I was a loser in high school.
No, literally. A loser.
Track. Golf. Every sport required in PE. I lost them all. I was clearly NOT athletically inclined.
My sophomore year I ran on the track team (I’m pretty sure there were no try-outs). I started out running the 800. And I lost. Then somehow I got thrown into hurdles which my school didn’t even have so my only practice was at the track meet itself. I lost all of those meets, too.
But one thing I never did was quit.
At the beginning of the season, my dad had pulled me aside for a heart to heart right before my first meet. And here’s what he said…
“Hey kid, good luck. Just remember it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. All that matters is you do your best and you finish the race.”
Apparently I took him seriously.
And I lost every meet that season. But I never quit. Not once. And I never gave it anything less than my best. Not once.
Then we moved to Texas and I harbored no false illusions that I should run track again. I still ran, but it was just for me. Unfortunately, I did need one more p.e. credit so I signed up for golf. And I was awful. I mean really, really awful. (My school even arranged for a private coach to come out and give me lessons for a few weeks.) But my dad’s words echoed in my head and no matter how awful I was, I never quit. I kept swinging with all my might.
These days I run purely for exercise and I NEVER pick up a golf club, but I still find myself in the midst of a race. Every day.
And there are days I want to quit.
Days I want to let everyone pass me by while I sit on the sidelines.
Days I want to throw in the towel and just give up. On my own kids. On my own mothering style. On my own ideals and expectations. On homeschooling and whole-food meals and patience.
There are days when I want to give less than my best. Days when I wonder if it really matters if I put my all into school lessons and meal planning. Days when I think I can’t possibly deal with one more issue or listen to one more complaint.
Weeks go by and I get lost in the forest and can no longer see the trees. You know those weeks. The ones where the one kid disrespects you every chance he gets, another complains wildly about the most insignificant things, everyone complains that they hate school (which you’ve poured your heart lovingly into preparing), no meal is complete without a dozen disgruntled comments, and you spend every free moment toting the ungrateful little people from one extra-curricular to the next.
And the thought to quit is so appealing.
I could just toss them all into school and sign them up for after-school care and every sport and extra-curricular known to man and spend my waking hours basking in well, whatever I feel like basking in. Shoot, to make the dream complete, maybe I could even hire a personal chef and a maid so that no complaint ever directly involves me. Yep, that plan crosses my mind often.
But then I remember Dad’s advice.
And I know he was right. All that matters is I give it my best and I finish the race.
It’s that intention, to give it my best and not to give up, that drives me every day. Every day that I want to pull the covers over my head and ignore the chaos. Every day that I am assaulted with whining and complaining and snotty noses.
Those are the days I have to take a deep breath and remember that finishing a race is a choice. And it is a choice meant to be made with intention.
We don’t start a race intending to quit. We start with the intention of finishing. Sometimes we lose sight of that intention as we focus on winning (ie. being the most admired mom out there [“how does she do it?”] or maybe being the mom with the most well-behaved kids at the weekly playdate [“those kids are so amazing”] or just being the mom that has it all together [“her house is perfect, her kids are perfect, her life is perfect”]), but the reality is we forget that finishing, with our best effort, is really all that matters.
So tomorrow I’ll try again. I’ll get up and I’ll give it my best. And it might be a good day or it might be a rotten day, but I’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that I gave it my all and I didn’t quit.
It’s a long run, this mothering race, but I am quite sure that finishing this race might just be one of the most intentional things I ever do in my life.