Last year all the kids signed up for Cross Country. They went to practice every morning before school and trained really hard.
On the morning on the Cross Country meet, I decided to read them this poem; one of my favorites that I remembered from when I was younger.
by D. H. Groberg
Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.
The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.
They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”
And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”
We all attended the race and Rob and I were right on the sidelines cheering them on. Josh was the first to run in his age level. He is actually quite the runner and had come in 7th out of 200 the previous year. He got off to a good start, but within 15 seconds, he fell. They run on the beach, so the sand is hard to run on and then hard to get up. I could tell he was pretty discouraged. But we yelled from the sidelines “Get up Josh and run !”. He did, and he came in 16th (out of 200)- still pretty impressive! (I was so worried that I had jinxed him by reading that poem…but I was glad we had read it anyways!)
This morning was the first morning again for Cross Country. Sam and Josh were practicing. It is Sam’s first year – and he looked so cute lined up with his buddies! A couple of his buddies were fooling around at the front of the line and the gym teacher gave them a warning that someone would get hurt if they didn’t stop being silly (a common warning for 6 year olds!).
They started to run, and the two little “silly” boys continued to be “silly” and bumped into each other and subsequently fell. Of course, they fell and 20 kids were behind them, so I imagine it was pretty shocking and scary from their perspectives lying on the ground! They didn’t actually look too hurt – a scraped knee and maybe elbow at most. They both went running, in tears to their Mom’s who were standing nearby.
Of course, the Mama Bears comforted their little cubs (as they should). They kissed the boo-boos, hugged them and gave the words of comfort. The little cubs continued crying – even louder. They put bandaids on their knees (even though they didn’t really need bandaids – but most kids want the bandaids anyways…) and continued to console them. The little ones continued to cry and even asked to go home. They were comforted more, and kissed more, and consoled more. They kept crying. They were stroked and hugged even more. They cried.
Ok. Enough already.
I am a compassionate Mother Bear. I believe in kissing boo-boos, providing words of comfort, hugging and consoling.
But I also believe in teaching your children that “it’s not end of the world” and you sometimes need to pick yourself back up and keep going.
Although those Mama Bears were providing comfort, they were robbing their child the opportunity to learn from the experience: that despite adversity, despite feeling left behind, despite feeling pain or loss or shock, they can get up and “win that race”. Or as my husband would say “suck it up and keep going”.
I’m sure the Mama Bears would not have appreciated me saying that (although in that crowd I am construed as the wicked stepmother anyway), but I think sometimes we need another Mama Bear to shed some light and give some perspective. Comfort your child, and then send them on their way so they can learn how to keep going.
The most important thing our children need to hear from us is “You can do it! I believe in you! Get up and win that race”!.