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Monday, November 5, 2012

Why Are We Racing?





He looked so uncomfortable among the other swimmers splashing around a large buoy in the San Francisco Bay. He loves to swim, but he didn't appear to be loving this. Thankfully he made it back to shore. Out of the frigid water, stumbling through the crowd, came our sensitive boy, who struggles with anxiety and daily adversity. He made his way to me and his bike. I cheered him on. Then I scrubbed him dry and shoved on his shoes. He tried to talk to me about salt water, the seaweed, the scratchy sand on his feet-- he said, "I never want to do that again", and I handed him his bike and pointed him toward the second step of his triathlon.

Does that sounds brutal?

I watched him jump on his bike, then a thought jarred my (disgustingly?) distracted head, "What ARE we doing here? Why did I just push him to hurry? Is this all wrong??" But he was already gone. It was too late.

As I ran toward the bike course that he was now buzzing around, I thought about all of our hours of working to keep daily transitions slow and smooth for him, to provide him with comfort and security, to take off the pressure of "fitting in" by homeschooling him...So why did I forget all of that for a race?  He hates putting on shoes. He hates changing clothing. He hates rapid transitions. Loud noise aggravates him.  And what child likes cold water? Wow-- I had agreed to his participation in a transitional frenzy of discomfort and stimulation-- a triathlon!

We signed T up for a kids triathlon because he is competitive, he has endless energy, he is a great (maybe gifted?) swimmer, biker and runner. It seemed to make sense at the time. This would encourage him. It would build confidence. And the big incentive-- a girl he adores was supposed to be there. But she wasn't there for some reason. And I, the mom, suddenly thought, "what in the world is this race about? Why ARE we here?"

How many times do I rush my kids through activities, places, meals, stories, even cuddles, for no good reason? Where are we rushing? If I slow down, often the answers aren't very impressive. We rush through races to WIN, we rush to commitments and school drop-offs to assure people that we "HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER," or worse, "I'M A GOOD MOM", we rush to bed so that we can hurry up and get rest so that we can rush to the next plan...

When T finished the race, all he wanted to know was whether he had won. "Was I first, was I the best, mom?"

Is that why we rush? Oh God. I answered the way that I think I believe, but apparently had forgotten to practice this day ..."it isn't about winning, honey, it is about the experience. You are so courageous to have done this. It doesn't matter whether you win or not."

I saw the confused look on his face. Did I really think he would believe that? After I had given him absolutely no guidance beforehand regarding a purpose (other than telling him not to worry about winning.) Actually, I didn't even know what I thought about the race, so how could have I prepared him?

I love the documentary "Race To Nowhere" http://www.racetonowhere.com This film warned me early in my children's educational life about the rapid current that can capture parents like me...How we can be sucked in to believing that good parents breed successful kids who win races, play on the elite sports teams, have a gazillion extracurricular interests and activities, earn the A++, get in to the greatest schools, work for the best companies, earn the most money...and then what? Where is God in that race? (the film doesn't talk about God, at least I don't recall, but I need to!) Our kids could go through all of that business without knowing why-- without knowing themselves... Just like my son just did in his triathlon. Without having gratitude.

So what WAS this race all about? I certainly am not saying that triathlons or any other sports competitions are a bad thing. I'm getting ready to run in a half marathon for World Vision in December. I'm excited about it. But I realized I needed to give this race thing some thought.

What are your thoughts?

I now think that I could have framed the triathlon experience differently for myself and for my son. A triathlon, or any race, could be a form of worship-- not of ourselves, but of God's grace. It could be a way of giving thanks for health and life and community. So much has been given to us-- for free. We could give thanks for a heart that works, despite great odds in my son's case. For a body that is strong and coordinated, despite much stress. For the ability to handle chaotic transitions and follow directions-- something I wouldn't have known is a blessing before having this child. For the courage to jump into freezing water, despite having a body that wants warmth and comfort, and might be afraid. For the ability to be alive with a family embracing you, loving you, cheering you on...for being your best.

I realize now that my son's triathlon wasn't about winning because there is no losing when you are running with God. He never lets you go.










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2 comments :

Papa Togs said...

That is a great story. I recall a time when I had an "aha moment". My youngest son (6 yrs old) came up to me with his favorite book, one of the Magic Treehouse series, and said "Daddy can you read to me?" So we layed down in his bed side by side reading the book. I found that I was speed reading to him, trying to get to the end. Then it occurred to me, it is NOT about the story, it is about laying down with my son and sharing amazing time together. Building a connection that will last forever. So we slowed down and started discussing the pictures and aksing him things like, "What do you think the main charactor was feeling". So instead of reading the book in 10 minutes, it took 3 nights. He fell asleep in my arms and all was right in the universe.

Challengermama said...

I love that image-- thanks for sharing. I have the same challenge when it is the end of the day and I'm trying to rush through reading to my kids...and I LOVE reading children's books! I sometimes just have my eye on the wrong thing.

Sounds like your son is lucky to have you:)

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