I received an email yesterday that sent me through the roof. Now, it’s not the first one of its kind, I’ll give you that. But this particular one mattered a whole hill of beans–because, I was so sure in my response.
Here’s a little story as a background.
So, I started triathlon out of a pure and simple selfish reason. I was lost and out of shape with two kiddos who were VERY young. I worked (a lot) and I was angry and sad and fatter than i should have been. Frankly, I needed something for me. Somehow, I needed to escape the crying and the poopy diapers. I needed to find a small space of time and hope that was mine.
I will admit that.
(And guess what… any mother of young children in the world who refuses to admit that she needs time away from the kids is a dirty rotten liar, and I challenge them to a duel. Anyway. )
So anyway. The email. Yes. Here it is:
Just wondering who is raising your children when you are busy being selfish and pursuing your selfish interests of swimming and biking and running? I raised my kids. I was there with them every step of the way. I can’t imagine being your age and flipping my children to the side like you do. Just some food for thought. Cheers.
[Insert lots of emojis here.]
Oh! You know the BEST part about this email? Well, it was a fake email address.
Ah-ha! A coward too. Love. It. (So much.)
So I have written tons of posts about the life-family balance, why I tri, and how what I do with MY body matters to my kids. But I also have a confession to make.
When I used to write these posts about motherhood and tri-ing to be a better mother, I really didn’t know what I was talking about. My kids were super small… I didn’t know if they were going to turn out as serial killers or delinquent (still don’t know, really—they are 6 and 7). 🙂
But I had a feeling that triathlon benefitted my kids for a few reasons.
First, it made me happy. Rationale: a happier mom makes a better mom.
Second, it made me healthier. Rationale: a healthy mom is, well, alive to raise her children.
Third, it leads by example – lessons about hard work, perseverance and dedication. Rationale: whippersnappers these days need to learn about hard work, perseverance and dedication.
Fourth, it brings balance. Rationale: Moms from a starting point work too damn hard to do it all. Triathlon gives moms a chance to breathe, work and break. Again, happy moms = happier family. Sometimes, of course, you do have to find the staples…
Anyway. Yes. All of these reasons were things I intuited… things I figured to be true. Because why? Well, those things had to be true.
Here’s the thing. They ARE true.
The kids are participating in their first triathlon next weekend. They wanted to do it. They wanted to take swim lessons and run and do a race. They want to be healthy.
Because they saw me do it. They saw the Expert do it.
My kids have seen me jump into lakes and oceans for several years now. And guess what?
When I was doing my race, my kids were doing this:
She’s already conquered it. How. Amazing. Is. That.
They’ve been “running” races since 2012. How. Amazing. Is. That.
When I receive emails like the one above, I don’t shrink and say, “Oh my. You are so right. Gosh, I’m a terrible mother.” Of course, I have dealt with some parenting guilt. Of course. However, after almost five years of doing this while having kids, I now rear up and stand firm and am ready to talk about this.
No, I do not feel guilty. In fact, I am proud.
Because I receive little gifts like this from my son:
Because to him, it matters that I “try my best” and I have “perservererense.”
Because the email address was “undeliverable,” here is my response to the email.
Dear Cowardly Writer of Email:
What we (as moms and dads) do as triathletes matters. To be a drive-through feeding parent who is 100 pounds overweight but is “home” with their kids all day is not parenting. YOU are not parenting better than I am when you are unhealthy and feeding your kids sugar all day long as rewards. You are not a good parent, simply because you are hovering like a helicopter over your children, catering to their every need and whim. You are not a better parent because you don’t take care of yourself, and you carry the giant cross of motherhood like it’s something to bear—and not something to cherish.
YOU are selfish, not me.
I am making a better life (yes, for myself), but also for my entire family.
Furthermore, who says we, as women and mothers, don’t have the damn RIGHT to make our own lives better in the process? Who are YOU to tell me that I don’t have the right to take care of myself? I did not have children and slip into a state of martydom. What good does being a Swim Bike Martyr do?
Get a grip.
Being an active mother is fantastic and it matters, big time. Our kids run. They bike. And they want to be healthy. Because they have parents who try to be good examples.
The other morning, I woke up early and laced up my sneakers. Our whole family was in the kitchen getting ready for the day. The Expert was making his lunch. I had packed the kiddos’ lunches for day camp. The house was surprisingly quiet for a morning, and there was no chaos. (Clearly all the planets were aligned.)
The Expert watched me for a second. Then I saw he was watching our daughter, Stella… who was watching me.
She was studying me. Watching me put on my shoes, my running belt, my visor.
The Expert told me, “You know what you are doing matters.”
“What do you mean?”
He said, “She’s watching you. She will grow up knowing that this is good. That running and being healthy is a way of life. You lead by example.”
As he said this, the little girl snagged a visor from the laundry pile, and placed it on her head.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked her.
“Yep. Let’s go,” she said.
As for you, dear Writer of the Email, I believe that YOU are selfish.
You have likely raised your children to be as close-minded as you are… to be as judgmental as you are. And from the anger in your email, you have also never really tried to be healthy or run or do anything to show your children what health means.
You know how I know? Because if you had, you would have never sent this email. Instead, you would be nodding along to all the reasons I listed above.
I wish you all the best of luck.
Swim Bike Mom