Field Day is upon us once again, and, unlike most people, I dread it. My son thinks he is one of the slowest runners in his grade. He thinks he shouldn’t bother trying in races because he isn’t going to win. I was one of the slowest runners in my grade. I remember the anxiety, embarrassment and disappointment I felt every year at Field Day. I feel a pang of guilt when I think of the slow runner (and generally bad athlete) genes I’ve passed down to my son. But then I think of Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare.
When I complained about how hard something was for me, my Dad always reminded me about the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise was a buzz word for us that meant hard work and perseverance. There are always going to be people with more talent, energy and means. That shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. The tortoise has gotten me through some really tough times, and I think I’m a much better person for the challenges I’ve had and overcome.
When I look at my son, I see an amazing kid with so many gifts to share. I want to give him the gift of perseverance that my Dad gave me. It’s a daunting task. Especially as the world around us becomes more and more focused on immediate gratification.
The story of the tortoise is about delayed gratification and the importance of working steadily toward a goal. But how do I teach that to my son? I’ve been thinking that there are a few small things I can do to help him learn this really important life lesson.
First, I can share the fable with him and explain how it made a difference in my own life. Second, I can share with him my daily struggles and teach him some of the tools I use (self-talk, redirection and rewards) to reach difficult goals. Third, I can ask him about what’s hard for him, how he deals with it and what he learns from his experiences.
If he’s anything like me, he will not learn by example. I dodged a lot of bullets in my teenage and college years and I’m sure he will too. During those years, the talks I had with my Dad growing up were always at the back of my mind. I always knew that if I worked hard enough I could accomplish anything, even if I was coming from behind. I know it’s going to be hard work, but I’m going to try really hard to give that to my son. And I hope that some day he shares the tortoise with his kids.