I know I'm risking being one of "those" parents. I probably talk too much about my kids, take too many pictures of them, brag about them, write about them, and spend too much time worrying that they're going to be okay in this world. I think I have become the parent that used to really annoy the unmarried me, the me without kids who used to tune out the parents when they started in on how amazing/cute/funny/smart their kids were. Well, I'm a parent now, and mine are all of those things.
I never wanted to push my kids into running, especially my girls, because I have seen firsthand what unhealthy body issues, burnout, and serious competition at a young age can do to a little girl. There is a track team at the elementary school and my daughter tries out for it every year, she wants it so bad that she loses sleep the night before the tryouts, getting physically sick from nerves, but they only take one boy and one girl from each class, the rest have to wait for middle school, where the cross country and track teams are much more accepting, thank God, because track and cross country were always the sports that you didn't have to try out for, you just showed up and ran. If you were crazy enough, that is. In my high school, we were the misfits, the too skinny to play football, the too unskilled to play baseball, the too uncool to surf all day, we wanted to do a sport, and track became that outlet. For me, that lasted one year, but it was a memorable one.
When you live in a house like ours, where either my wife or I is in some form of serious training, wearing stinky running clothes all day, torturing our kids with post-run sweaty hugs, it is hard to keep this passion of ours to ourselves. When the local 5K added an option to pay for one family member, and the rest of the family can join and run/walk the event, I thought about asking my daughter to jog it with me, and I did some research in one of my favorite running books, Lydiard's "Running to the Top," and came across this...
Is running bad for young children?
We have discussed the behavior of children and their ability to use oxygen but they also, usually, have more common sense than the average adult. Adults will very often push themselves beyond their capabilities in the effort to succeed but a child, once he starts to hurt, will ease down a bit, even to a walk, and then start off again. At that age, winning isn't as important for most of them as it becomes when they are older.
We should all proceed like children in training, letting ourselves be guided by our own reactions. We should understand our limitations and keep within them. If we do that, particularly when we are training, we will get better results in the long run.
It's something children can teach us.I floated the idea to my daughter over dinner a couple of nights ago. She screamed, more like a high-pitched wail, the one she reserves for something really good, or really, really bad. Then she started crying. Oh shit, what had I done. My wife ran to her, hugging the 9 year old ball of emotional wreck. She quickly told our daughter that she didn't have to run if she didn't want to, giving me a puzzled, one eyebrow raised, accusatory, bordering on dirty, look. "No," my daughter said wiping the tears, "I want to run; I'm just so happy."
So, yesterday we talked about pacing. I told her she could take as many walk breaks as she wanted. I told her we would jog/run/walk the thing together on Saturday, and even before the gun has gone off, she has made me proud.