(Author note: I had started this post in October, but didn’t finish until now. Life got busy.)
Back in August 2013, I signed up to run my first 5K. I had not been a runner and walked on a treadmill to get exercise. One day, my legs wanted to go faster, so I started running. Once I was able to run one mile without stopping, my goal was to run a daily mile and see how long I could maintain a streak. About three days before I signed up for the 5K, I ran two miles straight. This was a first and came after six months of discipline and hard work that resulted in my losing 30 pounds. I celebrated this achievement in a Facebook post and a friend suggested I register for an upcoming 5K. So I did.
But, I had only just run two miles straight and all my running had been on a treadmill. Running 5K (3.1 miles) on pavement is a completely different experience from running indoors on a treadmill. I had 25 days to train outdoors and build my endurance. Of course, I saw this as an opportunity to collaborate with my kids: For each of 25 days as I trained for my race, Meilee would have to spend 20 minutes practicing her drawing and Shen would have to practice writing his name.
At 4 and 7 years of age, my kids don’t have a concept of time; 25 days is abstract to them. What I hoped to demonstrate by example and practice was what they could accomplish as the result of consistency and discipline. Just as there were days when I had to push myself to run, there were many 20 minutes that seemed like an eternity to the kids – and me, because I had to make sure they completed each day’s work.
I asked Meilee what she learned from doing the 25-Day Project. “I learned that drawing helps keep me calm when I’m mad,” she said. “It makes me have good thoughts. And doing the 25-Day Project with all those pictures made me feel really good.”
Shen is in preschool and will head to kindergarten in the fall. Developmentally, he has been slower than Meilee was at his age to articulate himself in every way. He struggled with holding his pen, sitting for 20 minutes, staying on task, and sometimes even remembering the letters in his name or the order of the letters. While my goal for Meilee was to practice her technique and explore her creativity, my goal for Shen was more straightforward and, frankly, utilitarian. Worst case, if he ever got lost, he should at least know his first and last names and be able to spell them.
I now have a file folder of a stack of papers containing 25 days of letters and drawings. And a race bib from the 5K.