I find it funny how much I’ve learned about parenting from – get this- the Ironman! I never thought those two things had anything in common. Then I trained and raced two Ironmans. There’s definitely something about an Ironman that can be all-consuming, expensive, and exhausting, like parenting, but I’ve found more similarities along my journey.
Parenting is not a 5K. There’s no way you can go into it thinking, “This is short. Just 30 minutes and I can go home, shower, and get on with the rest of the day.” The Ironman is all day- really, ALL DAY! I start in the dark and I end in the dark. I know it’s going to be long and painful, but I also know that the finish line is worth it. When I look at parenting like my Ironman races, I don’t expect it to be short or easy. Yes, it’s long and hard; just keep moving forward.
The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run- three totally different sports with two transitions. I think that parenting has three totally different phases- parenting young kids, parenting teenagers, and ( I’m not there yet but I hear about it) parenting adult children. Just like swimming, biking, and running are all athletic but need very different skills- parenting kids through three different stages requires skill adjustments! I now have three teenagers and it’s WAY different than three little kids. The purpose of the Ironman transition bag is so that when I finish one sport, I have all my gear and food for the next sport. Where was my “transition into parenting teens” bag? I never got it!!! No wonder I sometimes feel like a biker with no helmet!
Along the ironman course, there are many aid stations- every 10 miles on the bike and every 1 mile on the run. There’s nothing like the welcome sight of a volunteer at one of the bike aid stations holding out a cold bottle of water with the lid already open. I can keep pedaling, reach out, grab the bottle, and take a big gulp as I’m on my way. I think of the weekly appointments with our kids’ counselor like welcome aid stations! They are just what I need to get refreshed, re-energized, and ready to take on the next “10 miles” of parenting. Now here’s where it gets a little personal. The bike is the hardest part of the Ironman for me. Because of that, I take advantage of the aid stations more than the average athlete. As the mother of three adopted kids with attachment issues, I also need a little bit more help than the average mom. Parenting is, well, just plain hard! We are blessed to have a fabulous counselor who specializes in working with adopted kids like mine. He teaches me how to parent them to best help them with their struggles. If only the volunteer holding out the water bottle could help me bike faster! By the way, our counselor’s name is Kurt Ellis- familiesforevercounseling.com.
The Ironman wouldn’t be complete without thousands of spectators yelling, cheering, smiling and shouting things like, “You’re almost there!” “You’re my hero!” or the best one yet-“You look so cute in that skirt!”. I honestly don’t think I could finish an Ironman without the people cheering. They give me energy when I don’t think I can take another step. Sometimes they reach out their hands so that I can give them a high five as I run by. That’s like an energy drink for me! Like the Ironman race, I have found parenting to be very challenging and I’m not sure I could do it without encouragement. I am so thankful for my parents and friends who cheer me on and say over and over, “You can do it” ” You’re the perfect mom for these kids!” “You’re doing a great job!”.
So maybe the Ironman is a pretty extreme way to get lessons in parenting, but if you’re a little crazy like me, give it try. For everyone else who needs a little parenting encouragement, ” Think iron! Hang in there! Keep moving forward!” The finish line will be worth it, I guarantee.