This was originally posted at Oh My Stinkin’ Heck in December ’07. Recently the same lesson reminded me to share it with you here.

Yesterday I went to Meredith’s school to watch her run in the school’s annual Turkey Trot. This is the equivalent of what we used to call Track-n-Field, but in a sort of Cliff’s notes version. There is only one run – the 50 yard dash – and it isn’t an all day event. The winner of both the boy’s and the girl’s final heat get to take home a turkey to their family. The 2nd place winners get a bag of fruit and the 3rd place winners get a bag of candy.

THAT is a way to make a child strive toward mediocrity – I could hear them arguing in the hall, “No, I WANT TO BE 3rd!”

But in the end, when that gun pops off, those kids kick it in and the bag of candy is forgotten for the stardom of crossing that finish line first.

I’m a mainstay in my kids’ elementary school. I wish the Intermediate school had more room for parental involvement, but then again, I realize that 5th graders are not so enamoured with their parent’s presence at school as are Pre-K and 2nd graders.

Meredith was still in class when I arrived yesterday – having a lesson in grammar.


Peeking in from the doorway, I took in the aroma of school. If you can get beyond the smelly bodies and the lingering scent of Pine-Sol, you can catch the familiar whiff of paper, well-worn books, and hear the hum of overhead projectors and the grind of the pencil sharpener as another kid gets up to sharpen their tip. I love school supplies – now, office supplies to me.

A few minutes later Mrs. S. had all the kids lined up in “magic number order” to head to the hill. Girls would compete first. Meredith was in the 4th heat. She’s on the far left in the turqouise shirt.

Starting Line

I become exceptionally stomach-twisted when my kiddos compete, but I love that they do. Meredith seems to thrive on competition. On the way to the playground in the hall she said, “I’m a little nervous momma.” At that point, any anxiety I had escalated ten-fold as I took on hers too.

And they’re off.

This is the first heat..

There were 6 or 7 heats of 4 and 5 girls. The winner of each heat was pulled aside to run in the final heat. I was disappointed to see that Meredith was running against one of her best friends, Tatum (on the far right), in her first heat. Tatum’s strength is speed, and although Meredith is fast, her strength is perserverance.

True to form, Tatum kicks it off the starting line…pulling ahead of Meredith.

She's fast, but...

Pulling ahead of Meredith by a few lengths now, Tatum takes a strong lead.

A few legs behind now...

I’m always amazed by how these girls can fly. I enjoy watching Meredith’s slight alterations that will give her just a bit more speed, a bit more length, a bit more of whatever she thinks she needs to win.

See the shadow ahead of her...

But she won’t always win…and she didn’t yesterday.

I love for my children to compete. True competition is about knowing that sometimes your best won’t place you first, second, or even third. Sometimes your best is what you do because you have integrity and you know you want to give it your all in spite of the outcome.

Meredith is learning her strengths – she’s an excellent self-pacer and a strong cross country runner.

She’s fast, but not faster than her buddie.

Competition is about trying your best...

I won’t lie and say she was happy at the end of this heat – she wasn’t. She wouldn’t accept my congratulations right off and had to walk away for a second and be alone before she could join her friends again and wait for the final heat. If she had run against another group of girls for her first heat, she likely would have gone on to the finals. She knows this and I believe it was a bit of a punch to her pride, but I AM GLAD she doesn’t always win.

Sometimes learning to lose is just as important as celebrating victory.

At the end of both final heats, before the winners were announced, Coach Elliot gave a sort of pep talk. Not a mediocrity talk that says “Everyone is a winner.” Instead, that everyone made him proud by trying their hardest.

Listening to Coach Elliot

Tatum won 1st place with Meredith screaming for her on the sidelines – she took home a turkey for her family for Christmas.

Look at those funky teeth.

I have a feeling these two will be running together for a long time; it’s good for them to be learning each other’s strength and weaknesses, how to win and lose, and most important, how to not let it change their friendship.