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Finish Strong

07 Nov

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m an avid runner and I believe there are a lot of life lessons to be learned through running with yet another one presenting itself this week. Those of you who run races (and this goes for other sports as well), it really is true that it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. We all stumble over hurdles from time to time, but that doesn’t mean we should quit or that we’ve lost the race. It just means we have to adjust and work a little harder to catch up and finish strong.

It holds true in life as well. I think it’s unrealistic to think that every day is going to be bliss. From time to time we trip up and stumble. Despite our best efforts as parents to hold it together and be the voice of reason, kids have a way of pushing buttons both with each other and with us. And so, flare ups are going to happen. I think that’s just par for the course. The key is what we do with those moments. When we trip on a hurdle, do we quit and call it a loss? Do we let those stumbles ruin our day? Or do we lace em’ up and keep on going?

Yesterday, despite a pretty good day overall, the kids and I hit a couple of rough patches. All of us were guilty to some extent and we got home from one particular trip pretty banged up with many sad faces. There was some pushing, shoving, pinching, kicking, name calling, yelling etc. that simply went beyond the norm and became a distraction to the person attempting to navigate the road. (That would be me).

So when we got home I suggested everyone take a moment to go to their rooms (myself included) and think for 5-10 minutes about how things could have been handled differently. Where did we lose control of the race and how could we have adjusted our pace for a more successful leg? When we all reconvened, I made it clear that my primary objective was to ensure that a few moments of ugliness wouldn’t define our day. That it was just one lap and that we still had a chance to finish strong. I told them we’re all going to have moments we’re not necessarily going to be proud of, but that doesn’t mean it has to create a black cloud over the house and keep us from enjoying the rest of our time together.

Along with being a runner, I’m also a big fan of any coach who makes adjustments at half time that demonstrate an ability to recognize what’s not working and gives a team the tools necessary for success in the 2nd half. And so, I took our time out as a half time break and encouraged the kids to put the first half behind them and refocus their attention on the finish. And believe it or not, the kids responded and we ended up having a great rest of the day.

It speaks to a bigger truth about being a divorced parent. The word team really takes on a whole new meaning. You have to work as a team on a whole new level and adjust the way you live your lives. That’s true for both you AND the kids. As a single parent, the zone defense idea is out the window. You can’t just grab one kid and run to the store to get milk. You have to take everyone. It’s a huge disruption and effort for everyone involved. It’s going to cause tension from time to time as options are sometimes limited. The more you can take moments to demonstrate the importance of being tolerable and flexible and just “roll with it,” the more you can create successful environments and excursions. But the bottom line is, you really are in it together right down to the finish.

You can also teach your kids to be a team player which will help them as they get older. Teach them that not everything is always going to go as planned. Not every play is going to work the way you envisioned. And sometimes dad it going to have to call an audible. (I realize my metaphors are getting a little cross pollenated, but bare with me). The bottom line is you have to willing to adjust your game plan or your approach to the race on the fly some times. And when you’re more open to that, your chances of success increase exponentially.

So to their credit, the kids and I ended the day on a positive and I took every opportunity to point out the fact that we rebounded nicely. We also talked about the benefits of putting the “yuck” behind us. No judgement, no blaming, just an acknowledgement that we all could, and did, better. It was so great to see them celebrate the fact that in the end we all did a great job of getting past the hurdles and that we as a family finished strong.

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