One of the greatest gifts of my adult life has been the women who have met me at any time of the morning to workout. Whether swimming, running, yoga, pilates, or beach volleyball, and starting as early as 4:30am (shoutout to the early morning Fresno crew), the gratitude I have for these friendships brings tears to my eyes most mornings I am headed out to play. At this stage of life, the sport is secondary to the common experiences and the clarity and realness that come as we harness our endorphins to solve all of the world’s problems from parenting to politics and everything in between.
Recently I wrote about perfectionism, and how it can rest so heavily on our shoulders. It’s hold on us keeps us from our most impactful, joyful, and connected life. But did you know that one of the best prescriptions to combat perfectionism is our willingness to go out and play? As we get older, it’s easy to think that play is a thing of the past that we don’t have time for in our adult lives, but living in a constant state of doing instead of giving ourselves the time to just be free, is a recipe for burnout and with the daily stresses and changes in my life, I don’t know where I would be without the nearly daily check in’s with friends that go along with movement. These adult sporting experiences from volleyball tournaments to Master’s swim meets have been my playground, a place to learn about myself, release the hold on expectation and find that blissful place of striving contentment. I relate certain runs to certain worries, like when I started to worry about Matthew’s development when things seemed off when he was approaching two, or swim practices to the little bits of wisdom I’d pick up on the deck after I cleared my mind with 3000 yards, and the bonds of friendship that were created when locker room chats carried over to Starbucks runs when a topic couldn’t be exhausted in the time it took us to get dressed. My early morning workout habits on most days help me to put my worries to rest at night knowing that the answers will come with whatever activity the morning brings…and I’m so thankful that I have rarely had to go it alone.
When my kids were little, I couldn’t wait for the days they could sign up and play something, and I knew they were accustomed to it because they had been helping me make my workout happen since they were in baby carriers. Whether that was putting up with being dropped into “kids club” at the gym, to Lauren sitting in my bed many early mornings watching Horton Hears A Who with Matthew while I swam. It takes a village to make it all happen and as long as kids feel safe and supported, they are always able to contribute. Bottom line, my growth, and arguably my mental strength has come from my daily workout routine since before any of my kids were born. And, since our wisdom comes from the experience of what we know, over the years my activities became the natural go to’s as my kids got to the age to be able to join up and do things. Since I was a swimmer, my kids were thrown into swim team. And after that, volleyball…and I loved every minute of it, seven years never passed so quickly. I never wished as I was standing on the pool deck or the sidelines of a volleyball court that the event would finish up so we could do something else, there was truly no place I’d rather be, no matter what mess I had to come home to after a day of watching them. I saw sports as the way to teach them the big lessons about life like they have done for me.
So what happened when one of them wanted to quit?
As it has been for all of us, 2020 has asked for some big shifts in thinking and doing. Besides the time that we couldn’t play volleyball on the beach or swim in the ocean, I never knew it was the last time I would watch Luke play a high school or club volleyball match, that the one and only trip I took to Texas would be the only play time I would see of Lauren’s freshman year. But the most interesting conversation and growth exercise for me as a parent was to let go and have February 2020 be the last club volleyball tournament I would watch Kate play. After the thoughts danced in my head of her talent, the way I believe in endorphins, and the awesome coaches that she would have a chance to be shaped by if she kept playing it, it all paled in comparison to the bravery and self awareness she demonstrated in communicating how she felt with me.
Sometimes we get so entangled in what we thought life was going to be, we lose out on the magic of what is developing right in front of our eyes.
And then as I watched her talent project through the Zoom screen production of Emma two weeks ago, I understood once again that the real work doesn’t always happen on the court…she has found her flow on the stage.
The joy of being a parent happens when we come to understand that we are a conduit for their success and that the best things happens when we focus on getting our own wiring right and worry less about theirs. There is more wisdom gained by the experiences we share together than the words we speak at them. When they know what we are about, they find the confidence to discover their own path. So as I traced my path this week between what has been lost to what has been found, I collected these thoughts…
- We help them find their uniqueness by honoring our own, we are not like anyone else, and we don’t want them to be either. There are so many ways to be successful. If we have had a hand in helping them find their voice, how can we be upset or disappointed or upset with them with they use it. That expression is what turns passion into purpose…and knowing our purpose is the key to passing on knowledge, not just saving the best moments for ourselves.
- Teach them to Be Adaptable. I discovered later in life that more than anything else, adaptability is my key to confidence. When we expect things to be a certain way, and then the inevitable changes in life spring up, whether it’s something as devastating as a death or divorce, being cut from a team, not getting the part, or being rejected by a friend, having the skills to adapt to the new normal is what drives us toward growth and away from the path of denial and addiction that causes us to falter.
- Help them learn that they are just one thought away from a totally different experience. Do you know how to flip your script? If we can’t recognize negative thought patterns and self sabotage for what they are, and can’t come up with the thoughts and actions to change our way of thinking, how can we teach them to do the same? Teach them that little annoying voice in your head is normal, and then show them how to kick it to the curb.
- Honor Flexibility. The only way to teach them to be flexible is for you to be flexible yourself. As parents, can we make small concessions, with firm boundaries that build connection with our kids? It’s why I haven’t taken away Matthew’s video games - as long as the school work is handled and he gets out to surf or move. Sometimes I even play with him, he gets a kick out of how bad I am, we laugh really hard, and it’s the social capital that his future trust in me is built on. Besides, I have come to believe that anything that is controlling and rigid usually ends ends up broken and that life is beautiful when we learn to sit in the moments and just be with them instead of always looking for their marks of forward progress.
One last story, I was helping Matthew with a book report the other night, and he had to list our six qualities of the main character. Tall, loyal, intelligent, a good friend…he started to rattle off about Max, the main character in Freak The Mighty (highly recommend!). I froze for a minute, the whole story was that Max was the big kid that struggles in school and his friend was Freak, a tiny intelligent kid with a physical disability. I hesitated and then asked him “ Wait, Max is intelligent? Or are you thinking of Freak?”
“No. Max, is intelligent,” he said.
“He just struggles in school…like me.”
Parenting continues to give me the greatest gifts. Life is hard, and the younger I can help them discover what they like best about themselves and the world and that the thing they love most will be the easiest thing they can work hard at, I can sleep easy and move on to the next great lesson they are going to teach me. And as long as Kate isn’t telling me that I can’t play volleyball anymore, we will never have any problem;)
Up next, RUHS’s production of CLUE starring Kate Turner as Mrs. White, Dec 4-6… and I can’t wait to watch.
If you are looking for ways to create calm and connection in your home and relationship with your child or teenager reach out here…I can help:)