The air has been abuzz with excitement since he came home from school yesterday, telling us that he had to have an enormous breakfast before his race, because he’d need the energy for his run. When questioned about his feelings on winning races, he casually said, “Oh, it’s okay- there’s no way I can win because I’m not the fastest kid in my class,” working his way on to breakfast #2. His little sister, just as chilled, said, “You don’t have to win. You just have to do your best, isn’t that right, Mummy?” Everyone nodded, toast in mouths, and that was that.
Phew. All that brainwashing has been working! I am astounded.
Because, I must admit to being a little concerned about how to manage the whole ‘win/lose’ thing. How can you tell a child that you want them to be intrinsically motivated, to play sports for the fun of it and not be spurred on by a win that may never happen? After all, don’t we all love a pat on the back, a little piece of paper or swatch of blue ribbon to recognise our worth? Don’t we all like to win?
I sat on the sidelines today watching the junior section of the school participate in a fantastic and thrilling carnival atmosphere. The little tykes raced like the wind, pumping their limbs and occasionally tossing a smile at the encouraging crowd. Even the children who didn’t place were smiling because they were having so much fun.
One little man had listened intently to his father at breakfast today when he told him to “run with big steps!” His Dad could possibly have mentioned that the steps should go front to back and not side to side… but, thankfully, he did a practice run before the race, and this little glitch was ironed out enough for forward motion to take place when it mattered most!
My own memories of school sports days are actually quite traumatic, because I was the kid who always came last. My parents never came to watch me, which was sort of good, because they didn’t see me lose, but sort of bad because I had nobody to encourage me.
Another parent shared her negative memories of childhood sports with me, and recalled those dreadful moments when children got to choose who was in their team- that agonising wait for some of us who were consistently overlooked because everyone knew we weren’t fast. Sigh…
But this is not about us anymore, is it? Those days are over and now we are watching evolution at its best.
Today I witnessed teachers and parents running with children who were struggling. Tears threatened to spill at such a beautiful display of teamwork and support. The children whose parents couldn’t attend were supported by their team mates, their teachers and their friends. People took photos and videos to share with them later, knowing that they would have been there if they could.
One Mum recalled a Sports Day four years ago where one of the children lost his shoe and fell over during a long race. A Dad from the crowd (not even his, mind you) ran over to him, helped him on with his shoe and ran the rest of the race side by side with that little fellow.
These little tableaus warmed me enough to melt away some of those old anxieties because that time has long gone. This is the time for our children. The positive experiences we provide for them will stay with them forever. These are the years where they build their neural pathways and lay down the foundations for the future.
And rather than living vicariously through our children, we should proudly stand witness to the changes that have come about since we were kids, and maybe build a few new pathways for ourselves.
Caylie writes weekly essays on her blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to help people feel less alone through shared laughter, tears and inspiration. She works to transform everyday events into vivid sketches, showing an understanding of what parents, women and people in the community are going through.
Her first book, Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers, is now available for purchase online, at selected books stores and via her website.