Today I looked on as my son trudged forward slowly, head down, sweat dripping down his forehead, his face filled with angst. I watched as he contemplated his surroundings, as if entwined in an intense personal battle, seeking meaning and purpose in the task at hand. He was struggling, he was doubting himself, yet he was determined. It was in this moment that, without hesitation, I gently inquired, “Are you ready to run again?”
I’ll venture to state that most adults would agree that running is hard, it’s not always fun, and it requires great deal of perseverance and dedication. Running certainly has its redeeming qualities, however one must work quite hard to achieve them.
This concept can be incredibly difficult for a child to digest. Not only do many parents seek to assist their children avoid discomfort, but many children also prefer the ease that our modern lives provide. Our kids are being raised in a generation where smart phones, fast food, same-day delivery, and instant gratification reigns supreme. Having to work for desired results is an uncomfortable and foreign concept, something to be avoided at all cost.
My son’s life has been engulfed in the world of running for the majority of his short life, and I’ve watched on as his interest in this wonderfully, dreadful sport has grown. He ran his first kids OCR shortly after his 4th birthday, and over the past 3 years we’ve watched on as he’s grown stronger, run farther, and developed an interest in improving as runner.
There comes a point in a parent’s life when you have to evaluate your own involvement in a child’s passion. Push too hard, they will end up resenting the activity they initially loved. Don’t push enough and they’ll quit too easily when the going gets tough. Finding a balance between pushing a child onward through their struggles, and stepping back to allow them to work through their own personal anguish is difficult, yet it’s a task we must undertake if we are to assist our children in achieving the confidence and sense of identity they seek..
Running with Mason places me directly in the midst of his own personal struggle. I am provided the opportunity to rejoice in his excitement as we join fellow runners in the starting corral, to coach him as he seeks to find a pace that will sustain him through the miles, to celebrate with him when he feels confident, and to do my very best to find a way to console him when he feels overwhelmed while at the same time refusing to let him quit. We have both found ourselves discouraged as he has wallowed in his own insecurity, working through the frustration of fatigue, fighting the urge to give up. In the same way that he must commit to pushing through discomfort as he seeks the finish line, I must allow him to endure the struggle while gently urging him onward. It’s not always easy, but it is certainly rewarding when the struggle is over and victory over adversity has been achieved.
I am raising a runner. He is strong, yet he struggles. He is confident, yet he doubts himself. He seeks independence, yet he needs to know that I’ll be there for him when he needs me. Running isn’t easy, but neither is life. I’m so thankful that running is such a big part of our life, and I truly believe that it will help him grow to be a strong and confident man one day.