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Give EVERYTHING a Go: A Lesson in Perseverance from my 9 Year Old Daughter

It seems such a simple thing. To believe you can do something and then be able to do it. We all talk about it, we tell others how to do it but it’s a fundamentally difficult thing to do. I had my biggest lesson about this from my daughter – like many of my life lessons.

To fill you in, my 9yr old daughter is a little heavier than normal this year. She was super excited to finally participate in a school sports carnival for the first time. There’s not a lot of training that goes on in schools sports these days so she was completely unaware of the physical requirements to complete any of the events.

The day before the carnival they run the 1500m. My daughter lined up with the others and off she went. She ran the 1500m and by ‘run’ I mean pottered, walked, dragged herself around the oval 3 times and then as everyone else was finishing, decided she was finished too without quite achieving the 1500m. It didn’t matter, I was amazed she managed as much as she did with the little amount of fitness she has. In her mind, she finished and came 5th. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was a lap behind everyone else.

The next day she woke up very early, bouncing around the house. Today was the big day. Her team

was Yellow. Go Scorpians!! Hair done up with yellow hair spray, team shirt on, lunch packed – away we go!!

The day started off with all the jumps – long jump, triple jump, high jump – followed by the shorter runs. There were 6 girls my daughter’s age and they all competed together. Each time my gorgeous girl came 6th. She started to get a little bummed about it especially as there were ribbons for 1st to 5th place but none for 6th but she kept plugging away. Her shins were starting to hurt. I mean, who hasn’t had shin splints – bloody painful, and her motivation was starting to flag.

After lunch was the big run - 600m, which was one and a half laps around the oval. I’d seen her potter around doing 3 so thought I would give her a bit of a challenge. It was obvious she wasn’t going to get any individual ribbons that day (thank goodness for team events – giving everyone a chance at a ribbon). So how do we find a way to inspire those less physically able to go for it and give it everything they have when there is no hope of ribbons or glory at the end. What is the motivation?

So I simply asked her. ‘Do you think you can do the whole 600m without stopping?’

‘Sure,’ came the confident reply.

‘No stopping at all. Run the whole way around and no matter how tired you feel, you just keep going to the end?’

‘Okay’ and that was it. She said she was going to do it but would she really? I mean, how many times have I heard she is going to clean her room and that never happens or to wash the dishes or countless other things that I’m told is definately going to get done but never quite gets finished or started for that matter.

Lunch finishes and the races start – youngest first. The girls line up. All 6 of them. Ready to blast off the minute the gun fires. BANG!! And they’re off.

The girls explode from the starting line. Within 100m my daughter is already straggling behind but she is running, one foot in front of the other. As the leading girls start to come around the first lap, Emma is nearly half an oval behind. The girls come across the finish line, arms held up high in victory – big smiles across their faces.

My daughter still has over 1/4 of a lap to go when everyone else has finished. She is still running. You can see the exhaustion in her steps as she sees everyone else finish and how far she still has to go. You can see the pain in her face as her shin splints stab her with every step. People start to notice (they can’t start the next race as she is still running). A cheer starts to go up in the crowd.

Go Emma. A couple of the older girls from the Green Cobra team sprint up and run on each side of her, encouraging her to keep going. You can tell from the way she is running, that my daughter is in so much pain, she can hardly breathe but she keeps running one foot in front of the other. The girls stay beside her till she is 30m out from the finish line and break off – this is her moment. My daughter staggers towards it, still not stopping. One foot in front of the other.

As she crosses the finish line, there is a big cheer from the crowd. There are no ribbons for her and the 1st to 5th place are all back sitting down with their team. She swings around to walk back, pain etched in her face, her lungs struggling to catch their breath. She spots me and bursts into tears. I hold her in my arms whilst she sobs from total exhaustion, pain and pushing herself beyond her limits.

‘Wow, Emmy! You said you were going to do it and you did! Im soooo proud of you!’

And another lesson learnt. I didn’t think she could really do it. I knew how crap her fitness levels were, how much her shins hurt and how running was really not her thing. But, I didn’t tell her that. I told her she could run the whole 600m without stopping. So she did. It really is as simple as that. She put her heart and soul into making sure she did it – no matter what!

I think that takes courage. To keep going when there is every reason to stop. When every person is watching you as the entire place has come to a standstill. Watching you run last. Everyone else has finished. Inspiring others to come run beside you because they can see your big heart. To motivate every other young person there who also comes last to give it a go and do the whole race without stopping no matter how long it takes. To inspire her mother to get out into the world and give EVERYTHING a go.

‘See Em, you never know what you can achieve unless you give it a go with everything you have. Look at what you can do.’

Now, am I brave enough to do the same!

(a special thank you to Daya Bihm who gave me the title for this blog)

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