August 24, 2016

The Night I Was Undone By A Glow-In-The-Dark Race

It was a beautiful plan. Families coming together to run. And have fun. And I let it get the best of me.

I don't love running. My kids don't love running. And I did very little to prepare them for this night. But, still, in my head I had this beautiful picture of the three of us running long spurts together, walking here and there, and laughing and loving every minute.

As you may have guessed, totally not what happened. Sophie didn't run hardly at all, barely even walked, and one of the dads had to stay in the back with her. But she had the time of her life taking selfies with all the fun, glowing props and just taking it easy. Ethan actually ran several spurts, but melted into a puddle of despair when we didn't get to the finish line fast enough to catch the wad of glow sticks they were tossing in the air at the DJ booth. It was like he'd lost a pet or something. Totally unreal. And nevermind the 10 or so he already had around his neck.

So Ethan was grumpy, Sophie was happy, and I was frustrated. And we rode home in silence and I cried the whole way. I went terribly wrong in three major ways (and felt stupid and like a failure for it later):

I didn't share my expectations or the reason for them with my children. As parents, we all know this truth: you can't obey what you haven't been told. I never once laid out a plan for them. And idea of how I wanted things to go. Perhaps more importantly, I never explained to them why this family race was so important to me. Kevin loved running. A lot. He ran as much as he could until his body just wouldn't allow it anymore (a combination of his actual back injury and the weight he gained from addiction.) I cannot even count the number of times that he begged us to at least jog with him. We pretty much always said no (except for Ethan) and he could barely get us to walk with him. I feel terrible about that now and wish we had said yes every time. So for me, this was a way to do something Kevin loved, together as a family, and honor him with our best effort. I know that had I explained that to the kids, they would have tried a harder and truly done their best.

I failed to acknowledge the fact that their idea of fun and my idea of fun might be two different things. Not that I love running. Or even find it all that fun. But, I do enjoy doing it with my friends and do somewhat enjoy the races and seeing how we improve with time. It's a challenge to keep improving myself. I never stopped to think that, like me until a year ago, my daughter.hates.running. Any form of it. So, in reality, there was little to no chance she was going to enjoy this night. Yet, she did anyway. Even though she was in the back for almost the entire race, she finished with a smile and laughter. She loved seeing all the glow in the dark things throughout the course. She loved stopping to take selfies. She loved getting to chat with Mr. Justin as he kept her going throughout the course. Ethan does enjoy running, to an extent, but he's seven. And a boy. And gets tired and bored easily. So I should not have been surprised that he never ran more than two minutes at a time, usually as fast as he would run, before he was done and had to walk. Yet, he was proud of those few moments he was able to run, he loved seeing all the people in costume as we ran, and enjoyed the one selfie I allowed us to stop and take. And he finished. In a really good time for someone who walked most of the race and had never done anything even remotely like this. And all I let myself see was that he didn't run as much as I wanted and he cried over glow sticks. #seriousfail

I forgot that they are unique and instead compared them to others. You would think that at almost 38 years old I would know by now that comparison never helps. It only hurts. And steals JOY. Yet, I did it that night with my precious children. The other kids in our group that night were rock stars. One of them actually ran the whole race with no training! They all gave it their best and did such a great job (at least that's what my head told me, but we weren't with them, so I really don't know!) I put my kids up against that and felt crushed at how poorly they did in comparison. But my kids are not those kids. They don't enjoy the same things or have the same skills and abilities. I should never have expected them to react in the same way. What was I thinking?!?!

I truly do hope that we can train a little and find another fun race (maybe another glow in the dark race or even a color race) that we can do together. I am pretty sure I can talk Ethan into that, we'll have to see about Sophie. But, more than that, I pray that I will take the lessons I learned from this hard, frustrating night and move ahead as a better parent.

Lord, give me a sensitive spirit when it comes to my children, that I may see what they truly need and be able to step up and provide that, through Your power. Help me to see their joy, even in my frustration, and to grab hold of that and live that with them. Teach me to be a parent that loves and leads and enjoys and points them to You at all times. Father, give me discernment to see each of their gifts and the bravery to encourage those gifts. Lord, show me how to teach them to use every skill and gift for Your glory.

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