At my daughters’ school, they have a small running carnival, just for kindy to year 2. And one of the highlights is the parents’ race – one for the mums and one for the dads.
It’s all meant to be good fun and a chance to show our kids that it just doesn’t matter if you win or lose (and perhaps look a bit silly), but let me tell you the parents race is, in fact, a lot more serious than that – and it’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz.
The mums’ race
When my older daughter was in kindy, I had a toddler joined to my hip so I couldn’t enter the mums’ race and, to be honest, I was a little scared to do so. I hadn’t run a race like that since high school, and even then I always came last. However, when my toddler was suddenly in kindy herself, I had no more excuses and thought why not.
The mums all gathered at the start line, some caught unawares in their jeans and boots with others were wearing more serious running outfits. Before we started, the teacher explained that some of the little ones were feeling sad as they were not winning ribbons, and asked if perhaps the mums could treat it as a bit of fun?
“Maybe you could hold hands and skip over the finish line?” she said with a laugh. This was met with stony silence. Even I thought to myself, “I don’t think so.”
I did it!
The minute the whistle blew, I felt the pressure of speedy mums either side of me and all too suddenly, it was not about having fun, it was about winning that race. My daughter had all her friends cheering for me – and I couldn’t believe it, but I actually won! Far better than skipping over the finish line. The first running race I’d ever won. And it felt great!
I couldn’t wait for the next year – and when the carnival arrived, again I won. Champion of the K-2 mums’ race two years in a row. I was on a roll and fast gaining a reputation at school pick-up.
The final sprint
This year was a different matter. At last week’s carnival, my daughter’s last for K-2, I reminded myself that it didn’t matter, it’s all about having a go and participating in a race. Not about winning. I even tried to look casual on the day, although I still secretly put on my running shoes and sports bra.
The final moment arrived and I took off. But alas there was a newcomer, a kindy mum who was simply faster. And a lot more determined, I have to say. I tried my best but she pipped me at the post so I had to be satisfied with coming second. Which was fine. Sort of.
I collected my ribbon, contributed a point to my daughter’s house and tried to feel positive and upbeat about my race. I saw a friend of my older daughter, who is a house captain, and was helping with the little ones’ carnival.
“I didn’t win,” I said to her sorrowfully.
And she, who is, in fact, a speedy runner herself, simply smiled and said, “It doesn’t matter.”
I stopped where I was. She was right of course. But I’d forgotten.
A not-so disappointing result
And it didn’t matter. My daughter was still proud to see me run and give it my all. And I came second, which is still really great. And I didn’t fall over, which one of the fathers did in the dads’ race. He was okay but had to limp off. At least I didn’t end up having to go to the physio or worse, the emergency department.
As parents, we have to remember what we try and teach our little ones when they come last in a race. Competitive sport is great for so many reasons – exercise, having fun and learning that it just doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s good to try your best, but at the end of the day, winning isn’t everything.
That said, having been thrown in the situation myself, I suddenly could empathise with my daughter and what she went through that day when she finished up fourth in her heat.
I really wanted to win, but luckily, just as I was just teetering on the edge of becoming one of those highly competitive parents, a child wisely reminded me, it just “doesn’t matter.”