I celebrated a big accomplishment with my daughter and her good friend last weekend. The two of them decided they wanted to run a half marathon, and asked me how to train properly. I told them I would put a schedule together for them to follow in order to be prepared, and that I would set up our weekend “long runs” that we could do together. Both girls are15 and pretty high achievers- but neither had run in a long distance race.
I have to say I was pretty impressed. Both of them followed my schedule precisely- almost to a fault. There were times I had to say, “no, girls, you don’t have to run 7 miles today. It’s 10 pm, you had cheer practice (or a game) and still have homework- do not run tonight!” And, Sunday, they crossed the finish line of the Rock and Roll St. Louis Half Marathon to take 6th and 10th place in their age groups. I was so proud of both them to have the mental and physical discipline to set the goal and do everything required to achieve it. Awesome job, girls.
And while these girls achieved a major milestone in their young lives, I was rewarded with a major ‘aha’ moment and a lesson of my own that surfaced as we were driving home and reflecting on all the training that went into their run. It dawned on me that I was going to miss our weekend long runs. Running with them every weekend for an hour or two gave me something I had never anticipated – genuine conversation and learning how not to multi-task. It’s one thing to chat for 10 minutes while I’m dropping one of my girls off for a practice or a club meeting or even before bed- but spending a concentrated 1 to 2 hours every week just talking was something I had not considered when I embarked on this journey with them. In fact, I sort of assumed the 3 of us would be running along with our YurBuds in and our music on the entire time. That’s how I typically run. And, that never once happened. Instead, we actually talked the entire time every weekend. I learned so much more about what was going on in their lives by not asking, but by just running beside them and listening. Occasionally, I would weigh in with some encouragement or validation or just tell them how proud I was of their reaction to this or that. One of my favorite moments was the drinking conversation. My daughter’s friend said, “Lexie, have you ever had anyone ask you why you don’t drink?” (In my mind, I’m thinking- ‘um, because you are 6 years away from 21, but I want to hear what you would say…’). My daughter replied that she had and that she just typically replies with an, “I just don’t”. Her friend didn’t miss a beat, and said, “Well, I just say right back to them, ‘why would I!’” I loved it!
Given everything else we try to squeeze in to our coveted 2 day weekends, it was hard to stay committed to the time our long runs required every Saturday or Sunday. But, it was an extremely valuable time to learn how to do one thing (and no, I don’t mean learning to run farther). And, only one thing – talk and listen (I guess that is really two things- so I was multi-tasking!). There was no texting. There was no phone ringing. There was no, “hang on, let me just finish this email and I’ll listen to you”. No multi-tasking. Just conversation.
As we navigate through our seemingly endless and growing list of daily demands, it seems we’re on a constant quest for how to add just one more task to our multi-tasked lives. How to fit one more thing into that 5 minutes I have before my next meeting. How to answer one last email before bed. As a parent, it’s even easy for me to also fall into the multi-tasking trap with my kids. Like, how to get everyone tucked in and kissed goodnight in 10 minutes so I can get back to my computer to finish work. Or, how to sit next to my daughter with my iPad while she is on hers. Or, how to answer email while I’m quizzing someone for a test. That’s not spending quality time together. Running and conversing for an hour or two every week is. While that isn’t something that can be sustained every weekend forever, nor is it something my other daughter is even interested in, it does cause me to step back and realize how easy it is for us to try to accomplish too many things in a day without accomplishing the most important thing that can’t be multi-tasked: ‘in person’ time with our kids. It will never be time wasted or regretted, rather, it will always be some of the most valued and valuable time you’ll spend in your lifetime.
Think about what you’ll remember when you are old and your kids are gone. It isn’t the 80 emails you processed last Tuesday. And, it probably isn’t the group text conversation about what we should do as a fundraiser. Or the conference call for an hour that had 30 participants but achieved nothing (I know- that would never happen:). But, do you remember watching your child’s last game? Performance? Event? Exactly, some of these things will still be in your memory making you smile 40 years from now.
Sometimes, even electronic parents need to slow down. And recalibrate to stay focused on what is important today that will be gone tomorrow. We should carve out the time to ‘single task’ with each child so they know we are there, we care, and they are worthy of our time.