Parenting is one of those things that is really, REALLY hard, but I don’t need to tell you that. We always worry and ask ourselves if we’re doing it right. Should I do this or should I do that? Then, add one or both parents doing triathlons to the mix and yikes…
Truth is, there is usually no right answer to the “are we doing it right” dilemma, as so much of our parenting skills are the result of trial and error and past experience both from how we were raised and how we raised other children. But, I will say that adding triathlons into our family life has had a positive effect on my husband and I as parents and I believe it’s actually made us better parents.
I know this might sound absolutely crazy, but it’s true. We spend so much time as parents focusing on little things that really are so unimportant. We also, as a family unit spend way too much time trying to do it all, that we lose sight of the core family unit. When triathlons became an everyday word in our house, everything changed for us parenting-wise, but it was in a good way! As a reminder, I am not a triathlete, my husband is the triathlete. Yes, I have done little tris, but in the world of being a triathlete, I am really a runner at best.
So, I started to think just how and why triathlons have been good for our family and I sat down to compile my list. Here are the most important ways I came up with that triathlons can make you better parents:
A home and a family can’t be effective with a bunch of “I” s in them. The family unit needs to function as a team. Each family member must drop the whole “not mine”, “not my turn to take out the trash”, and “but she never has to” attitudes. I actually had to tell my son one time, “You know what, you are right. Your sister never has to take the trash out the night before trash day, because she doesn’t get home from rehearsal until 11PM. You get home at 9 on Thursdays, so it’s your job. She covers for you plenty of times when you’re at swim practice. It all evens out. Trust me, I know who does what”.
When my husband started doing triathlon, a lot of this attitude stopped. It takes a team. If something needs to get done, you just do it, period. One of the most important lessons we learned about team work and working together was that we first had to take care of ourselves and then we functioned better as a team. For example, we do a family calendar. Once everyone put their own schedule on the calendar, our team was all coordinated and planning events became much easier with little conflict. Another great benefit was seeing the twins become closer and working together as a team. Just the best gift a parent could receive!
Supporting Each Other
All four of us do sports that are not real “team” sports and there is a lot of individual parts of them. For example, our son is on the Brandeis Swim and Dive Team. Yes it is a team and he earns points for the team, but the act of diving is very individual. Same goes for my daughter as a professional dancer; she is her own brand.
This makes it so important that although we all do different “sports” to support each other. This support does not mean cheering on the sidelines alone, but includes much more. It includes waking up at night and listening to Sam as he walks back from the pool to his dorm about the dives he is working on or the smack he took on a dive. It includes the twins, when they were young, sitting near my husband when he had a long training ride just to hang out with him. It includes love and encouragement and even braiding your triathlete daughter’s hair before a race!
Importance of Family Time
Triathlons taught us a lot about the value and importance of family time. I will admit that as a core family unit of 4 we love our time together, but the training schedules and races sometimes challenged us to find this time. We knew that we had to work around many commitments, but at the end of the day, our time just to be together was invaluable.
We learned this also when traveling to races. We loved spending legs up days chilling together and making sure we always planned a few days before and/or after the race to just be together. In this busy world, triathlons taught us that the art of being together, just being, means a lot and is to be cherished.
We always say that to survive in a triathlon household, you have to communicate, communicate, communicate. Not just about race schedules, but also about issues that may be brewing, such as when you as the partner are feeling overwhelmed. We became much better at communicating as a family unit when triathlons came into our life, sort of by force, but however we got there, I’m happy.
Our family has become accustomed to sharing with each other not only our calendars, but also our lives and emotions. As a result, David and I feel very close to our twins and truly feel that we are a close-knit family. I’m confident that they are comfortable coming to us with any issue and know we will always be there for them and not judge. And, seriously, a huge part of this is because of the communication we established when David started triathlons.
We always ate well, but when the kids were little, we were also younger and could eat differently than we eat now. Triathlons, being an endurance sport, brought a whole new way of looking at food into our home. I worked with a nutritionist on better ways to fuel my husband and as I learned more, I was able to roll information over into how the whole family ate.
It just felt better and our bodies were getting better. I mean, I always prepared and cooked good whole foods, but working with a nutritionist and reading more about fueling your body, I felt as though the whole family could benefit. At the end of the day, I felt like a better mom providing my team with even better and healthier food.
How to Slow Down & Have Patience
The greatest gift of all! With 4 very active, high achievers in the family, we didn’t have much patience and the whole slow down thing didn’t exactly work for us. We were so worked up with getting it all in that we were not patient at all.
Well, triathlons take a ton of training and the races are very long days. It is funny when we became the ones training and participating and not just the kids, that we realized how they felt being in our shoes. It was humbling when we, as the parents, became the ones that were training and the kids had to wait for us. So, as a family unit, we learned how to slow down and appreciate each other’s time and time spent training and how to be patient.