That is a question my kids ask me several times a week. I’m a triathlon-er of sorts, which means when my 40-year old joints are moving as they should (which is not now), I swim and ride my bike and run. We have dragged the kids to my husband’s and my races since they were babies, and they think that’s normal – standing on a beach at dawn to see Mommy or Daddy finish a swim in a wet suit. But no, I have not won in a long time. Actually, I’m pretty sure (with the possible exception of a relay in middle school track) that I have never won. I can say with certainty that I have never lost. But my kids are obsessed with a win.
We were driving along the Hudson River on the weekend and Jenn pointed, “You did races in that river, didn’t you?” Happily distracted from Friday afternoon traffic on the West Side Highway, I bragged (yes, I bragged to a 3-year old – I didn’t say I was proud of it), “Yes – the New York City Triathlon. Do you remember cheering for me?” Of course, she didn’t remember because they hadn’t come to the 2010 race (because my husband wanted to go to our cottage to waterski instead of stay in the city to cheer his wife on for kind of a big-deal race two blocks from home – I’m not bitter). But I had a nice moment or two to think about those races, until Jenn wrecked it with “Did you win?” Then she listed two other racing friends of mine, wondering if either of them had won. No, I explained, none of us had won, but we had had fun and tried hard and all got faster than we had been the previous year. She heard, “I lost and my friends did, too. Blahblahblah.”
“Who won?” she asked. I explained that a lady from New York named Rebeccah Wassner had won and that triathlons were her job.
“Do you know her? ” she asked. No, I answered. Somehow within seconds, lamemom had gone from badass-mommy-swims-in-the-Hudson to loser-mommy-neither-wins-nor-knows-the-winner. I had to turn it around, if only to save my fragile ego. Happily, young son came to the rescue.
“Jenn,” he asked. You know all those medals at home that they let us wear?”
Race medals – the “good job for finishing” kind, not the “yippee you’re the winner” kind – get a lot of use at our house – I find them hidden in backpacks and under pillows. The kids love them and stage races, winning them at the end. (Our downstairs neighbors love this, undoubtedly. Sorry!)
“Well,” he continued, “they get them at races. And she’s only forty (!!!) so she has a lot of years left so if she keeps trying hard and running as fast as she can, even when she’s tired, then maybe she’ll win one day.”
I stopped myself from saying, “I will probably never ever win a race,” because I don’t need to explain age groups and PR (personal record) times to them. Ultimately, don’t we want them to believe that if they keep trying, even when they’re tired, that it’s possible to win?
And though he’s just five, maybe he is right — maybe I will win one day. And if I do, they’re not touching that medal.