines on their own over the next several decades. I hope they enjoy the camaraderie of runners and the opportunity to give something their best effort time and time again. And, of course, I hope that my love of running merely lights their own passions rather than burning them out entirely.
What passions or experiences do you want to pass on to your children? Are you afraid of their rejection?