The Pep Talk

Beagle had a bad day.  An ‘I hate my life’ kind of day.  The grievances were numerous.  Each one packed only a small punch, but strung together they gained impact.

It started with attention-seeking for a minor injury which morphed into an excuse to skip football practice. Next, a complaint of boredom and some push-back against serving time on a grounding consequence.

At first I reacted with defiant conviction, employing the ‘tough it out’ message.  But when tears welled up and a thirteen year old voice started shaking, I backed off.  Clearly, Beagle’s complaints were a cover for a bigger issue.

With a little prodding the truth revealed itself – a personality conflict with a coach that became too big to contain in one young boy.  Now this, I could handle.  Dealing with difficult people is a challenge I relish. And I am all too willing to impart my expansive wisdom in the life skills department.  Teachable moments can be so gratifying!

After several minutes of listening to my monologue, Beagle patiently advised, “I don’t need a lecture, Mom.”

“I’m not lecturing!  I’m inspiring!” I clarified, and sent him off to practice with a ‘go get ’em, Tiger’ and a love punch.

When Beagle returned from practice, I held my breath, unsure of what to expect.  I tiptoed around trying to gauge his mood and waiting for him to speak first.  With satisfaction he said, “I felt some redemption at practice. Caught a forty yard pass. Twice. And looked like a hero.”

The corners of my mouth turned up.  Surely the catalyst for success was my inspirational talk.  Not wanting to steal Beagle’s thunder (but feeling pretty smug) I praised him for plowing through a challenging situation with character.

But I couldn’t hold back.  Assessing his lightheartedness, I deemed it safe to ask, “So, do you think the positive outcome of the night had anything to do with my pep talk?”

Beagle froze, fork in mid-air, and gazed at me askance.  I could almost hear his brain weighing possible responses.  He decided on this, “Mom, if it makes you feel good, then yes, it had everything to do with your pep talk.”  And he quietly returned to his dinner.

He’s too good to me, my Beagle.  And wise for a young man, having already learned to tell women what they want to hear.  At least I’ve imparted that valuable piece of wisdom!

Spectating Is A Sport

Spectating is a sport that requires training. I know this because I didn’t always do it well.

There was that first marathon of Tim’s when I towed three kids under age 7 through an unfamiliar city on foot and public transportation. After a sleepless pre-race night of anxiety and hours of effort on race day, we failed to catch even a glimpse of Daddy. I don’t exaggerate when I tell you that I suffered a nervous breakdown as a result. The event, for me, was an epic failure.

Tim is now a triathlete. An Ironman, actually, which makes me an Ironwife for supporting him. No joke. Being married to an extreme athlete is Work!  In high season, it’s common to go days without seeing husband, which leaves a whole lot of his chores to be done by those left behind.  In addition, there are special pre-race meals to cook, posters to color, cow bells to buy, and for the really big race, custom t-shirts to design for Team Tim.

This year, When Principessa (teen daughter) decided that she, too, would like to be a triathlete, I didn’t blink an eye.  I am a seasoned spectathlete after all.  Knowing that she would need an extra boost for her first race, I recruited neighbors and friends to line the course.  And unbeknownst to me, Principessa’s dear friends plotted their own support tactics, ensuring that she met cheering voices at multiple points.

At the end of the day, Principessa gathered her personalized posters and congratulatory cards, and reflected on the monumental event. With teary eyes that grasped the magnitude of her accomplishment, she recounted her journey.

Principessa was elated, she said, not just from her physical triumph, but also because of the love that was showered upon her. It turns out that not one other athlete had a support poster.  Not one other athlete had a visible team along the way.  A wistful fellow racer was overheard saying, “I wish I was Principessa.” To which she remarked, “I feel so special.”  Mission accomplished.

I’ve been asked on several occasions why I don’t do triathlons. Hmm.  Let me think.  I’m pretty sure I have a reason or two or a hundred.  One indelicate triathlete acquaintance actually asked, “So, do you do anything?”  Fighting the urge to punch him in the face, I mumbled something snarky about saving the world. I mean, really, the question didn’t deserve a serious answer.

If Mr. Athlete had formed the question in a more delicate manner, I might have explained that I actually enjoy being on the sidelines and that I take my role as Number One Fan seriously.  As Will Rogers said, “We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”

As long as I’m around, you can be sure there will be someone on the curb.  I enjoy supporting not just my own loved ones but all who have the courage to step onto the course.  Because trying is worth celebrating. And celebrating others is what I do.

Family Vacation, Enough Said

I haven’t spent a week with my whole family in twenty years, which is not a mistake. To the like-minded reader, this needs no explanation.  To those who have a Brady Bunch family, congratulations.  I envy you and hope you will try to understand.

Someone once asked me if I was adopted.  I am that different, in every way, from my family.  Which makes me, by default, the black sheep simply because I am the one who is different.  We are apples and oranges my family and I.  Never the two shall mix in harmony. I knew this when I agreed to spend my one full week of summer vacation with Mom, Dad, Sis, and the five children between us.  (Husbands wisely opted out.)

The excel spreadsheet I received via email one month before the intended trip opened with a warning:

‘I know you can’t think this far ahead, but here’s a list of what we’re bringing.  Take some Tylenol and try to fill in your part.’

My response:  ‘It would take a lot more than Tylenol to deal with this level of preparation.  Get back to you in a few weeks.’

I mean, really.  I didn’t even know what I was having for dinner that night.

Anticipating the level of drama my family creates, I wisely planned my arrival a day later than the other players in this theatrical performance.  As it turned out, it took less than six hours for a ‘situation’ to arise.  Details were not forthcoming via text and I was afraid to ask.  Instead, I patted myself on the back for my strategic planning and hoped the situation would be resolved before I joined the inevitable circus scene.

On the drive to Destination Disaster I began to panic.  Like a bride with wedding jitters, I contemplated all manner of excuses that would spare me from this vacation.  When none proved to be believable I resigned myself to hopeful dependence that our collective maturity level would smooth the waters.

But alas, the chaos that surrounds this clan is immense.  As I am the one writing this perspective, I shall remain blameless.  (We’ll disregard the small hissy fit I had when I arrived at the house on schedule to find it empty.  Myself and three children were locked out, desperately in need of a bathroom.)

I’d like to say the week went smoothly despite the enormous personality gaps outlined above. Nothing would be more satisfying than for me to wrap up my story in a neat little package with a bow on top, like an episode of Leave It To Beaver.  But if that were the case, I wouldn’t have any juicy stories to relate. Like the night that a Jerry Springer episode unfolded causing enough commotion to motivate one handicapped grandmother to climb 16 steps and another family of four to flee from the house to avoid involvement. (I still can’t believe the neighbors didn’t call the police.)

And what fun would it have been if two grown sisters didn’t disagree about meal preparation, sleeping arrangements, and Mom’s favorite child status?  Just kidding about that last part, but truly, sibling rivalry has no age limit I discovered.

Ram Das said, “If you think you’re enlightened, spend time with your family.”  Family has a way of bringing out those aspects of us that we’ve learned to keep nicely tucked away in broader social situations – impatience, intolerance, harsh judgment….Our closest relations are the sandpaper that rubs up against our vulnerability in just the right (or wrong) way, causing us to react from a well-worn place.

By the end of our vacation, that vulnerable place inside of me started to resemble an actual wound.  I feared for my sanity and the sanctity of our family relationships.  A cry for help to husband stated a simple but desperate truth, ‘I NEED YOU!’

Luckily, husband was just an hour away and full of generosity from his own solitary week without us. Upon his arrival, I nearly wept for joy. It could have been the alcoholic beverages or the bakery items he brought that made my knees weak. But more likely, it was the relief I felt to see him.

Husband has a way of tilting a room in his direction. I watched in awe as he took charge with his sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude, setting us all back on center, effectively calling us away from ingrained patterns of discord.  My knight in shining armor.

Unintentionally, husband made an even greater save the next day when he necessitated a quick and early departure by breaking Beagle’s finger while tossing him a football. Vacation over. Phew.

It’s been a few weeks since the vacation.  I’m still recovering.  In fact, I’ve delayed writing about it because I’m searching for closure.  Or more accurately, I’m hoping to absolve myself from guilt over not embracing the family gig.   The best I’ve come up with is a little pat on the back for holding my irritated tongue on several occasions.

I like to remind myself that there are as many people in the world struggling to get over having known me as I am trying to get over having known them.  This thought keeps me humble.  In the future, though, I’d like to ‘get over’ my people from a greater distance, on separate vacations.  I love my birth family.  Just not when we’re living under the same roof.

 

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