Here is part two of the story. Below is a list of the life lessons that my husband Eric and I share with Avie, age four, as well as his 11-month-old brother, Grey, during our runs together. They can be applied to any age of children and even adults!
Dale Carnegie said it best:
"Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions - it is governed by our mental attitude."
It is of utmost importance that I raise two boys to become men who do not complain about the weather. Why? Because happiness lies within, and external factors such as weather cannot touch true contentment. Besides, hearing moans and groans about weather tires my spirit. So, when Avie looks outside and says something like, "mom, I think it's too cold to run," I respond with something like, "running will warm us up!" or "it's never too cold to run!" With that, we gather and clothe with proper apparel and gear and bolt outside!
2. It's not about being the fastest or the best.
"Let's go running!" I announce to the boys. "I'm going to be the fastest!" Avie replies. While he may be fast, and I do encourage his speed, I also explain that running is not about being the fastest or the best. It's about enjoying the company you keep on the run, the sun shining through the trees, the wind kissing the face, the lungs expanding, the muscles working, the heart pumping, the sweat forming, the smile that physical movement brings to the soul and the satisfaction of a true and genuine effort. That's what running is about, no matter how fast one can go.
3. Excellent leaders come into position subtly, softly, with compassion and grace and by example.
It used to happen all the time. We would set forth on a run, and immediately Avie would shout, "I'm the leader!!!" if anyone passed him by. Anger would rise in his voice, and soon he'd be demanding that we all get behind him. Eventually I began describing how true leaders encourage others to follow - by hardly needing to say anything at all, by having a positive attitude and, most of all, by being kind to all beings, which means no bossing. It took months of leadership talk, but we have succeeded! Avie no longer panics if I or his dad passes him by. Rather, we all rotate and move along at various paces, taking turns leading, running back to one another, bringing up the rear and always finishing together.
4. Exercise paired with fresh air uplifts, refreshes and transforms.
When mid-afternoon slumps bring down the energy of the household or tantrums begin to escalate, a change of scenery is needed. Irritability, negative attitudes and poor listening (on Avie's part) and fussiness (on Grey's part) almost immediately resolve themselves upon stepping outside. Furthermore, channeling yucky energy into a simple, focused physical activity such as running transforms Avie's behavior as well as my own, and Grey maintains a focused calm as he watches us both in action. Avie has heard me say often, "I need to go for a run" and has witnessed me return with a calmer demeanor and clearer head. Now Avie has begun to say, "Mom, I need to put on my running shoes and run laps around the yard." He, too, comes back with more sense and peace about him. A win-win for all!
5."I can't" is counterproductive.
I'm an advocate of positive psychology, optimistic attitudes and a can-do attitude. So when Avie first uttered the phrase, "I can't" as we began running up a steep hill, my heart sunk (also because hill running is my personal favorite!). I countered his discouragement by sharing the story of "The Little Engine That Could." What we say we can do, we can do. And what we say we can't do, well, we can't. Our thoughts determine our words which determine our actions. These days I hear this phrase less and less often.
P.S. Read part one of the story for more inspiration: Five Things I Learned By Running with My Four-Year-Old Son.