When was the last time you did something different with your kids?
We took our toddlers for a 3 kilometre run over the weekend
Over the weekend, we took both our children (3-1/2 years and 1-1/2 year old) for an organised 3 kilometre run at the Desert Palm, a wonderful green oasis and polo club in Dubai.
A 6.45am race start on a Friday morning meant we needed to leave the house before 6am. It was not as cool outside as I expected it to be (29degC / 82degF). Although I was super excited while booking the race, with the humidity, crack of dawn start, and 3K distance for my 3-year old to complete; the night before the race I had major doubts on whether this was a good idea.
What was I thinking dragging my kids and husband and parents to a race on a humid Friday morning!?
My parents go for a walk every morning around 6am, so they were quite encouraging and in the worst-case scenario we could abandon the race and play in the grass. In which case, it would be a waste of money, but hey, how bad could it be?
Luckily, all of us went to bed at 8pm the night before so race morning wake-up was easy; my daughter was excited, and my husband felt well rested.
Before I had children, I would do one of these runs twice per month. I was an average 10K runner, but I really enjoyed it. I would go with my two girlfriends and we would have a big breakfast and catch up afterwards. I missed the endorphins from a race and was impatient for my daughter to be exposed to it.
We arrived at the race venue at 6.30am. A lush green open area with people playing polo in the background, One Republic playing on the stereo, loads of children getting pumped for their run, a surprisingly nice breeze - ah I almost teared up with joy! This is exactly the kind of environment I wanted to expose my children to.
My children are super active and fast on their feet; too fast maybe! Signing up for the race was my way of encouraging them to run their hearts out. Except, 3 kilometres is a long distance for a 3-year old. My son would likely be knocked down by other runners so he had to be carried all the way.
All that said, I am so proud to share that my daughter completed the entire distance on her own. Walking, running, chatting, stopping to watch the horses – but she did it! She got a medal, orange juice and some chocolate after the race and was delighted.
What I learned from this experience:
Your kids will always surprise you
I ran with my daughter while the rest of the family was plodding behind with my 18-month old son. I was prepared to abandon race after 1 kilometre. However, with a bit of encouragement from me, cheers from runners and marshals we passed on the way, and seeing other children run; Ria completed the 3 kilometre distance on her feet and I couldn’t be prouder. Of course I wanted her to finish it, but my rational mind knew it was asking a lot of a 3-year old. But she did it! She never ceases to surprise me and I think that is the true wonder of children.
Giving your kids an opportunity to feel accomplishment is so rewarding
Not even a 100 metres into the race, Ria asked for water, to be picked up, and was upset that her shoes were wet from the grass and knees were covered in mud.
We were a bit tough on her here and when she realized that she needs to continue despite her discomfort, she put it aside and got on with it. She did complain a few more times on the way, but all in all she walked most of it with me. We had some great chats about horses and their poo looking like balls, and she sprinted every time she saw a yellow direction sign on the route.
They handed out medals at the end of the race and Ria was so proud of herself! She will take her medal to school to show her teacher. I feel she overcame a limiting belief she may have had in her head with this accomplishment, we just gave her a platform.
It’s okay for your kids to be out of their comfort zone sometimes
I feel that we always attempt to ensure that everything is super comfortable for our kids, all the time. Of course, this is not a bad thing.
In this case, I’m sure that if I had given in to Ria’s urges to pick her up, to give her water every 30 seconds, and to let her take off her wet shoes 5 minutes into the race, we wouldn’t have finished the 3 kilometre distance. Ria wouldn’t have felt a sense of accomplishment, and I would have felt defeated. Sometimes letting them be outside their comfort zone can be remarkable for their development.
Taking my 18-month old was a bit too optimistic
In hindsight, my son was too small for this race and maybe I should’ve just gone with my daughter.
Having said that, I think he absorbed something from being in a new environment; seeing other people and children run; seeing big sister run and winning a staring competition with a beautiful horse.
It’s not nice to leave him behind, but maybe I need to be more practical next time.
Quality time like this with your children is unique
I struggle as I often feel like I don’t spend enough quality time with my children. This 3 kilometre, uninterrupted walk with my daughter was priceless quality time with her. No phones, no distractions, a beautiful environment, lots of exercise, lots of chat, a huge sense of accomplishment in the end. It really doesn’t get better. Perhaps I need to seek more opportunities like this.
Research shows that children grow and develop rapidly in their first five years across four main areas of development: motor skills, language and communication, cognitive and emotional. I hope experiences like this will contribute something to the overall development of my children.
When was the last time you did something different with your child?