Last Saturday my 5-year-old daughter and I ran our first 5km together. We were taking part in the Mini Mermaid Running Club Virtual 5km, which meant it was just us - no race day atmosphere, drinks stations or crowd to cheer us on.
The night before the "race" we talked about how far it was and how hard it might be, and she was naively excited. Trying on her running t-shirt and jumping around the house in anticipation.
She woke me early on Saturday morning and was eager to set off, as was I, considering the 29-degree temperatures and high humidity of Singapore. But, It wasn't long before the fun and excitement faded and the reality of the situation set in. The run was not going to be fun.
In all honesty, it wasn't the greatest 90 minutes of my life, and I suffered enormous waves of mother guilt while we slogged the pavement. But, despite how mean I felt, I thought it was very important that we completed the race, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, we were not doing this race for us, we were doing it to enable other girls to take part in the MMRC program in the USA through their One4One program. We had discussed that numerous times in the lead up to the race and during the run itself. At one point I firmly said "Olive, this is not about you, this is about doing something hard for someone else", at which stage she decided to quieten down for a few hundred metres. I believe it is important that we do things for others, and I think it is important that we develop this in our children, for them to understand it is not all about them, which is a hard concept to grasp at 5 years.
The use of the word hard was also fitting - the run was hard. It was hot; it was humid; it was a long way for her little legs, but I wanted to demonstrate to her that life is hard and that good things take hard work.
See, my daughter doesn't comprehend hard. Not, in the same way, many other children her age might, especially in developing regions. She doesn't come home from school and tend animals, or collect firewood or water, or care for her brother on her back. In fact, many children walk 5kms to and fro school on a daily basis, this would literally be a walk in the park for them. Olive's world is clean and comfortable and not very hard at all, and raising children in an environment like Singapore can be challenging, because we are not giving them enough opportunities to comprehend hard.
Finally, I want my daughter to understand the potential of her body and mind. During the run, she threw a barrage of insults at me, from "I do not like you right now" to "I never want to run again". If you had been a bystander to the situation, it would be fair to say I looked like a horrible mother forcing my daughter to be a champion long distance runner. Pushing her onwards as the sweat and tears merged on her cheeks (yes, it really was that bad).
I am not forcing my daughter to be a runner, but I do want her to understand the power and potential of her body and mind. I want her to comprehend her limitless potential and that it is up to her to push and strive and motivate to achieve her goals, not mine.
When we got home, I was clearly proud of her, but I didn't make a huge deal of it (I sound horrible I know). The reason being, I love her regardless. If she had completed the race or not, she is still loved and I was still immensely proud. I want her to understand that you should be surrounded by those who support you, love you and are there for you if you fail or if you finish.
So, it wasn't the most pleasant experience, and she refused to speak to me for at least 30 minutes. Yes, it was a tough ask of a five year old, but, I can assure you; she has worn her running smile with pride all week and cashed in several times on the achievement - a mighty achievement indeed. You would also be pleased to hear that she asked if we could go running again the next day, only she would take her scooter....