May 9th, 2010



So many of us stop ourselves before we even start. A task looms, a challenge overwhelms and before we've even tried, the self-defeating statement starting with "I can't..." comes out of our mouths, or fills our brains and stops up our ears to any other possibilities. I admonish my kids constantly about this kind of thing: "How do you KNOW you won't like it when you haven't even tried it?" (then I bid them remember the story of me and sushi: 30 wasted years, to which they are beginning to roll their eyes, not because of its piercing veracity but because WE KNOW MOM, YOU'VE ALREADY TOLD US, GEEZ).

Don't stop yourselves before you even start, I say. Don't close down your possibilities. Be open to what you can do, what you can accomplish, where you can go. I don't always take my own advice, but I try to keep it mind for myself as well, with mixed results.

Martin's new school organized a charity event, a World Run for the schoolchildren to participate in. This is the 4th year they've held the event. Last year 78 kids participated, 90-some the year before. The kids ask sponsors (mostly family members) to pledge against the amount of laps they will run or to pledge a set amount. Last year they raised over 30,000 kronor. The first two years, the money went to a school in Ghana, and last year and this year, they chose a partner school in Haiti to donate the funds to.

Martin solicited pledges from his sister (5 kronor per lap) and from both Anders and I (20 kronor per lap) and got his grandparents and Anders' sister to pledge set amounts. He figured he'd run about 5 laps. "C'mon," I said, "Don't sell yourself can run as many as you can manage." But he figured five was reasonable and refused to be swayed from that amount. He's not as interested in athletics or sports as Karin is, and I was frankly a bit surprised that he evinced interest in participating to begin with.

We arrived at the outdoor track at 10:30 in time for Martin register in the milling crowd of children and parents and then to warm up. It was chilly, overcast and threatening rain. There were tons of small children running about, about half of them wearing the orange World Run 2010 t-shirts a couple of parents were selling and others wearing similar shirts of different colors from previous years. The money from the shirts was also going to the Haiti schoolchildren, so we ended up buying one for both Martin and Karin.

The vast majority of the kids were in the lower elementary grades; only a handful from the upper classes, including Martin and his classmate Jon-August. At 11:15 the race started. The kids had an hour to run/walk/crawl as many laps as they could, and each time they passed the starting line, a sponsor marked a line on their arm with a washable marker. They had juice boxes and a water table set up for the kids and as the hour progressed, I was amazed by the joy that continued to bloom on each child's face as they added another mark to their arm.

Even the smallest kids kept on going. Most of the kids ran partway and walked partway through each lap, and some parents took turns running with their kids. A couple of teachers were running also, encouraging the children with jokes and smiles and a hand out just when they needed it.

Martin kept going. 5 laps were gone in a flash, in the first 15 minutes or so. His arm filled up with streaks of black and red marker. He stopped for water and then set off again. On the far side of the track, he was easy to pick out, wearing a white shirt over his black thermals. Parents were filming and taking photos and at one point a whole group of the kids was asked to come back down the track and then run together so they could be filmed in a pack; we heard they might be on TV but the rumor wasn't verified.

At nearly the 50 minute mark, Martin had run 20 laps. "We're not made of money, you know!" I hollered after him with a laugh as he got another stripe on his arm and set off again. His cheeks were rosy and his hair was sticking straight up. Karin and Anders and I had all been helping to mark arms on the runners coming by. He did another lap, and with only a few minutes left, yet another. Twenty-two laps total! On a 400m track! 8.8 kilometers—5.5 miles!

It was a nice Mother's Day present: I'm pretty proud of my kid, who today didn't stop himself from going above and beyond what was "reasonable" and proved to himself what he could accomplish without limits.

Martin gets another stripe

An arm full of stripes!

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms, of any kind, out there, and to my own mom, who is, of course, the BEST!

Great Big Gobs of Belated Birthday Wishes to Sheryl!
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