Friday, July 27, 2012

Running a Family

The other day my 14 year-old daughter felt the need to pull me aside for a serious heart-to-heart before things got out of hand.  “Dad, I don’t want to run.”  She was trying to break it to me easy, afraid she would hurt my feelings.  I was taken aback.  Do I really put that much pressure on my family to take part in my personal addiction?

My wife Beth and I are raising four children between the ages of 11 and 20, and so far no one has shown a desire to try running as a sport.  Worthless Dog won’t even last to the mailbox.  I admit, I would be pleased as punch if one of my kids became a runner, but I sure hope I am not putting emotional pressure on them with the 5k registrations and invitations for a quick run; especially the younger, more impressionable ones.  How does one encourage children in running, in a healthy way?

If my children choose to read books and play, I am OK with that.  I am a firm believer though, in a life balance between the intellectual, spiritual and physical.  My children seem to have a firm grounding in the first two, but I worry about the third.  Is it because I take my sport to such extremes (in my children’s eyes) that I may actually be discouraging them?  If I were merely a jogger, would they be jogging with me?  Their equating anything physically uncomfortable as “bad” worries me.

What I do not want to encourage in my children is the mantra of discomfort avoidance.  How do I teach my children that great things in life can be accomplished if you are willing to suffer a bit?  I see kids with a lot of physical drive, accomplishing remarkable things in sports.  How were they motivated to gut out hill repeats?  What role did Taylor Phinney’s or Dakota Jones’ parents take in encouraging their children?

I can only hope that, by my example, I am planting seeds for later on in life; that they are not ready yet for a commitment to the physical.

Which brings me to my youngest.  My 11 year-old boy is a natural runner.  In play, I cannot catch him if he doesn’t want me to.  He can go from rest to 6:30 pace in nothing flat, with a smile on his face, on technical terrain, with beautiful form.  He also desperately wants to please me.  I am afraid that if he takes up running, it would be for the wrong reasons, and then hate it for the rest of his life.  But I so would love to encourage him in running a bit more competitively.  How young is too young for this?

So here is my plan:  Worthless Dog is within a few years of the great yummy bistro in the sky.  If I get Replacement Dog, of a breed conducive to distance running, and make my boy responsible for its upkeep and health...  A dog needs to run, right?  Wish me luck!

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