The hare was stupid, she said. I gave her a quizzical look. “The hare only lost because he was stupid. If he ran to the finish line instead of taking a nap would have won. He was S. T. U. P. I. D.”
I looked down at Susie all snuggled in her bed. All pink and purple in her fleece PJ’s. “You’re missing the point dear, it’s the tortoise who worked hard and steady and won the race who’s the hero here. “Nope, he was stupid too. It would be like me challenging Bob to a race. He is taller than Grandpa and can run like the wind. I could only win if Bob took a nap just like the hare. I’d be stupid to race Bob.” I could feel her all wiggly under the covers and just knew that sleep was hours away for my 4 year old. She was brimming with excitement and as tired as I was I didn’t want to quash it with a yawn, peek on the cheek and a good night.
“OK toots,” I called her toots whenever her enthusiasm outstripped my own. “Tell me toots, would you race Kelly or Amy in a race? They’re in your kindergarten class. Would you race them?”
Susie shut her eyes tight as if fighting to keep her thoughts in and the world out. The words came out measured as if deep thought went into the answer. “Amy’s slow. I can already out run her. I always beat her to the monkey bars at recess. Kelly’s faster than me so I wouldn’t race her.”
“Nope, never,” she said with the finality of a judge.
“Ah, so next year when you’re taller and stronger and even faster than you are now, you still wouldn’t race Kelly?” Susie pulled the covers over her head to hide her face from me, and then shook her head in answer.”
“So the tortoise shouldn’t have won. Shouldn’t have even raced, should have stayed in bed, is that it?” I slowly pulled the covers down to reveal a cherub’s face, wise knowing eyes and a mind I was already having trouble keeping up with. What had started as a ploy to stay up longer had now become a real life issue for her.
“Why do people race when they already know they’re going to lose? Like me or Amy racing against Kelly? She always wins.”
“Maybe it’s because Amy wants to be more like Kelly. Maybe it’s because someday, Amy believes she will one day beat Kelly, like the tortoises beating the hare. Mostly it’s because it’s just fun to run.” She looked up at me and I could see this was a more advanced concept then she could handle so long after lights out, but I wanted to plant the seed. “You run for the joy of it and don’t even care about the winning. It’s the joy of doing that makes you a winner.” She nodded and said I could go now. I kissed her on the forehead wishing my beloved blond tornado a good nights sleep.
All you can do is plant seeds I told myself. Hopefully some of the good ones would grow.