This morning, my husband Andy watched as our girls and I got ready to go for a run. As we laced up our shoes, he grinned and said: “What a mean mother you are making everyone run before breakfast!”
Although Andy was joking, I’m sure many people might take his words seriously. Perhaps they would indeed think I am a mean mother because what other explanation is there? Surely four girls wouldn’t choose to get up early, pull on their running gear and head out the door when they could stay in bed?
A few days ago, after I’d finished my morning run, I watched my daughters as they finished theirs. Despite having run about 6 km, they suddenly picked up speed. With determined looks on their faces, they sprinted towards me side-by-side.
A few moments later, as they eagerly upturned their bottles and gulped down water, I asked: “Why do you do it? Why do you always come running with me? You could choose to stay in bed.”
“Well, I have to admit that sometimes the thought of running doesn’t appeal. So I refuse to think. I just roll out of bed and get dressed. And then by the time I’m fully awake, I’m here. And that’s good.”
“Running is hard work. When I’m only halfway up a steep hill, and my legs are aching, I wonder why I do it. But the feeling afterwards? It’s so good. It’s worth all the effort.”
“Running is a challenge. I get a huge sense of achievement from doing it.”
“I like being part of the Team. If I stayed in bed and you all went without me, I’d be missing something. I’d be the only one who hadn’t worked hard.”
“I love being out here in the bush at this time of morning when everyone else is still in bed. We’re doing something no one else is doing!”
Once the girls’ breathing had returned to normal, we gathered our hoodies and water bottles, and plodded home. It was time to eat.
Listening to my girls, it seems to me that kids love challenges. They choose to work very hard without any prodding from us. Perhaps they even have an inner need to get their teeth (or feet!) into something difficult.
Unless, of course, we keep them busy doing things we think are important. Then there will be no reason for them to challenge themselves because we’ll be doing it for them.
“So what are we having for breakfast?” Sophie asked as we approached our house.
“That reminds me,” said Imogen. “Breakfast tastes so good after we’ve had a long run. I’d do it just for that!”
Of course, your kids might not run, but I bet they do like to be challenged. Perhaps we all have an inner need to do something that pushes us beyond our comfort zone. What do you think?
Image: Walking home from a run. Even Nora, our dog likes to work hard which is just as well, because she doesn’t have a choice!