I believe as a parent that you should never pursue your own ambitions through your children. Likewise I have never adhered to the whole ‘Tiger Mum’ concept. My approach with my girls has always be to encourage them to do their own thing, find their own interests and do their best. As long as they and I knew that they had tried to the best of their ability we are all happy. Similarly with life-style and interests we have left them find their own and their own way.
There is one possible exception: adoption of a healthy life style. A healthy diet with limited access to fast and junk food, sugary drinks and sweets was and is the norm. From an early age they were responsible for making their own pack lunches and they knew what could and could not go in there and were trusted to do it. I set an example with regard to meals cooking everything from fresh and they were shown how to shop and cook. They also know that the occasional lapse or treat is fine. We never 'demonised' foods as that makes them all the more attractive. We simply told it like is is and explained why some things are not so good for us.
Even before I started running we encouraged the girls to take part in regular exercise and hiking, hill walking and cycling were and are an integral and shared element of recreation time as a family. Promotion of and participation in sport was actively encourage in both primary and secondary school and it was something that they both enjoyed.
They duly departed to university and both have on the whole maintained a healthy life-style.
Whilst both girls showed the potential to be runners, each in their own way, I knew that the worst thing I could do was push it or get over enthusiastic; best to leave them to their own devices. So, both have used running on and off as part of maintaining their health and fitness. There is a fair amount of gentle banter and humour about their ‘mad mum’ and declarations of ‘No way. We have seen you at the end of races: broken’. Neither has shown an interest in getting into a training plan or running in events until recently.
When Briony moved back home after graduating we started to run together occasionally. It was an interesting experience. Briony, built for speed, gets frustrated with my slow pace and I spent much of the time huffing and puffing along behind her as she leaps gazelle like up the hills as if they weren’t there. However, when the distance extended to 5 or 6 miles or a bit more, it was the tortoise who had the last laugh. It was Mum’s turn to pull ahead.
Briony admitted that her running and training was a bit haphazard and lacking in focus, but she was doing it for enjoyment and had no specific goal in mind, so it would be. Then, encouraged by a work colleague and friend who was taking up running and wanting to do events, she entered her first event. Cue an excited mum, but better play it cool, back off and let her get on with it. If asked for advice give it. Don’t constantly ask how training is going.
Off she went, with her friend and got her first 5k under her belt in a pretty decent time. Next it was a local 10k, and we were allowed to go along to support. Her training was a bit light and I knew that if she did her usual greyhound out of a trap she would struggle. So I offered some gentle advice that she start steady and up the pace after 5k if she felt Ok. Of course she has the luxury of youth, and sailed in comfortably in 57 minutes. A couple of months later, having done hardly any running since the first 10k she was toeing the line for 10k number two.
She set her expectations low, and I have to admit so did I. Same advice, take it steady and get the finish in one piece. Result: a massive PB by over 2 minutes! Ah, to be young. There is a tinge of envy alongside the pride. She came home buzzing and regaling us with her efforts: how she missed most of the distance markers, how she kept upping the pace, and how when she saw that she might be able to get in in 55 minutes she pushed even harder, and a comic description of the last couple of hundred meters to the line. She said the finish was not pretty and when the finish line photos came out it was indeed not pretty. Sweet revenge, some gentle ribbing. The number of times I have been teased about my finishes and finish photos.
I am a proud mama. It is lovely to see her taking up running and starting to do events and striving to improve, planning events and looking to extend her distance too. Have I inspired this? I do not know. I would like to think so. I would like to think that I am in some small way inspiring the next generation. I will remain at arm’s length as I don’t want to dampen her enthusiasm, advising when asked, running with her when asked, and hope that perhaps we might get out onto the trails together; something she has been resisting.
Will we ever run an event together? Perhaps one day, but I will let Briony take the initiative and just pray it's not a 10k.
I am currently running a Crowd Funding campaign to raise support for my Global Odyssey challenge in 2017: to be the 1st woman to run 7 x 50k on 7 continents in 7 days. If you would like to support this please you can visit my campaign page here