Many aspects come together to make a ‘healthy’ family. And, families are different. What is important is to be an expert regarding your own family. When my boys were infants, I made two determinations: First, I would never let my own fears dictate their experience of life and second, to live my view that we were equals, on a soul level. This meant that we would learn from each other, and I would show respect for their opinions and choices even as little tykes. They turned out well!
With a strong foundation, as our family grew, we shifted into athletics. Coming from a non-athletic background myself (only in the last ten years have I been a runner), I learned the lessons that come from sports, along with my boys. Participation in athletics, at every level, offers myriad of lessons and skills that apply directly to so much that life presents. There is great value in participation for boys and girls. I grew up in a time when most girls sat on the sidelines. (Too often women sideline themselves, but that is a topic for another day).
When my older son began to run Cross Country, I sat in the car and waited like every other parent. I cannot even fathom doing that now. Oh, how I wish I had run with him. Eventually, he did persuade me to run with him. I did. It was hard. I would walk every hill. But, his smile and encouragement kept me going. The boy became my example. I hung with it and ran on my own for about five years. Then, my younger son signed the family up for the Spartan Sprint in Atlanta in 2011. It literally changed the destiny of our family. Destiny: I know it is a fluff word, but I mean it. After that event, an immediate shift began. We signed up for more trail and OCR races, radically changed our diet, and got serious with our training. Again, the boy, this time the youngest, led the way.
Being led by and working along side your child in pursuit of athletic achievements, albeit at different levels, creates a dynamic in which the roles of mother/child diminish and instead what surfaces is a field of mutual support and camaraderie. We see each other as we are; it is very real. It fosters enormous mutual respect. For us, this is the pinnacle of a healthy relationship.
When embarking on my first Spartan race and when facing the Vermont Beast, I was nearly overcome with fear for myself and for my family. I would say that, as one of the first Spartan families, I was in a unique position, competing myself along with my father-in-law, at almost 70, my husband and my son. Thankfully, I no longer meet races with a swirl of emotion. These adventures have become beautiful memories for our family and the friends that are with us.
Not all of our events are OCR. My husband, Robert, and younger son, Alec, also compete in ultra distance running events. Alec competed in his first 50K at just sixteen. As he approached his final hour on the course, I questioned my judgement and had to recall the decision to never allow my own fear to hold him back. My older son, Colin aspires to compete in weight lifting while our girl, Teckmon, who joined our family at 18 years of age, practices yoga and is beginning to lift. When we are all together, the chatter revolves around training, food, supplements, technique and shoes. Ahh…so much about shoes!
Letting children go, be and do is one of the most healthy things any parent ever does. But, it can be difficult, as many of us already know. Our function is to work our way out of a job! Watching my children as they find their way in whatever their endeavors is a gift for savoring. I am committed to playing with them into old age – for this is the picture of health to me. While healthy families come in all varieties, mutual respect and the freedom our children feel from us to soar is paramount.
Love & Light.