My 7-year-old daughter, we’ll call her La Chica, ran a 5K over the weekend. When I say ran, I specifically mean sprint, shuffle, scream, skip, scream, jog, scream, skip, scream, hobble, jog, scream. And when I say sprint, shuffle, jog, or skip, I really mean scream. She’s run three or four 5Ks, all at her request. She looks forward to them, and the second she crosses the finish line, she proclaims how much fun it was. She is so proud of herself and loves telling everyone how much she loves running. She begs to register for races.
But here’s the rub. During the entire race, she whines and cries and screams at me. Loudly. She growls at the course marshals. Literally. Fellow runners and cheering volunteers must think I am a horrible Tiger Mom making my child run against her will. I smile weakly and mumble to them, “This was her idea. She really wanted to run. She actually loves this.” So not only do I appear to be a Tiger Mom, but now it also looks like I blame my child and am a delusional pathological liar. Fortunately, she’s always bringing up the rear so the police escort rolls slowly behind us, and for most of the race, there are no other runners I need to explain myself to.
During every race she yells at me about how this hurts, how sick she feels, how tired she is, how horrible this is. This time, around mile 2, she screamed “I want to go home! I just want to get off!!”
Our friend asked, “Get off of what? Life?”
This isn’t a ride, La Chica. As with most things in life, you have to finish what you start in order to go home. Life hurts. We get sick and tired. People can be horrible. You sweat. And sometimes there are flashing police lights behind you. Regardless, after you choose to show up, you gotta trudge through it and finish. I always tell her the key is Don’t Stop. Jog as slow as you need to, adjust your pace. Distract yourself with the scenery or conversation. Set short-term goals. But just don’t stop. If you don’t stop, I guarantee you will get to the end.
As with all struggles in life, it can be painful and difficult to go through. But in hindsight, when we’ve had time to hydrate and rest and have a banana (or beer), we realize it wasn’t so bad after all. And we’ve learned something new–one of which is that we can do hard things. And there’s always people along the way cheering you on.
I don’t know why she continues to register for races. She never quits, either. But she also complains and glares and screams the entire race. And she’s always so pleased with herself post-race. Perhaps this is just the way she processes hardships–very vocally in a sharing sort of way. Perhaps she knows it’s worth it in the end. Perhaps she needs these reminders that she can do hard things. Perhaps she likes the community that comes with running, and the cheering supporters along the way. I really don’t know why, and she won’t say. But she’s already looking for her next race.