In all honesty, distance running and triathlon is a selfish hobby. As much as I know it is good for my health, my mental well-being, and that it sets a good example to my children, it is as much of a “taker” as it is a “giver”. It takes time… lots of it. Hours spent training, most out of the home, either in the pool, on the bike, and running outdoors or on the gym treadmill. The longer the race you are training for, the more time it takes.
I struggle with balance, every day. I think most moms do, whether they are athletes, working moms, stay-at-home moms. When I spend hours training, I try to remind myself of my “Why”… why am I doing this? What am I training for? Is it worth it? While the training may be difficult, the feeling I get every time I cross a hard-earned finish line is a reminder. Yes, it is ALL worth it!
Back when I first started running, my husband was a saint and stayed home with the kids while I trained, because he didn’t run back then. They came to a few of my bigger races, which was so exciting for me, but I’m pretty sure they were bored and cranky by the time I crossed the finish line! I was so happy to have them there, because I wanted them to SEE how happy I was to finish, to get that medal around my neck, to enjoy the result of my hard work. But I was never convinced they really got it, or cared for that matter.
Now that Chris runs and races triathlons as well, logistically it is more difficult to get the kids to our races. When he and I both race, especially at races we have to head out super early for, or races we travel out of town for, it is SO much easier to make arrangements for the kids to stay home with the grandparents. While this works out for all of us involved, it also makes me wonder… do they really understand our “Why?” They aren’t there to see us cross the finish line, absolutely exhausted, sweaty, wobbly legs, but smiling knowing we met our goal. They aren’t there to understand the victory that comes in never quitting, when you could have given up so many times when it really got hard.
My hope is that my kids are watching, and learning from both my struggles and my victories. I hope every day that I am setting a good example for them, in sports and in life. I believe as a parent, one must lead by example. And as my kids grow up, I look for signs that they are watching.
On New Years’ Eve, 2011, about 8 weeks after I completed my first half marathon I set a goal for myself the following year. Knowing you are more likely to reach your goals if you make them public, I made a sign and posted it on Facebook, with my goal to run a marathon in 2012. I finished the 2012 Chicago Marathon smiling and feeling on top of the world. I hoped my kids could see the big picture, that it’s ok to set a huge scary goal and go for it, because the reward is so worth it in the end.
I remember how proud I was to slap that 26.2 sticker on the back of my van, after completing that marathon. I’m pretty sure I did it in the parking garage of our hotel in Chicago the day after the race! Chris laughed, but I unapologetically slapped it on there, saying “I earned this!” I took a huge amount of pride in my accomplishment. A few weeks later, Ava and a friend were playing at our home, and I remember overhearing them talking. The friend pointed at the sticker, and said “What’s that?” and I paused to overhear what Ava’s answer would be. Ava flipped her blond curls over her shoulder and says “I dunno… I think it’s a radio station”.
I laughed out loud, but inside I was a little bummed. This doesn’t mean anything to them, and they really aren’t watching.
That same year, my daughter Ava, joined the Girls on the Run program at her school, which taught leadership and social skills, while encouraging girls through running and meeting their goals. I was so excited to be her “Running Buddy” for her 5k race at the end of the program.
It was then I knew…
They are watching.
Fast forward a couple years, and Chris and I had both run several running races and were just starting to get into triathlon as something different to try. We convinced Ava to sign up for her first youth triathlon. She did great, and it was so humbling to be on the other side as a spectator for once. Seeing her in the race, and cheering her on made me incredibly proud.
My kids seem to be growing up so fast. Ava is now 12 and in 7th grade, and Aidan is 9 and in 4th grade. Both of them have had their own victories in the past weeks. Aidan is a star player on his soccer team, which is on a 6 game winning streak right now. He has made incredible progress as a player on both offense and defense, and his footwork and accuracy on his shots on goal are impressive. He also made the Math Bowl team at school for the third year in a row! Ava found out last week that she made the Volleyball team at her middle school, one of only two 7th graders on a team comprised of mostly 8th graders. She practiced so hard in the weeks leading up to tryouts, and I was thrilled to hear the excitement in her voice when she talked about her new team she is a part of.
They are watching.
Seeing my kids set goals and enjoy their own personal victories is my reward. I train and race to show discipline, hard work, positive attitude, commitment. These are character traits that can’t simply be talked about… they must be demonstrated every day, especially when life gets tough, and things don’t always go they way you planned. When I see them succeed in school and in sports, I realize they have been watching this entire time.