When you’ve decided to get involved in the world of triathlons, you AND your family have to adopt the lifestyle that goes along with it. If you have children, they will not be immune to the effects and should be told what their parent being a triathlete will mean to their lives. They will not be happy if they are expecting you at every soccer game and you’re now only showing up to a few.
We highly suggest you do this as a couple to show your solidarity. It doesn’t matter what age the kids are, they still need to be told what to expect. The difference may be that the older the child the less they care or may even exhibit glee that you won’t be around as much. But, regardless, you need to have THE CONVERSATION.
It’s important to keep the conversation open and honest and to remember that this is an on-going process and not a one-time discussion. You will have to see how the family adjusts to this new situation and make changes along the way as needed. What’s important to remember is that being a triathlete means making kids a part of the lifestyle and that is better than just dragging them along for the ride.
Here are some of the most important points you need to cover in THE CONVERSATION…
Your family life as you know it is about to change big time and that is mostly due to exactly that…time. The triathlete parent just won’t be around the house like they used to be. Whether they are training, at a race, or simply reading triathlete magazines, the sport requires that a good amount of time be devoted to it and this time has to come from someplace.
While you certainly can’t make up for lost time, there are some things you can do to lessen the sting. You can include the kids in some training routines, adjust your training times to be least disruptive to family time, and plan some special alone time with each child.
Missing important events
This is probably the toughest issue you’ll have to deal with and one the kid’s may not understand or handle well. This means this aspect of the conversation will take your full focus and finesse. We have to say that not only will the kids be disappointed, but in all likelihood, so will the triathlete. It’s tough missing school plays and lacrosse games, as these are events you just can’t get back.
The kids will need to be reassured that while it may take time and practice, you will work on a routine so that one or both parents will be there for support. It’s also important to put priorities on events, so you make sure not to miss those events that mean the most to your children.
Vacations may change
Instead of going to Disneyland, you may be going to Lake Placid this year and that has to be explained. Here’s where you need to let them know that a lot of the places where they have triathlons are great for the kids with tons of activities, such as Mont Tremblant, and you really need to think of race sites with the kids in mind when you’re planning your race season.
That said, they also need to know that when you are on “vacation” you will be gone training and won’t be readily available to play tourist with them. That’s why it’s SO important to try and plan a few days of pure vacation after the race when you can devote the time to family and fun and when your head is not wrapped around race day. Speaking of which, you also need to let them know what to expect on race day.
While the kids may want to have dad or mom all to themselves and have some play time, your triathlete may just be too pooped to play. You also need to be mindful that along with being tired can come short-temperedness. You don’t want to regret what you’ve said to your children OR your spouse, because of your lack of sleep.
Along with being tired comes a change in sleep habits, which also needs to be communicated. You actually may find yourself going to bed before the kids sometimes! Plus, with a good night’s sleep being so important for the triathlete, especially around race time, kids will need to be quiet and may resent not being able to be kids or being told to be quiet because mom/dad is trying to sleep!
The non-triathlete partner and the kids will most likely have to take on more responsibility in the home and so, how things function around the household and within the family may change. Lay out expectations of each family member if you anticipate changes, like the kids will now have to do chores they never had to before.
What’s in it for them
While you’re having this discussion, your kids may only be seeing the downside of having triathlons come into their lives. Since you want to get this started on a positive note for the family and not have them thinking, “Why are you doing this to me?”, you need to give them the upside as well. Talk to them about making new friends, traveling to fun places, and being able to boast their mom/dad is a triathlete. Tell them to talk to you if they’re feeling neglected or otherwise unhappy with the situation. Keep the communication open.
Just keep in mind that while there are both positives and negatives associated with bringing triathlons into the family, the lifestyle can actually make you better parents. Seriously…Don’t lose site of this fact!