It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the lessons and experiences I’ve gained through running have shaped much of who I am. I see much of the world through a running lens and it follows that I want to share that perspective with my children. I have a seven year-old son and a five year-old daughter. Of course I want them to share in my love of running by doing it alongside me and learning and benefiting from their own experiences in it. So no problem, right? Just encourage them to run, sign them up for kids’ races and kids’ running clubs and away we go. Ha!
It turns out kids (at least mine) have minds of their own. My kids have gone for runs with me (of their own accord) and have participated with varied success in kids’ events. My son also enjoyed going to his track club practices which I’d encouraged him to sign up for – it is a fantastic club with great coaches who introduce track and field to young kids in a very fun way. My son was always sweaty and smiling at the end. But then one day out of the blue he said:”Mom, you just want me to run because you do it. I have to find my own thing.” And that was it.
Looking back, I know that my passion for running as a teenager came as my own form of rebellion and self-discovery. My parents knew very little about the sport and took a detached interest in my passion. Throughout my high-school career where I trained with a club two times a week and raced often, they never once came to a practice and I think they may have come to a race once and only because it was in the neighbourhood. I liked it that way. Every time I raced my mother would ask how I did. I’d respond with my time and she always had the same response. “That’s great! What’s your PB (personal best) again?” Because she had absolutely no reference point and had to be reminded of my personal benchmark every single time. I could say I ran the 1500 m in 4:36 or 5:36 (vastly different performances) and she’d be just as happy and proud of me. I ran only for me – there was absolutely no judgement or pressure from the people who mattered most in my life. I truly believe that’s why I’m still doing it more than twenty years later.
Now back to my kids. I want them to benefit as I did from running, but I understand that I cannot force it. I can only be a role model in the best way I can and keep doors open if they happen to decide to get into it. So I’m watching my son skateboard and play basketball in the same detached manner my parents watched me run. I respond to his delighted shrieks of “Mom, I did an Ollie!” with a smile and a “That’s great sweetie.” I don’t know what that is but he seems to be happy with it.
My daughter is still a bit young to have found a personal passion, but I like to think she’ll find one that doesn’t involve make-up and fancy clothes. All I can do again, is try to be a positive role model. I was floored a while ago when out of the blue she said: “Mommy? Beautiful girls don’t like to show their muscles”. Gulp! I guess her Barbies don’t have very much muscle definition. I quickly showed her the cover of my latest running magazine and said, “Don’t you think this girl is beautiful?” She agreed and changed her mind. Whew! Then a while later she was fussing over which dress to wear to a party and I said “It doesn’t matter. Look what I’m wearing!” My daughter’s response:”Yes, but Mommy – you’re not a pretty girl.” Some people might take offense at this, but I was proud. No, I am not a pretty girl. That is not what I DO. (I may have played her some Ani DiFranco after that).
I will continue to run and show my kids how it brings a positive influence to my life. If they do ever want to get into it, I will try to let them discover it on their own. I guess what I really hope is that they pick-up on some of the values which I’ve learned along the way; the importance of perseverance, determination, enthusiasm, a sense of fun and the self-confidence that comes from being yourself. Whether they learn these lessons through running or something else, I will be happy and proud of them.