Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On Effort

This past week, I received yet another rejection for one of my picture books, my long-time critique partner bailed on me yet again and I realized I need to find another person or group, and my husband's work schedule and my children's sports schedule requires me to miss half a day of a writing conference I was excited about.

There is definitely a part of me that wants to throw my hands up in despair. "Everything's against me! The world doesn't want me to write!" this part of me wants to whimper.

But I can't give in to that part of me. I'll honor it with a little time, some chocolate and wine, and then tuck it away and ignore it like I always do when these feelings crop up.

This time it's a little easier to get on with it and get back to writing, thanks to the example my kids have given me on what effort looks like.

This past Sunday, my children had their first cross-country meet. They are only 5, 7, and 9; the younger two (boys) run 700 meters and the older one (girl) runs a full mile. The two boys think they're pretty awesome and are big smack-talkers...for weeks before this race the two were perfecting the  Usain Bolt-style "dab" they'd do at the end of their race when they won it. When they won their individual races. There was never a doubt in these boys' minds. Big egos indeed, and the two of them together made the other keep on talking. My husband and I warned them that 40 boys would be in each race, that there are lots of speedy little runners in our new home state, and gave them the proverbial "Just give it your best effort and we'll be proud" speech.

The first race of the day: kindergarten boys. Our youngest child strode up to the line, his chest puffed out with pride, his shaky smile trying to look confident, his mind totally focused on what he was about to do. You could see the excitement in his face, but there was no mistaking the sprinkle of fear there, too. The starter blew the whistle, and he was off! He sprinted to the front as fast as he could, and ran down the hill with 39-ish boys close behind, chasing him.

The course wound down into some trees, then along a path before it followed a fairly steep hill up, up, up before the course leveled out to a nice, flat straightaway before the balloon-arch finish line. After I watched him and the other five year old runners disappear into the woods, I walked over to the top of the hill. I waited a bit, then saw other people further down the hill start to clap. I knew the boys were on their way out of the woods and up the hill.

But I was wrong. It wasn't a group of boys. It was one boy. It was MY BOY! His bright neon yellow shorts were moving in rhythm: left, right, left, right. He was in first place! MY BOY was in first place! I yelled like only a crazed mother could. I could tell from his face that he was tired, that gravity and exhaustion and the heat of the day and his ridiculous fast start were pressing on him, trying to convince him to quit running, to walk, if only for a moment.

But he didn't. He charged up that hill as fast as his legs could carry him, then gave a final sprint to the finish line, where my husband and I cried and lifted him up and treated him as if he just beat Usain Bolt in the Olympics. My boy gave no "dab"--he was too tired, too spent. He had given that race every ounce of his effort. He was totally and completely spent.

I was so proud, I thought I might burst!

So today when I'm feeling a bit mopey about my seemingly stagnant writing career, I realize that I have more effort to give, and I'm looking to my son (and my older son who won his race with equal effort and my daughter, who surprised herself in the mile run by finishing in the top ten and was shaking from her big effort) to remind me how to push myself.


  1. Awww...that's so sweet! I ran cross country when I was in school. I remember fear of coming in last being a very strong motivator for me. :)

  2. Awww...that's so sweet! I ran cross country when I was in school. I remember fear of coming in last being a very strong motivator for me. :)

  3. You had me thinking they would be back of the pack! Well done...and a good lesson learned..

  4. Tears in my eyes reading this!! Yes, our kids teach us!

  5. YAY for all of your kids and YAY for you!! Keep pushing!!