Much like her Dad, my daughter likes to offer unsolicited commentary on the Things Going On around her. She’ll have a blog one day and it’ll be equal parts hilarious, sarcastic, and bitter. I can’t wait to read it. She looks at life with a cocked eyebrow and a sharp quip. Yes, she’s a chip off the ole Handsome.
So as I settled in Saturday evening to view my DVR’ed Olympic Trials for the men’s and women’s marathon from Houston, I expected a few choice remarks. Never to disappoint:
“We’re going to watch a show about running? Don’t you do that all the time…can’t you just watch yourself?”
The majesty of the event was lost on her. The summer Olympics? Last time those were on, she still had an interest in Dora the Explorer and backpacks for some reason. Backpack, backpack….backpack, backpack…all over the house.
She likes sports too. She plays tons of soccer, likes gymnastics and is pretty darn fast when she cares to run a mile, or shorter, race. Despite this, she still doesn’t respect the endurance part of the marathon. To her, it’s a bunch of people jogging. What’s a five minute mile pace anyway?
“Why aren’t they running fast? They are just jogging.”
I tried to explain that a five minute per mile pace is hardly “jogging”. I tried to explain that the word “jogging”, in some circles, is even considered derisive. I tried to explain about endurance and discipline and perseverance and all of the things that it takes to build a successful marathoner. And then Ryan Hall started blowing snot rockets and she forgot about all of that and just crinkled her face and said, “Gross.” I briefly considered explaining the usefulness of a snot rocket but quickly realized that I’d already attempted an overly complicated explanation regarding abdomen blockage and pain to explain my constant farting so I figured she wouldn’t buy this argument either.
I clearly remember my daughter’s reaction when I first qualified for Boston at a marathon back in 2007. My family was at the finish line waiting for my triumphant completion and qualification. While I was elated and Mrs. Nitmos congratulated me, I could tell by the look on her face that she was either confused or unimpressed. A short while later, I found out which:
“You were barely running. I can run faster than that.”
Ever try to explain endurance and 26.2 miles worth of exhaustion to a six year old? It’s like trying to explain to Ashton Kutcher that there is a thing called being “too hip”. You can talk and talk and it just won’t register. My then six year old didn’t get the fact that I simply couldn’t sprint to the finish; Ashton Kutcher will still wear reggae hats in public. It’s no use.
And then she took notice of the tight running bikini pants worn by the female marathoners.
“Why are the girls wearing swimming suits?”
Here was an opportunity to get into a whole host of issues. I could have launched into a discussion about our male dominated culture and how women are often objectified by impossible standards of “beauty”. I could have explained that, though Daddy enjoys the bikini bottomed marathoners as he’s a helpless slave to his base male urges , there is no place for sexism in sport or society and that I’ll trust her to never fall victim to body image issues. She should love herself – and her body – how it is and that everyone else can kiss her bikini clad or non-bikini clad – her choice - behind. I could have pointed out that the men are wearing horribly offensive side split running shorts but that it was better than running in a Speed-o, which would force the event onto HBO or Showtime late at night with an NC-17 rating, and wasn’t that just a double standard? If I was a better man, I would have said all of these things. Instead, I said:
She did seem at least mildly interested as Meb, Ryan and Abdi finished amid great elation while Dathan collapsed in utter disappointment. Then Shalane, Desiree and Kara crossed and I hoped she’d feel pride and respect for her fellow females. She watched them embrace and the announcers explain that they were off to the Olympics for Team U.S.A.!
“So…they have to go to the Olympics? What if they don’t want to?”
I explained that they wanted to which is why they put in all of those hours of work and ran this race. She shrugged her shoulders unimpressed and went upstairs to look up funny clips on YouTube. I could only hope that something from the event made an impression with her. The spirit. The determination. The pride. But as I gazed at the now empty staircase, I wasn’t sure.
I sighed that sigh that parents know well. The one that expresses exasperation at a teaching moment lost. And then I settled back in my chair and hoped that the cameraman would give me a money shot on those bikini clad, celebrating female marathoners.
But that's a story for another day....the Olympic Trials According to a Man.