16 September 2013

tri hard: this is sparta!

several years ago, the Mister and i watched the movie 300. and even though the boys never saw it, they picked up the theme very quickly. even the littlest began shouting: this.is.sparta!

the movie kinda changed my life in terms of how i saw my four sons. i sat aghast watching the spartan culture unfold in the life of a boy who very quickly began training as a man. it shocked me. it shook me up. and then i wondered why it was so upsetting. i think it's because the brutality was so so so savage. it was so foreign because fighting in our american culture is seen one way: unnecessarily bad. we forget that boys need to wrestle literally and figuratively to gain the momentum that launches them into adulthood. and often the wrestling is not with another person, but with themselves.

a few weeks ago i was cheering on the sidelines. coach asked, "are your boys nervous?" i honestly replied, "i have no idea. i never asked them." i wouldn't assume they were feeling nervous and wouldn't want to plant that idea in their mind if they're weren't. instead i asked them the day of the race, "how are you feeling?" and they all answered, "excited." one wondered if he would get kicked in the head during the swimming.

like most things in my life, when i chose to sign my four very inexperienced boys up for their first triathlon, i did so on a complete whim. no consulting. no planning. no research. no talking about it. i took a word from nike. and just.did.it.
we moved back to Nashville late May. the following week, they were training.

we showed up for the first practice, me giddy and very, very curious. them along for the ride{let's humor mummy} which has been the general posture for these many years. the trajectory of our family is: mum has a fun idea. boys play along. sometimes it goes well. this was such the case with their first go with triathlons.

one of the coaches came over to meet me after the first practice. "i have to tell you charlie paid us the best compliment of our careers. he said, 'i am so satisfied with the variety of exercises you chose to teach us. it's challenging, but so worth it'." i had never heard my 12 year old use the word satisfy in my life. and that would be the theme of their 3 month stint as triathletes. very, very satisfying. 

a few weeks back, these 4 boys o'mine participated in their first triathlon. and all managed to bring home the first place trophy in their age division for first timers. all were completely satisfied. and after it was all said and done, i told their valiant coaches that we would sign up for wheel barrel racing if we knew they were coaching. you see i saw my boys change. for the better. and the coaches were the ones who ignited that change.

with some really great coaching, an open mind and a mother who cheered{and kept all her anxiety to herself}, these boys have started what i hope is a lifelong love with this sport. 

i guess my point in all of this is as parents we must let our children experience their own fears and victories without us, their guides, telling them what to fear {i mean this in the sense of emotional fear rather than imparting wisdom}. and that's the hard part. figuring out how to impart wisdom without imparting fear, our fear based on our experiences. 

i have to bite my tongue and jump up and down with my hand over my mouth somedays just to keep my mouth shut whenever i see my boys scale a wall or climb a tree or run in a field out in country on a scorching day. to see them take on challenges that i would never want for myself, but that are deeply satisfying-for them. because they are their own people and isn't that the goal of parenting? to guide them as they become their own independent people?

i have to remind myself of that when i watch my two oldest walk out the door to school everyday. they are forging a new life for themselves with experiences that are so rich-and uncommon to me and separate from me. they are lone reeds in many ways. but boy are they gaining strength in ways i could never have hoped for or imagined. and that strength is what gets them through a grueling cross country practice. it's what helps them negotiate with difficult classmates. and it's that strength that will carry them into their burgeoning manhood. 

i always told people, "my boys are more athenian than spartan" a reference to ancient history. athenians being more epicurean than the fierce spartans. i clearly was wrong. all of my boys, as it turns out, are spartans. and as the 7 year old likes to shout: "this.is.sparta!"


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