One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: Where’s the Training Plan for Parenting?

Everyone's happier after a run
Everyone's happier after a run.

Heather and Marianne, two long-distance BRFs, are going to document their #FindYourStrong Marathon training weekly on Tuesdays. Although training has started, it's only started for the first three waves (marathons on October 3-4, 10-11, & 17-18). Registration is still open for all waves, and will be open through June 19. Heather has a solo performance today; she and Marianne will be back to writing together next week.

Training this week has been slightly tougher than usual, mostly because we’re undergoing training of a different sort: sleep training. The last time we went through this, we had to fasten a bike lock around a baby gate at the entrance to our son's room. Even with the lock, we had to deliver him back to his room five times the first night after he used two different chairs, a storage box, the trash can, and the mountain to his train table to climb over the gate. (In case you were wondering, that determination better come from me and it better translate to marathons in the future.)

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Let me tell you, when before I became a real parent—and not just one in my mind—I never would have been going through this. My children would pick up all their toys before bedtime. They’d shower the room with goodnight kisses before cheerfully skipping upstairs while singing a song, VonTrapp style. They would carefully brush their teeth, change into jammies, no pull-ups needed because obviously they stayed dry through the night. We’d cuddle up for storytime and then I’d tuck them gently into bed. Those imaginary children were asleep before I left the room.

They would do those things because I had parented so well. Whenever I witnessed other people’s children resisting bedtime or waking multiple times during the night, I would make sympathetic murmurings, but really I was thinking “They’re obviously not doing something right. I would never put up with that behavior.”

I like equations. It’s not so much that I’m enamored with math, but more that I love a right answer. I like knowing that I’m on the right path, making the correct choice. Unsurprisingly, parenting has not been smooth sailing for me. As it turns out, there are no right answers in parenting. Or, perhaps more accurately, there are 17,000 right answers to every question, because everyone insists that their answer is the correct one.

Oh—and as a bonus —everyone wants to give you their answer.

As a result, I have spent much of my time as a parent grappling with indecision, self-doubt, and guilt.  People will say, “Trust your motherly instinct! Mama always knows best!” But what if I can’t feel an instinct? What if I don’t have one? Should I feed him peanut butter before 2 years of age? Should she be picked up and comforted, or am I spoiling her? When exactly does that pacifier need to disappear? Did we already ruin her life by introducing a pacifier in the first place? How the hell am I supposed to know any of this? And where on earth are the manuals for these kids?

A bewildered mama with baby Henry
A bewildered mama with baby Henry

A while ago, I made an offhand comment to my parents that running is the easiest part of my life.  Concerned and possibly alarmed, my mom asked, “What’s so hard?” After all, by most standards I do not have a hard life. I lead an upper-middle-class existence in a delightful suburb with a fantastic family, a job I care about, and full health benefits. The streets of Hudson are not tough. Life isn't that hard. It’s that running There are zero decisions to make.

Someone (in the case of the #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge, Coach Christine) gives me a prescribed plan to follow, and I know that if I follow that plan, it will yield good results. Want to run faster? Do speed work. Want to run farther? Gradually increase your distance. 1+1=2. Equations. Right answers.

Photo Jun 14, 8 33 52 PM

Even when sleep was interrupted and sacrificed this week, my marching orders were clear: 3 miles; 4 miles; 6 miles... On Monday, after a night of who-knows-how-few hours when even the devoted morning runner in me couldn't bear the thought of a 5:45 a.m. alarm, I stuffed my running gear into a workout bag and got in those three miles before leaving the office for the day. On Tuesday when I fell asleep before the screaming kid did, when he woke early the next morning as I was leaving for my run and my husband asked me to stay, I did it again despite the obnoxious heat and humidity. Why? Because that's what the plan said to do. I didn't have to think. I just had to go.

The benefits to working in a national park.
The benefits to working in a national park.

Back in the murky world of parenting, my 3.5-year-old son does not want to go to bed. He doesn’t want that bedtime story. He wants to be tucked in approximately 874 times. We didn’t snug up his feet and toes properly. He will wake multiple times during the night and repeat the painful process. At bedtime—or worse, at 3 am—he will ask questions about my father-in-law, who died so very suddenly a month ago, leaving us all breathless. I will waver between wanting to provide comfort and reassurance, and feeling the need to lay boundaries. Am I making it worse by giving in and going in? If I stay firm am I making it worse because he feels abandoned? Indecision. Doubt.

I'm taking comfort in the thought that a month from now, a year from now, five years from now, things will be different. We'll be wrestling with something else. And in the meantime, I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking solace in the results that follow. At least I always snug those laces just right.

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We gotta know: Is running the easiest part—or at least one of the easier parts—of your life? 


13 responses to “One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: Where’s the Training Plan for Parenting?

  1. I love this post! So much of it is my life. I will say, that right now the running is the easy part. There is no thinking required, I just get to go.

  2. I’ll be honest and say that running is the hardest part of my life – by far. It’s a constant struggle with pain and injury and trying to tap into mental toughness to push past the constant pain that doctors and PTs don’t have an answer for – or a solution. It’s so much harder than just putting one foot in front of the other for me.

  3. Your post really resonates with me. I have three “determined” (aka strong-willed, high maintenance, spirited children – depends whose point of view on any given situation 🙂 I’ve learned to limit sharing my stories with those whose advice is not helpful or welcomed. More often than not ere are no “right” answers, though over time, I’ve found some are more helpful, supportive and loving than others (I have 2 teens now, so that can be more of a challenge when we “lock horns”) In short, running IS “easier” than parenting, especially when I’m following a plan. Some one else, with “real expertise” has made the decisions and experienced pretty consistent results from the plan. What a relief!! Running builds me up – even when I feel “spent from the workout, I’m somehow stronger for it. But be mindful 1+1 doesn’t always = 2. Sometimes you follow the running plan to the letter but stuff happens. Injuries, illness, maybe even over-training (my “bad”) or heat, GI trouble during the race. So I didn’t make it to the start line or a race didn’t go as I hoped. But that was (eventually) easier to accept than a parenting “mistake.” In both cases (parenting and running) we can learn from our “mistakes” (call it experience 🙂 There’s another run (and parenting challenge) coming sooner or later – to try, try again. Onward!

  4. Your post spoke to me. Running is me time and it is something that I am pretty good at and can follow a training plan with the best of them. Its an escape for me because my “Mommy life” is filled with too many doctors appointments and worries about school performance and if he has any friends. But my running is just about going out and getting it done and feeling strong. And although my child is a wonderful sleeper that boy refused to use the potty. Trust me, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

  5. Running is definitely the easiest part of my life and it’s an activity that allows me to unwind my daily knot as a single momma, a working professional and the chief bottle-washer. I am so grateful and humbled to have two healthy daughters and I realize that it is a gift. Boy, there are some tough days: the 9-year-old will come home in a snit from school talking about classmate drama, or the youngest will get teary when she realizes that she is the shortest person in her class…dealing with those two scenarios, driving home from a long day at the office, trying to cook a semi-healthy meal that they will eat, getting homework finished and making sure that we all have clean clothes is quite the experience. However, each day I am granted just a few minutes to reflect and to be thankful for these moments…

  6. i am reading this as an avid athlete who has often had to decide do I get up and do that workout or try and catch some extra sleep because I was up meeting some need of one of my children? I still make those decisions and I am about to send my eldest to college in the fall. I have come to realize that all the decisions about parenting ( and I still making them) are the right one’s for me and my child- because they are mine. The quest for balance of all these things “easy” or not, continues… Thanks for sharing yourself !

  7. Like everyone has said, running does make life easier but I would add that running gives me wings. Sorry redbull but it does.
    My sleep advice is for you.Give yourself a count of ten before you go in and get a play tent and a flash light. He may find he likes “camping” instead of his bed. This helped us and everyone rested easier. My condolences on your loss. It is not easy explaining where gramps has gone 3000 times when your heart hurts. So run hard, run long, and run strong and know the whole tribe follows behind you.

  8. Running is easy….making time for it also becomes easy once it just becomes a habit and a non-negotiable. There will come a day when your kids are old enough that you can leave them at home by themselves while you go for a run….then it will be even easier. No one goes to college still coming to their parents’ bedroom 5 times a night….at least not that I know of:)

  9. I LOVED this post! Parenting is so hard. I’ve been a mom for 8 years in July and most of the time I still have no clue the ‘right’ thing to do. And baby #3 coming after a 6 year gap…well that’ll be a whole new ball game huh? I’m not sure there is an easiest thing in my life right now (not that it’s hard with the whole American middle class thing). Maybe the actual being pregnant Bc it’s done & I don’t have to do much maintenence with her just yet!!

  10. Running makes the other parts of my life manageable. After 5 kids I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no “right” way to parent. It changes for each child, and I’ll probably mess it up to some degree with each of them. But, I do the best I can and that’s a valuable life lesson for them as well:))

  11. Yes! When I have a training schedule, running is definitely the easiest part of my life. That said, when I don’t have a race/schedule planned, it causes me stress. My youngest is now 6 (she didn’t sleep through the night until we started using essential oils – what a blessing those are for us!) but there are still nights when someone is up (storms, bad dreams, and the flu happen often when there’s 4 kids). I feel the same way, though. If I have a chart you better believe that I’ll do everything in my power to cross off those days! LOL!

  12. Running, when I am in training mode, is the easiest part of my life. That said, my youngest child is almost 21 so I don’t have the same parenting issues you have. But it is easier to look at that training plan and do what I’m told. In the other parts of my life, that does not happen.

  13. Running is the thing that makes all the other parts of my life manageable. While I remember the days of sleeplessness (my now 13 year old didn’t sleep through the night until he was 4. Spoiler: he now sleeps great. Too great), the stresses that come with older children are only survivable with the sanity that comes with running. I just started a new training plan for my 5th marathon and although it looks overwhelming, just knowing what I have to do without having to think about it is reassuring. Good luck with the sleep thing – they all do sleep eventually.

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