Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How sports prepared me for parenthood during the holidays

I have a blood blister on the palm of my right hand. My butt is frozen to sweatpants soaked through with rainwater the lawn shared with me. The blustery wind is blowing strands of hair in my eyes and mouth, obscuring my view of the instruction manual. I've already put on a second layer as the temperature dropped. My body is telling me to stop, to rest, to let this project go for a few minutes, or hours or however long it takes to recuperate. But I'm pressing on. I have a job to do and a deadline to meet.

Tomorrow is Christmas and Santa is bringing the girls a trampoline. (Shhhh! Don't tell 'em!) Mr. B has taken the girls out for some last-minute shopping, lunch out with Daddy, duck feeding at the park and some climbing time in the trees there. I've been left behind to put together the trampoline and enclosure. "You can do it. The box says it's easy. No tools, even. You built a Jeep and designed our addition. Don't worry."

As I work into my third hour, miss lunch, grow colder and suffer the injuries only a screwdriver can inflict I want to stop. But then I have to laugh as I hear one of my old swim coaches.

"Pain is your friend."

I'm alone in the backyard, and it's been 22 years since I heard Joe say that. Still, he's with me.

Another coach chimes in.

"How bad do you want it? If you want it, you're going to have to work for it."

And another.

"Nothing good comes easily."

Then I laugh as I recall sharing similar messages with the swimmers I coached, andI press on with the project.

I swam through high school and into college. I raced BMX for a spell, too. These days I neither swim nor bike as much as I used to, or as much as I'd like to. But the lessons I learned from the extracurricular physical pursuits extend into even the most mundane of chores...and trampoline building.

The instructions (opened after DH and family pulled out of the driveway) said at least three adults "in good physical condition" would be needed for the project. I suppose I could have given up then, but swimming and bike racing taught me to give it a try. (Turns out it would have been EASIER with three people, but it was quite doable with one.)

When the bolt pinched the blister into the palm of my strong hand, and I'd tied my 82nd bow to secure the various pads and nets, I was sorely tempted to quit the project. But swimming taught me to focus on my goal and carry on.

And when my back began to ache and my fingers were cramping, I remembered how quickly our bodies, however tired, recover. Trampoline building was nothing like a collegiate workout, a race down the homestretch, or childbearing. I could carry on.

Mr. B just rolled up. The tramp is "hidden" in the backyard. The girls are bathing and distracted and HOPEFULLY won't look out the windows on that side of the house this evening. My project is complete. The reward will come tomorrow morning on their little faces.

Completely worth it all.


  1. Wow, that's awesome...what a stud. I can REALLY relate/empathize and as a recipient of your coaching totally appreciate you learning that lesson from Joe!! Yay for sports and how they make our lives and brains better!

  2. Awww! I to have been through the thinking of I can do it by myself(even though the directions said four average men six hours) My friend hired me to put together a play gym set. I was thinking a little two swing one level wood and bolts type set. Not. The look out tower was its third story, climbing wall, two ladders, three swings and two slides later I was into it about twelve evenings after work. Ugh. Its nice the kids have fun with it though. I didn't have the coach in my head... I had dollar signs in my pocket, and when it got really hard, I recalled some of the things I've managed to fix at my job and this PLAY set can't kick my butt. We must have proud Fathers.

  3. That's great, Jen! Amazing what we'll do for our kids, isn't it? I don't have a coach in my head in times like those, but I'm pretty darn stubborn and hate to give up, so I can relate.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! LK


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