There is not an immediate and exact connection between what we teach and the example we set for our children and what they learn and how they incorporate it into their lives as they grow up. It’s one of the scariest things about parenting to me. I love math. Plug in the formula and the correct answer emerges. Not so with kids. I vex over how to communicate X and Y better, more passionately, more fervently, so they know that X and Y are some of the REALLY important things I want them to take away. But then they pick up Z without me really trying. Almost like osmosis.
Running is Z for me.
Here is an interesting case study. Not scientific, but still interesting and satisfying to me.
I started running again when I turned 40. I had been on the cross country team in high school and fell in love with distance running. Not super long distances, but the standard 2 to 5 miles we did back in the 80s. I continued through college, but after marrying Doug and beginning to have babies every couple of years, it just fell away. One day, after my body had suggested pretty clearly that there would be no more babies, I realized how much I missed running. So I just started again.
Liberty and Justice often volunteered to come with me. We’d go in the evening, after dinner and often after dark when the littles were put to bed. I think they just wanted to be with me, have time with me just by themselves. And something happened when we walked or ran in the dark. I think sometimes it’s easier for teens to open up when their faces aren’t being scrutinized and when there is not direct eye to eye contact. I haven’t done any scientific studies on this, ha, and I sure taught my kids to look me in the eye when we talk, but just going off the topics they brought up and the depth and range of conversations we had out there in the dark, trudging -sometimes walking and sometimes running - for miles around the neighborhood, I’d say they were very comfortable in that scenario and felt unusually free and open for teenagers.
As you can guess, before long, they both got too fast for me and would only hang back with me to warm up or have a chat. Then they were off on their own runs.
Liberty started out hating to run. Yes, actually despising it. And she was rather vocal about it, even though she was choosing to continue. Somehow, she stuck with it though. And I think she enjoyed the 5ks and half marathons we raked in because we did them as a family. Joshua never had to train and would beat all of us. Jubilee was a natural, too. A local park sponsored free 5ks one Saturday morning a month and we joined in often. One of my favorite birthday celebrations was running the Clark Gardens Half Marathon in Dallas with Josh, Justice, and Liberty. Justice moved on to marathons, Spartan races, triathalons, and then the crazy awesome ultras he does now. Joshua and Justice ran the RimtoRimtoRim in the Grand Canyon. But Liberty and I eschewed the longer distances. We loved the half and said we weren’t going further.
Then we heard about the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon in New Mexico. Hmmm, Liberty said maybe we should reconsider a full marathon. Doug’s great uncle survived the Death March only to die a couple of months later in Camp Cabanatuan. Running the marathon to honor his memory and bring attention to the survivors was a pretty motivating reason. So we started training. Seriously training. The Bataan Death March is on the harder side of the spectrum of marathons because of the hills, the sand, and the heat. But then I tore my meniscus and Liberty was needed to help Doug on an international project. Put it on the back burner.
Fast forward 2 years. Liberty continued to run to keep in shape and now she absolutely loves it. Her long distance races are always connected to relationships. Her first marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon through which she raised half the funds necessary to send an Iwo Jima Marine vet back to Iwo Jima. She has been to Iwo and has some dear, dear friends who fought there, survived, and needed the healing of going back. Running the marathon to raise support for a WWII vet was a no-brainer. Frankly, I don’t know that she would have bitten off a whole marathon if it didn’t have the relationship connection.
And the research she had been sweating over to find out more about Uncle Israel, his service during the war, the Death March, his captivity and ultimate death at Cabanatuan, was beginning to pay off. Pieces and details were coming together. She thought about him all the time.
So, a couple of weeks ago, Liberty completed the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon. If you’d like to hear her side of the story, you can find it here. It was much more than another marathon.
Could it be that the impetus for all the running was rooted in RELATIONSHIP? First relationship with me/Mom, then relationship with extended family, friends, and then with people associated with the history of extended family and history of people that she just loves?
Justice’s story is for another day. I am still working on my write up of the 100 miles I spent with him on the PCT. Josh runs whenever he needs it. He is still super fast, but would rather run with friends and make a memorable event out of it. For two years now, Virginia has set a number of 5ks to run as part of her yearly goals. Jubilee and Faith have joined in and are now training for a special event later in the year. They both have “I Hate Running” t-shirts that they train in. They say that they just do not like running. Not yet anyway. :-)