Practice Doesn't Always Make Perfect

This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
My husband is perfect. Don’t be mad. But he is. He a great dad, a great provider, a great friend, and he’s top at everything. It comes easily to him. But he’s so damn nice and humble that it’s not annoying. Everything he tries, he succeeds. Be it at work, games, relationships (Hello! Happy wife here!) – anything and everything. Whatever he aims for, he achieves. Our eight-year-old son is the same. A mini version of his dad, everything is easy for him. So when my Mary Poppins husband (practically perfect in every way) didn’t achieve a goal, it was just what my son and daughter needed to witness.
The hubs is a runner. And the man is fast. Like a 5K in 18 minutes fast. Insane marathons fast. Therefore, when he set his sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, of course we assumed he would have no problem achieving this challenging goal.
To clarify – the Boston Marathon is incredibly competitive. So many people strive to enter the race that every year the qualifying times become lower and lower. To qualify, a runner must complete an approved marathon at a particular pace. For the hubby, it was three hours and 10 minutes. That’s 7:05 a mile for 26 miles. But the man is determined and when he sets his eyes on a goal, he achieves it. Every time.
His first attempt was early this year and, due to the race and weather issues, he did not qualify for Boston and we thought not much of it. Can’t blame Mother Nature. And so he trained, and trained, and trained. The kids saw him wake up early, strap on his shoes, and go at it. It wasn’t easy but he was focused and he quietly demonstrated to them the hard work that goes into a challenge. His regimen was on point. He was set. We were so sure he would, of course, qualify, that I had plane tickets set to purchase and our Boston hotel reserved.
But when the qualifying race came, his final time was 3:13. Three measly minutes short of Boston. No one could believe it. I told my sister and she texted back, “I don’t understand. Did something happen?” Of course, in our society these days, it’s valid to assume there was a bombing, an injury, or hurricane Irma that was set to hit our Florida house the next day and done some early damage.
I wondered how he would react. In our 19 years together, I had not experienced this. And, as always, he was perfect.
First, he was a little quiet. He processed it and visited the race medic. And when he returned, he told us, calm as can be, “I’m happy with how it turned out. I did my best. I set a new PR.”
A PR is a Personal Record. And in the hubbub of qualifying for Boston, the fact that he shaved eight minutes off his personal best marathon time was temporarily overlooked. This wasn’t a failure, but a major success.
Our son, his doppelganger, pleaded. “Let’s just buy it for Dad. He tried so hard.” If a person does not qualify for Boston, the runner can enter with charity donations. While I appreciated my son’s desire to fulfill his father’s dream, I tenderly looked at him and replied, “Nope, honey. That’s not what Dad wants. He wants to qualify. That’s his goal.”
The kids saw how their father reacted in the face of disappointment. Not do as I say, but do as I do. He showed by example. He didn’t yell or declare a system failure. The kids, by watching him calmly process the outcome, learned that you can’t always fix it. It ends how it ends and you decide how you want to handle that and if you want to try again. He showed that just because you try your best, it doesn’t mean you will succeed.
I am hoping they remember this. When my son doesn’t win his swim meet or my daughter doesn’t make it to the finals with her science project, they will remember the way Dad ran his race. He did his best, he set a goal he was determined to reach, and he faced the challenge. And while he still didn’t overcome that challenge, he set a new record and demonstrated a life lesson to his kids. He couldn’t have been more perfect.