I know my father. We’ve met, and I’ve seen him half a dozen times give or take. I know he is smart, that he left to go to Africa in the Peace Corps when my mother was 8 months pregnant, that several years later he came back to America married and with several of my younger siblings, that he became a physician, and that he lost his license and his practice because he opted to sell prescriptions on the side. Oh, and I know he has a facebook account; I rejected his friend request. More than anything, I know my father has a pot-belly. I remember his wiry legs which made his distended stomach look all the more ridiculous. I promised myself that I’d never look so ridiculous, and I don’t. Similarly, I promised myself never to follow his example as a parent. Through his absence, my father taught me much about how not to be a father. As I ran on the treadmill today at lunch, in an effort not to stare at my time and distance I began to consider how I could be so different in one capacity of my life than my father, and at the same time be so similar in another. Are the two so different? Sure they are. But there are several principles that are applicable to both:
1. Don’t expect to be awesome on day 1 – It’s easy to go hard out the gate. You’ve got your new gear, be it shoes and shorts or a baby app that you can use to keep track of every feeding and poop (yea I had that), but its just as easy to have your spirits broken. Laying in a pool of your own sweat during a yoga class full of septuagenarians is nothing compared to the feeling of helplessness when your “fed, changed, diaper on the right end” checklist is complete but your kid is still screaming bloody murder. Take it easy, know that you’ll be confused and that its hard, but also take solace in knowing that you can do it if you take the time and have the patience to commit to the process.
2. Show up – Sounds pretty simple but there are plenty who don’t. I’ve never been crazy about the gym. I always feel like people are looking at me, like I’m the least fit person in every class, and that people quietly scoff when they see how little weight I put on the machines. Likewise, nothing bothered me more than my first outings alone with my daughter when women would comment on how poorly I’d done her hair, or that the baby was clearly too hot/cold. In time I learned in both accounts how little other people’s opinions matter. I’m here, and I’m handling my business. I cared enough to show up and end the end, that matters.
3. Know when your form is getting sloppy and fix it – I swam in High School. I was a sprinter and I like to think I was kinda awesome. While my ego is still going strong, my ability has greatly declined. You never forget how to swim, but the first thing that goes is your form. You get sloppy When you’re sloppy you’re inefficient and you develop bad habits. Those habits, once learned, are a lot harder to shake than they were to develop. Parenting works the same way. It’s easy to come home from work and want to take a load off. You’re not some demon for putting your kid in front of her favorite show while you unwind are you? Of course not, but that’s how bad habits get started. When what you did once or twice out of necessity becomes your go to, you know that you’re in trouble. Address it early. If nothing else, tell yourself you don’t have the time nor energy to undo it later.
4. What you do on your bad days counts – I’ve been in a losing battle with a cold since Friday. Just when I thought I might get through it, last night it wiped me out. I got home with Ella in tow and laid on the bed. We started playing with a deck of cards (to her every number is 1, 2, or 6 and she thinks it’s funny that I get so many wrong) and I just passed out. I woke up 30 min later with my daughter sitting on the pillow next to me patting my head. Did I mention she’ s freaking awesome? Though I wanted badly to phone yesterday evening in, I ended up at the park pushing my daughter on the swings. Today I am still sick, but I decided not to miss a workout. Not wanting to be the leper in class I just got on a treadmill and ran. I didn’t set any records, but for 45 min I ran/ walked and sweat. That means something. They both do.
5. Nobody Else matters – Two people I know I’m never gonna be, Usain Bolt and Heathcliff Huxtable. Though one, is a fictitious character sadly I have a better chance at being him than the fastest man in the world. Thankfully I’m fine just being me. Time and time again I’ve seen people walk away from their fitness goals because they didn’t see the results that someone else achieved. Similarly, many men cite their frustrations with their child’s mother as the reason they walked away. Both are cop-outs. Your health, like your child belongs to you, period.
I don’t pretend to know everything about health or parenting -I’m 50 pounds from my target weight and in 3 days I’ll have a 16 month old, there’s a lot along both journey’s that I have yet to see. I can tell you though, that I’ll apply the 5 principles above and that I’m okay being judged by my actions in both regards.