Whether you know it or not, your children are watching you. The first time I truly realized this was in the car. My son was 2 at the time and we were sitting at a red light. The light turned green and my little guy yelled, "Go moron!" Ummm, I'm pretty sure he heard this from his dad...because of course I'm a classy lady who would never say something like that.
Yes, whether you want them to or not, your kids are watching...and apparently listening to you. Our actions shape our kids more than we know. This can be a good thing, this can be a bad thing. I'm sure both of my children will have road rage issue, but hopefully they will pick up on some of my good habits as well. Being a runner/triathlete, I of course want one of those things to be a love of physical fitness. I want them to find activities that they love and if running happens to be one of them, well of course I'll be thrilled.
I have been talking up racing to my son for awhile and finally looked up some kids races. This is Colorado, we like to recruit em young here, so there were a lot of races to choose from. We picked the Valentine's Day race at Wash Park and signed him up. He was super excited...until the race started getting closer. He began having fears about the race. What if I don't win? What if I can't finish? What if I don't win? Do you think I will win? He was very concerned with winning and really wanted nothing to do with this race if he couldn't win. I think it is an oldest kid thing (said the middle child).
Well, what are we suppose to do as parents here?? I want my child to try his best and know that in life you need to work hard to get rewards, but at the same time I don't want him to be so paralyzed with the fear of failure that he doesn't ever try anything. How do we push our kids to succeed without stressing them out? Basically, how do I not screw up my kid here? Therapy is expensive, y'all.
I sat down with my son and explained that in a race like this, finishing is winning. Every kid that crosses the finish line is a winner. Everyone was going to get a ribbon, no matter how long it took them. Mommy never crosses the finish line first...ever! But every time mommy crosses that finish line, she has won. I told Mason that the only way he could lose was if he chose not to go. I kept emphasizing that finishing is winning.
Motivational speaking is apparently NOT my calling because the day of the race came and my son said he didn't want to go. He was sure that he couldn't do it. I looked at my husband with complete frustration. That is my pet peeve! I HATE when people say, "oh I can't do that," especially when they have never even tried! I hate it!! And here my own son was saying it!! This was worse than the time he said he loved snow!! So in a moment of awesome parenting, I said, "Oh yes you are doing it. Get in the car." Feel free to nominate me for mother of the year.
We made the trek out to Wash Park and lined up for the kids race. Mason was still nervous and wasn't saying much....it could have also been that he was frozen because it was only 12 degrees. I know if he had it his way he would be at home where failure was not threatening him...but that just wasn't okay with me. I think sometimes you need to push your kids out of their comfort zone... because if you don't, they will never move out of your house.
The count down started and then we were off. He ran, he had fun, he finished! He got his ribbon and we high fived and cheered together! Then we got out butts back to the car because, like I said before, it was 12 degrees.
I told him how proud I was of him and asked him if he wanted to race again. He said no.....well yes, but only if it was warmer. That's my boy!!
The way home was filled with lots of questions about how many people were ahead of him and how many people were behind him. Still being very concerned with his rank, but not devastated that he was not the first kid across the finish line. I'll take it!
This race started out completely about physical fitness. I wanted my child to gain a love of a sport I am passionate about. But it turned into so much more for me. I don't want the fear of failure or lack of perfection to rule my son's life. I hated hearing him say, "I can't do it." Those are the ugliest words to me and I know we will be working on not saying them for many years to come. He is cautious and sensitive and I need to respect that about him, but I think I also need to "encourage" him to get out there and conquer his fears. It is a balancing act.
Here is one last picture of Mason with his ribbon. It very appropriately says, "Finishing is Winning." Well how about that!