Be the type of person you wish to see your children become

  • This was printed in June of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 58th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

As a parent, a somewhat young one, I frequently worry about my parenting skills. I’m

constantly concerned that I might be doing something wrong and that my kids will turn

out to be royally screwed up because of the way I’ve raised them.

For now, the consensus from my family and friends is that I have nothing to worry about.

I’m doing a good job as a parent and my kids are pretty awesome.

I believe that running has a lot to do with that.

Parents are their children’s first — and most important — role models. That is why it is

so important to chuck “do as I say, not as I do” out the window and fully commit to being

the kind of person that you want to see your son or daughter become.

My daughter, Jazlyn, is at an age (four) where she wants to be just like her mommy. She,

like me, is enamored with running. The declarations “I’m practicing for a marathon,”

“I’m going to run marathons just like my mom,” and “When I grow up I’m going to run

the fastest marathon” have all come out of her mouth more than once.

Even if she doesn’t turn out to be a runner at all, I know she’ll still take something

positive from her experiences at races and around other runners.

My daughter LOVES hanging with “the running buddies,” as she calls them. She

regularly dines and chats with my friends, people who run 26.2 miles for fun and

ultramarathons for a challenge. Mingling with a crowd of goal-setters and determined

achievers makes her — and I — think that anything is possible.

Goals are limitless. That’s a lesson I hope she takes away from watching her parents and

our friends run.

At Jazlyn’s age, body image has not yet become an issue. Her love for running is pure;

she does it because it brings her joy, not because she is worried about the way she looks.

I don’t think she even realizes that some people run to lose or maintain weight. She

doesn’t understand what “staying in shape” means. To her, no body type is preferred over

another. And among runners, body types run the gamut.

No one is too short or too tall or too light or too heavy to be a runner. My kids and I have

seen 105-pound women and 205-pound women cross marathon finish lines. That may

mean nothing to my children right now, but I hope it leaves an impression on their

subconscious — that size doesn’t matter, willpower does.

As the daughter of two athletes with BMIs (body mass index) in the “healthy/normal”

range, I doubt Jazlyn will ever struggle with weight. She’s naturally athletic and slender,

as is my son. Still, I believe that exposing them to the running community, one that is

encouraging and non-bullying when it comes to body type, will keep them from bullying

others.

There are myriad other lessons to be learned from running: philanthropy, active living,

healthy eating, remaining drug-free, persistence, courage, leadership and all of the other

words you see on motivational posters.

If my kids learn but half of these lessons, I’ll be satisfied with my parenting.

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