The LONG Good Parent To Do List

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Article by Alissa Magrum, parent and charity athlete. Photo by Lauren Ward Hammonds

I am the first to agree when I hear someone say that parenting is a tough gig. Of course, our children are an incredible gift and there are so many amazing experiences that go along with parenting BUT it is tough. Not only is it tough but it is tiring and it holds a ton of responsibility. Or at least it should, in my opinion. The good parent to do list is long.

We are supposed to make sure our kids our kind, nice and well adjusted and successful and happy. We need to make sure they eat lots of fruits and vegetables AND develop healthy eating habits so that they can make good choices. We need to ensure that they are getting enough physical activity and exercise. We are responsible for teaching them how to be good sports and that winning isn’t everything. We are expected to help them find ways to give back to the community and make the world a better place and the list goes on and on. Quite frankly, it is a job description that looks, sounds and is rather
intimidating. I embrace the challenge with open arms—on most days.

Many parents want their kids to fulfill dreams they never achieved. Maybe they want their child to be a stellar athlete, a world-renown neurosurgeon or perhaps a successful entrepreneur. No matter what it is, we cannot help but to think that maybe our own child will be great at something we weren’t. You may say you only want your child to be the best they can be. You want them to find their own passion and live it to its fullest. But let’s be real. No, I mean really. We hope that our kids, in some small way achieve more than we ever have.

I’ll give you a real life example. I will out myself as one of those parents, for just a minute. I am 36 years old and an athlete. Mostly, I am a charity athlete, training for and doing events that test my physical abilities but raise funds or awareness for issues that I care about. However, I do have a streak of competitiveness, and I do not like to fail. I started playing soccer when I was four years old. My parents encouraged me to try any and every sport. Over the years, I played soccer and basketball. I was a diver and even took a circus acrobatics class. I briefly attempted ballet but was quickly redirected to gymnastics. The instructor thought gymnastics might be more suited to my “energetic” personality. I realize now that my parents gave me the gift of freedom to find my physical passion. Ultimately, I played soccer through college and then began biking, running and swimming in my adulthood.

You can imagine how excited I was when Ella, my five-year-old, actually said yes when I asked if she would like to do a triathlon. I was even more excited when I was able to sign her up for the Colin’s Hope Kids Triathlon! Here were two great opportunities that could also serve as teachable moments. Not only was Ella going to do her first triathlon, it was going to benefit a fantastic organization and a worthy cause. The mission of Colin’s Hope is drowning prevention and water safety. The organization was founded two years ago after four-year-old Colin Holst, a classmate of Ella’s, drowned in a public pool. What a complete yet preventable tragedy. I have been a volunteer for Colin’s Hope for almost two years and believe deeply in their mission.

How perfect to have Ella’s first tri be for Colin’s Hope! I quickly signed her up online because I knew slots would fill fast. Within a month, 229 triathletes ages five to15 were registered for the Colin’s Hope Kids Tri. As part of the registration, Ella had to become a member of USA Triathlon (USAT). When her USAT membership card arrived in the mail, I put that thing right on my keychain with my own card. My kid just turned 5 and is already part of USAT! A triathlete parent’s dream come true!

I stopped myself in my tracks. Hold on, Alissa! She might not even like doing triathlons. What if she hates it? What if she is not “good” at it? Yes, I am now being honest with myself. These thoughts did cross my mind. I checked myself as a parent and remembered my own childhood. I need to give Ella the gift that my parents gave me—the freedom to experience lots of different things and the freedom to find her own passion.

Fast forward to one week before the Colin’s Hope Kids Triathlon. “Everyone is a winner. Right, Mommy?” Those were the words that came out of my curly-headed spitfire as we were practicing for the triathlon. My response was “Yes, everyone is a winner. Everyone gets a really beautiful gold medal and everyone gets to have fun!” She accepted my answer for about five seconds and then asked a follow up question. “But are you really sure everyone is a winner, Mommy?”

I decided to use this as an opportunity to talk about making a difference and finding out what you love to do by trying new things. We talked about Colin’s Hope and about teaching other people about being safe around the water. We talked about how Colin’s Hope will use some of the money from our registration fees to pay for swim lessons for people who need them. We even talked about Colin and how sad it was that he drowned. Finally, we talked about cheering for other kids on the racecourse and how much fun it was going to be. All of that great mommy-daughter conversation and learning came from one simple question. “Everyone is a winner, Right Mommy?”

We’ll find out tomorrow if the lesson stuck when Ella jumps in the pool to swim a lap, then hops on her bike and goes out for a run in the Colin’s Hope Kids Triathlon. I cannot wait to watch her cross that finish line and receive her finisher medal. She will have tried something new. She will have done something for a good cause. And her mommy will have done a few things on the parental to do list. I hope she will have a big smile on her face. I know I already do.

You can learn more about Colin’s Hope at www.colinshope.org

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