Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Race

Inspired by our friend Anne Ryerson, we decided to sign Atticus and Dietrich up for their first official race: The TCT Medtronic Half Mile over at the capitol building in St.Paul. For a few weeks I would practice with them, keeping them running while ignoring their whines and whimpers and lethargic, tragic-comic protests of weakness, tiredness, hunger, injury, and my cruelty in making them do such a ludicrous exercise in futility. It was awesome. I fear for their future life success. I even spent a few conversations with them reading from the Bible about not running aimlessly ("beating the air" as Paul says) and running with purpose to "win the prize" -- trying to explain how running and finishing a race is like living life with Christ as our goal, as our happy thought to pull us through to then end, to throw off all hindrances and fight through the tiredness and the pain for a worthwhile end. (I'm pretty sure they heard nothing I said, but for a few days afterwards they thought running around beating the air was fun.)
Well, the day before, we picked up their t-shirts and running numbers from Atticus' school. We drove over to St.Paul on a beautiful clear, chilly Saturday morning to see the capitol building for (my) first time and meet up with the collected groups of elementary students out on the front lawn. We waited a long time...first for the starting line-up, then a longer time in a massive crowd of young runners and their parents. It was quite surreal with music pumped out over speakers, a radio announcer interviewing little kids, parents chatting, kids antsy, confused, and for my boys -- wrestling and fighting with each other while I broke up their fights 527 times. Finally we started off. Atticus did great -- no complaining, taking off ahead of us, looking back, running back to be with us, and then shooting ahead again -- in a casual, I-love-people-and-crowds-and-this-is-so-fun-I-am-totally-a-Johannsen-down-to-my-toes kind of way. Dietrich, well...yeah...Dietrich. Dietrich began complaining quietly to me, then he stopped "running" entirely as I encouraged him on. He began whining loudly. He started crying. Then he started weeping and yelling and, truly, truly, growling. Growling in a threatening, death-throes sort of way. Kid-runners made space for him. Parents stared. I just focused on my son. "Well, you can sit on the curb here and I will come back and get you. You will be safe." But he wouldn't stop -- not running, not wailing and growling. So I held his hand and we ran the half mile -- the entire half mile with his head thrown back growling threats and doom and death. And the respectable part of me was mortified. And the mother part of me was sorry for my poor boy and worried about his character and how I should help him become stronger. And the observer part of me, the part of me watching this scene from the crowd on the side of the street, started laughing. Yes, I started laughing, trying to hide it at first (so as not to incense further my furious child), but then I was laughing so hard, I was wheezing and crying and shaking. It was so ridiculous, and so exactly how I approach so much of living life. My poor kid. He is me. Except that he is 3 years old and he is a male which means he has even more rage and doesn't hide things very well yet. But we made it to the finish line. Volunteers at the end were holding armfuls of pretty gold medals hanging from bright yellow ribbons -- one for every kid who finished the race. One kind, silver-haired lady offered one to the still angry, weeping Dietrich -- He looked at her, looked at me, and yelled right into my face "No! No! I don't want one! I didn't finish the race!" I apologized to the lady, and took Dietrich aside to discipline him for his rudeness to her and to me. Then I told him, "Deke, you did finish the race -- not with the right attitude, not with the right heart, but you did finish the race. Would you like a medal? He glaringly but quietly took it from my hand. Then I took his hand and we went to find Atticus and Brad and the little ones. By the time we found them on the sidelines, Dietrich had magically transformed into smiles and lightness -- cheerfully showing Brad his award and proudly declaring how strong he was and how he has finished the race and made his feet to keep going all the way to the end, and so on, all the way to the car and home. I have no idea what he actually learned this day, but I am thankful he finished. Proud that Atticus cheerfully ran the entire course, and praying hard for wisdom through the emotions and growls of many more important races to come.


erizabat said...

wow. what a fanastic post. this made me laugh so hard...and I even knew the story already.

Leah Miller said...

Me, too, Liz!
But the words were hard for me to read because they are so close together. You need to give TV lovers a couple pics in between the sentences. Ok? :)