A few weeks ago, my eight year old son Ben and I were driving home from his travel-soccer championship game. A well-earned second place medal hung around his neck. I was still recovering from watching the game, which was a battle between two good teams of boys. It was a low-scoring game but there were plenty of goal attempts and close-calls, many by my Ben. This is his first year in a league with higher expectations, but in part because of his stellar coach, it's still about the basics of ball handling, working as a team, and being a good sportsman. Plus, he still laughs a ton on the field, so I know he's having fun in a serious way.
Ben's an athlete. He doesn't fall far from the tree, because I'm an athlete, too. No, I've never been paid and the idea of sponsorship is laughable. But I ran five marathons and an ultra marathon before he was born and two marathons and one half-marathon afterwards, and now am an age-grouper in local races. And I might be a proud member of the cultish Crossfit community (meaning I go three times a week and run on the other days). I'm training for another half-marathon now.
I love pushing my body and challenging it to do tough things. I always have, and I'm willing to bet that I always will.
But speaking of betting, on that ride home we passed by two casinos in Tukwila, Washington, en route back to our house north of Seattle.
"What is gambling, Mom?" Ben asked me.
"It's when you play cards and try and win money. Some games require some skill, but it's a whole lot of luck." I did my best to explain.
"Have you ever gambled?"
"No," I said. That was why my answer was short sweet.
"Why not?" Ben asked me.
I had to think about my answer, so I took a few minutes. I got into the right lane, put my right turn signal on, and pulled onto the I-5 North, still thinking about why I didn't like to gamble.
"I don't like it because it relies on luck, which is what I work hard to make," I said slowly, still thinking as I spoke. "My hobbies are all about physical challenges--trying to get myself and my body to do things it couldn't last week. To be better than yesterday because my mind and body are working as a team. I like to work hard to succeed, rather than sitting around hoping to get lucky. That's what I think those gamblers do. They hope for the right card. That's just not what I'm about."
"Plus," I added, "Did you see any huge windows in that casino?"
"No," Ben answered.
"Right!" I agreed. "I can't imagine spending hours and hours inside just sitting on my bottom without even looking at nature! I like to be outside and in nature as much as possible DOING cool things. Gamblers seem to spend a lot of time sitting inside. That's just not for me."
There was silence in the back seat, and I knew he was satisfied with my answer. Without another question, I knew he was finished with the topic, at least for the moment.
As we drove north, approaching and then passing Seattle and its hip Space Needle-filled skyline, I smiled. I'm not perfect, that's for sure. I really should stop yelling. I really should scrape up the syrup from the kitchen table where I'm typing. But my athlete-side is showing (and I reinforce with some telling) Ben and his two siblings some good options about how to live a healthy life.