Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
We’re constantly talking to our kids about being brave and trying hard things. We give them messages that if they work at it, there’s no telling how far they can go. We talk a lot about not letting the fear of failing or looking foolish stop them from something they’re really interested in trying; we even aim to celebrate the failures and setbacks as learning opportunities to grow. We don’t expect them to be perfect, but we also don’t want them to quit the moment something seems too tough.
These are all fantastic lessons to attempt to embed in our kids, but what if we, as moms, actually stopped and listened to our own words? What if instead of just telling our kids these things, we showed them?
This is exactly how 20 other elementary school moms and I ended up signing up to do a triathlon.
It’s not quite as random as it sounds. As it stands now, I am the only member of our family who has not participated in a multi-sport race. My husband is our trailblazer and completed his first half-ironman this year. Our oldest has three kids’ triathlon finisher medals, and her siblings are poised to follow suit after both earning trophies at their first swim/run, this spring.
I know I’m not the only mom whose kids have suddenly decided to swim/bike/run their way to a finish line. Triathlons are one of the fastest-growing youth sports. Every year here in Houston, nearly 3,000 children participate in the Houston Texans Kids Triathlon, which is one of the largest in the nation—in fact, it’s such a big deal that many of our elementary schools form teams.
I dare you to attend one of the kid triathlons and not walk away beaming with pride. Let’s face it, triathlons are impressive! The idea that a six-year-old can swim 100 meters, bike three miles, then run a half a mile, is equal parts absurd and awesome. They’re out there on the course, with their tasseled bikes and ninja turtle helmets, doing something I’ve never even dreamed of attempting—and killing it.
While I have dutifully attended several triathlons over the years, I never really had a desire to sign up for a triathlon myself. I was perfectly fine with my regular, but non-challenging, gym routine. Then something shifted. A few of my friends had casually thrown out the idea of doing a triathlon. I hadn’t taken the notion seriously until I overheard my daughter innocently telling a friend that she gets her athletic ability from her dad. Excuse me? Do I need to get my high school track team medals down from the attic?
Then it struck me hard. Of course she thinks that—I haven’t shown her otherwise. As moms, it’s easy to slip into the head cheerleader role. I spend a significant amount of time supporting each of my children in their various activities and drag them to races to cheer on their dad. There is no equivalent of that for me. I don’t have the kids make signs and cheer me on while I cross the finish-line of successfully-getting-all-three-dressed-and-to school-on-time-every-day-this-week. There is no medal for doing the laundry and putting it all away in one day. (There should be, by the way.) I have an exercise routine, but they never see it, because I always aim to get my workouts in when they are in school or occupied elsewhere. I have been doing an excellent job of hyping other family members’ achievements while inadvertently minimizing my own.
Well, no more. Mama is doing a triathlon and you are going to watch me.
Once the decision was made, the rest clicked into place. We found a race a few months away that seemed the perfect starter triathlon. It was a women-only, Sprint distance (325-meter swim, 10-mile bike, 2-mile run), plus there were perks. It was at a resort, the swim was one lap of the lazy river, and it promised mimosas at the end. Perfect. I messaged a few of the other moms who had also expressed interest in signing up for a tri. Are we really doing this? Guess so.
From there, we started recruiting. We posted on our social media pages that we had lost our minds and were going to do a triathlon. I emailed all of the parents from our school’s triathlon team and invited them to sign up, too. What happened next, I wasn’t prepared for. Our group grew to over 20 mothers, all with different fitness and comfort levels. Some had raced before, while others—like myself—had only spectated. I had clearly underestimated how much other women were craving the same things. We’ve watched and supported our kids’ endeavors; now it was our turn for them to watch us.
If it hadn’t been for my daughter’s statements, I wouldn’t have signed up for this triathlon. She has heard me recant this story several times, and it embarrasses her. She feels like she hurt my feelings and said something untrue. I, on the other hand, am extremely grateful. She pushed me to not just talk the talk about putting yourself out and doing difficult things, but actually to race the race. There is no way I would be prioritizing bike rides and running in the Houston heat without her and the support of the rest of my family.
It’s my hope that when I cross that finish line, my kids don’t just see that their mama completed a triathlon. I hope this experience has a deeper impact on them than that. I want them to see a mom who decided to show them that no matter how slow I am, I didn’t give up. That this is not about winning, it is about finishing. To remember all of the work I put into preparing for the race and that it all didn’t come easy. I also want them to look around and see all the other strong moms who are also racing. To see how we have supported each other and how we cheer for one another. That you are never too old to try something new and that everything is more fun when you do it with friends. I also hope that they feel just a little of the pride for me that I feel for them every single day of their lives.