Take the t-shirt

tough mudder cardMy brother did it again. In the spirit of Christmas, he found a new way to get under my skin.

The card he left under the Christmas tree looked innocuous enough. The envelope puffed out a bit, prompting me to silently muse about what kind of gift card may have been stashed in the fold. Starbucks? Best Buy? AmEx? His sly grin should have set off alarm bells in my head.

As soon as I unfolded the paper tucked inside the Hallmark sentiment, I knew I’d been had. The card contained an entry in my name to the Tough Mudder.

Now, I’ve been known to do some crazy things. Over the last 17 months, I’ve competed in 4 mud obstacle races, and I recruited my brother to join me for two of them. They were a lot of fun, but that’s exactly what they were designed to be–FUN. 3-ish miles of mud and madness, with a giant party at the end.

The Tough Mudder is different. This is TWELVE miles of serious business: simulated icebergs, underwater tunnels, electric shock. No way, no how. I have no desire to tackle something this nuts. In fact, when my beloved sibling posed the idea to me a couple of months ago, I responded with a resounding NO. Repeatedly.

He signed me up anyway. Merry Christmas, Tammy.

I’ve been grousing about this for two weeks, since opening that card. The other day at work, a colleague looked at me quizzically and said, You don’t have to do it, you know. Just take the t-shirt and go home.

Wait, what? That thought never occurred to me. My brother threw down the gauntlet and, as anyone with a sibling knows, I have no choice but to pick it up and accept the challenge. And beat him, of course.

I’m not completely innocent here. In his eyes, this is payback for my Christmas gift to him the year before: registration for the Indy Mini half marathon. He didn’t just take the t-shirt, and neither will I. I’m going to face this challenge head on, and when I’ve completed it, I’ll be better for having done it. It’s not about the Tough Mudder itself; it’s about setting a goal and following a plan to achieve it. It’s about discipline, perseverance, and pushing my limits. Oh, and a pinch of sibling rivalry.

Watch out, world; here I come. There’s no limit to what I can do when I set my mind to it.

Just wait till he sees what he’s getting next Christmas.

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When losing is winning

I’ve said it before: even more than I like to win, I HATE to lose. But last Saturday, my son beat me in a road race for the first time ever. He didn’t even hand me the defeat gently; he blasted my time by almost two minutes. I’d like to say I had a bad run, but that wouldn’t be true. Back in May, I posted the same time in another race and beat him by almost a minute.

We’ve run a few races together, and usually I follow the course in reverse after I’ve finished so that I can find him. I’ll jog alongside him and encourage him all the way to the finish line. This time, he came back for me.

Of course, by the time he found me, I already knew I had been beaten. He took off like a shot from the starting line and I never saw him again until the end. The funny thing is, I didn’t care.

I was one proud mama when he came back to find me. In that moment, I saw the culmination of many of the important character traits I’ve tried to teach him: determination, perseverance, and the importance of working toward goals. This boy who seemed not to care for so long finally got it. I was nothing but proud.

That’s the way it should be. When we have the privilege of mentoring someone, whether our own child, an employee, a colleague, or a friend, the best measure of success is not the point when he can do just as well. It’s when he can do better. It’s when he takes what he has learned and develops it in new ways, building on what he’s been taught and taking it beyond what has already been achieved. It’s the day he beats you at your own game.

Then you’ve actually won.