This past weekend I was a big fat quitter.  And I’m feeling rather proud of myself.  I was registered to race in an Autism Speaks Sprint Triathlon in Bethesda with Dave, Doug and Mo.  Physically I knew I was capable, but I had been hearing those voices for the last several weeks which were asking me,

“Why are you doing this?”
“Does this make you happy?” 
“Wouldn’t you like to chillax a little?”

Ultimately, my argument against the voices wasn’t compelling enough to race.  So I happily cheered on the sidelines with the kids.  But it raised an issue that I have grappled with as both an indiviudal and a parent over time:  When is it okay to quit?

Give up. 
Throw in the towel.

While quitting bad habits is perfectly acceptable and arguably favorable, quitting a voluntary activity is generally frowned upon by society.  So much so that we find ourselves encouraging our children not to be quitters.  It is our instinct to insist suggest that they stick it out and keep trying, but I wonder if sometimes we are doing them a disservice.

As a youngster, Chase happily followed in Noah’s footsteps and joined karate.  But after a few years, it became more difficult to get him into his uniform and to class each week.  On more than one of these weepy occasions, I would ask him if he wanted to quit.  This would make him more upset and he would desperately sob “NO!!!”  He just didn’t want to go THIS time.  But when THIS time became EVERYTIME, we knew it was time to stop. 

“Chasey, maybe karate isn’t your thing.  How about trying something else?”

It wasn’t until we positioned quitting as a positive thing that he was able to say, yes, he wanted to quit.  He needed permission.

The same held true for my triathlon this weekend.  Despite the fact that I began to clench every time I pictured the race, the thought of quitting was very upsetting to me.  After all, aren’t quitters the biggest losers ever?  I resisted it until just a few days before the race when I told the rest of my team that I didn’t want to join them on the course.  Once they gave me “permission”, I felt better.   In fact, I am newly inspired to quit more things.  It feels good.  Maybe I can get my kids to quit some things too!

Here is my new Quitters Litmus Test:  

Will the activity in question make me happy?
Will I regret my decision down the line?
Will my quitting hurt anyone else?

If the answers to all of these questions are “no”, then quitting is probably the right choice.  For you.  For your kid.  For anyone.   Because life is too damn short to be voluntarily spending time doing things you don’t want to do.  For me this past weekend, quitting was harder than actually running the tri, but I did it with the conviction and commitment of a true winner.  And we are all better off.

What is your attitude towards quitting?  What have you or your kids quit recently?  What do you want to quit?
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