Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Losers Are Winners
My 5-year-old son recently asked if he could be a loser.
Let me back up a bit.
About a month ago, my wife decided to walk in a community run. She was very excited to participate -- as long as she could drag me along.
“It’s only three miles,” my wife pleaded. “It’s good exercise, it’s for a good cause, it’s shorter than some of our weekend walks . . . It’s not a pyramid scheme.”
She didn’t need to sell the idea to me. We’re married -- I had no choice but to participate. So I figured, if I’m going to be stuck doing this run, then my son is going to have to do it, too.
I told the kid, “It’s good exercise, it’s for a good cause . . . It’s a good way to learn about hard work, which is something you must know now that you’re becoming a big boy.” I told him that if he walked the entire three miles with Mommy and Daddy, he’d earn a Slurpee at 7-Eleven.
“What’s a Slurpee?” my son asked me.
“What’s a Slurpee?” I repeated after projecting the mouthful of soda I’d planned on swallowing before I heard the kid’s absurd question. “Are you American?”
“Slurpees aren’t healthy,” my wife told the child. “That’s what they are.”
“Yummy,” he replied. “Can I get one?” My son’s only been on Earth five years and he already knows that the best things in life are bad for you.
We showed up at the starting line ready to go.
We were 20 minutes late.
We took to the trails anyway. As we walked, I explained to my son that good things like Slurpees come at a cost.
“You have to work hard for the things you want in life,” I said. “You have to be able to put up with pain. You have to fail. And when you fail, you have to keep trying and trying and trying.”
“What’s ‘fail’ mean?” my son asked.
“It means to lose,” I said.
“But I don’t wanna lose. I wanna win.”
“Well, you have to lose before you can win.”
“Ohhhhh,” my son said. “Then can I be a loser?”
My wife explained that winning or losing wasn’t the point of the run that day. She talked about the benefits of exercise.
“When your muscles hurt,” my wife told our son, “and your legs are sore and you’re really, really tired, then you know you’re getting a good workout. And working out is good for your health, and it helps you become strong like Superman.”
“Ohhhhh,” my son said. “Then I must be really stronger because I’m really, really sleepy right now.”
After walking two miles, my son experienced true exhaustion. And pain. His feet hurt. His legs hurt. His whole body hurt.
“This is the worst day of my entire life,” the boy said.
My wife and I were thrilled to hear that.
“That means you’re getting a good workout,” my wife said.
“That means you’re learning something really important,” I said. “You’re learning that life sucks. And it’s when life sucks that you become strong, and that’s when you earn what you’re fighting for -- in this case the Slurpee you really want.”
Even though my son thought we’d never finish the run, we eventually did. And then my wife and I took him to 7-Eleven to get him that Slurpee we’d promised.
“Can I get candy instead?” he asked when he saw the candy selection. I didn’t hear him -- I was busy getting him that Slurpee we’d promised.
“He wants candy instead,” my wife said when I plopped the Slurpee and a few bucks down on the counter.
“What?” I asked in disbelief. When reality finally sunk in, I pointed fingers.
“This is all your fault,” I said to my boy. “Had you not turned on me with this candy nonsense, I’d be sneaking and enjoying sips of this refreshing Slurpee behind Mommy’s back by now.”
“It’s not his fault,” my wife said.
“You’re right,” I said. “This is all your fault. Had I not made that stupid deal with you to eat healthier, I’d be enjoying this refreshing Slurpee right in front of you by now.”
My son broke the brief silence following my outburst with, “You’re learning that life sucks, Daddy. But you’re earning what you’re fighting for -- to get more healthy like you really want.”