As part of winding down of the school year, Emily had her first track meet today. Kids from 5 or 6 of the elementary schools in the area come to the Middle School and get to run on the track. They’re all excited (maybe just because they’re not stuck in a classroom and they know the year’s almost done), parents are excited, teachers are a little frazzled trying to get everyone where they need to be at the right time – but they’re excited too!
Emily was one of the kids not so much excited by the running and racing as by the fact that she was getting to be outside all day. She likes to be active, but hasn’t ever really shown too much interest in being athletically competitive. The thrill of winning never seemed to interest her as much as the chatting on the sidelines with her friends. That may have just changed…
I have to be honest and say that I didn’t have high expectations of 3rd grade track and field glory today. She tried to convince us to let her run in her canvas flats (that would fall off if they were run in) because she didn’t run that fast anyway and her tennis shoes made her feet too hot. The 50 meter dash was her race of choice – because they had to choose something and it was the shortest choice available. As we headed for a shady spot, I told her to get her tennis shoes back on when the girls were running the 100m. “Why do I have to put them on that early?” I explained to her that each heat of the 400 would be a minute and a half or so, the 100 would only take about 20 seconds and then she was up. “So how long will the 50 take?” I said, “You’ll only have to run for about 10 seconds, so run as hard as you can.” She got a huge grin at the realization that her “running” task would be so brief and the satisfaction of knowing she had chosen “well”!
I’ve been emphasizing to her that I didn’t care if she won or lost or was stuck in the middle somewhere, I just wanted her to do her best. That’s all I ever really want from my kids – the best effort they can muster up. At the realization of the brevity of her run, she finally agreed that she would do her best. When the whistle blew, she took off and ran her best for 50 meters. Today, her best was enough to win the race! I know it’s only third grade and it’s only one short race, but today I’m very proud of my oldest child.
Not because she won, but because she did her best. She tried as hard as she could to run as fast as she could. I love how she got excited at the end. There was something in her eyes that wasn’t there before – or at least not as brightly. When it finally dawned on her that she won (which wasn’t for several seconds after she’d walked off the track) she had this huge grin and a look of disbelief. I could see the thoughts forming in her mind “I actually won! If I can win this, what else can I do? What dreams can I achieve?”
Her imagination is running wild with possibilities. And she’s just learned that great effort can create great outcomes. My little girl surprised me today – reminded me to never write off the unexpected. I have a feeling she’s going to surprise a lot of people for the rest of her life – not necessarily on the track – as she imagines her way into a tomorrow very different from today.