“I am soooo soaked!”
“It was a great practice though!”
“I could not see anything, I paddled blind from the rain. You are lucky to have glasses!”
“And the lightning!”
“Everything is soooo sticky! (giggle)
“Coooold, some heat please!” (giggle)
“That was awesome, so much fun!” (loud giggle)
“99.9 – thank you!” (this is a radio station request, btw)
I paddle in a dragon boat.
It looks like a large canoe. Twenty people seat in pairs, with a steering person (usually the coach) in the back and a drummer who counts and keeps us in sync at the front. We don’t “row”, we paddle. It’s important for us to use the correct terminology, so please be careful. And we are a crazy bunch that practices in the rain and wind and sun and fog. Just not lightning. We participate in festivals all summer long. We race and get bling, sometimes.
I listen to the hyped voices of my teammates in the car, while I am trying to wipe off my glasses, adjust the heat and ignore the yucky, sticky wet clothes and shoes after paddling in a rain for almost an hour. And then I get on the road for a 30 minute drive home. The sky is clearing, the rainbow is up. It’s all good. I am tired, my hands are a bit shaky, my back aches just slightly, my head is clear and I have this gratifying feeling of lightness in the belly that you experience when you do something that is good for you. Something you really like. Something you share with people you like. Something that they like too. Lots of liking going around, as you can see. I did things that were good for me before, like going to the gym, stretching those stocky thighs in yoga, trying to look somewhat dignified in Zumba, I power-walked a half-marathon, I learned how to skate (in a community program called “Never too late to skate”, and no, you do not glide gracefully, but rather imitate a penguin walk trying hard not to break that hip). I did enjoy these activities to an extent, but it always felt like a chore. And when you are a full-time-working-suburban-downtown-commuting mom of two and a wife of one, you don’t need extra chores.
You need a break and you need fun.
For me, fun used to come with the price of feeling guilty for not being home for another hour or so after a long day at work. I used the guilt as an excuse not to pursue these activities in the long term. It didn’t feel like it was worth it. Then I discovered something I really, really liked, that was good for me and did not feel like a chore. I fully embraced the strict attendance to practices, the exercise, the pain, the sweat and callouses, the drinks at the pub after the practice, the all-day racing festivals (which means a very early start of the day on a Saturday – otherwise a mortal sin in my books). For the first time, I let myself be part of a team, I discovered the camaraderie, the sharing of wins and accepting the losses, made some good friends. I even apologized (yes!) to my husband for bitching about all those days when he was not at home doing something he loved, and I had to plan for yet another birthday party by myself. Don’t get me wrong, he is not forgiven, but I can understand now. Our monthly family calendar now has a spot (several) with my name on it and I started managing my guilt better.
And then came the kids.
Oh, I had them before I started dragon boating. For a while. But they came to practice with me once. And stayed. First my eldest daughter. The coach invited her to join us at the pool practice while she was waiting for me. And she did. And the coach asked if she wants to train to be a drummer, with that wonderful loud voice of hers. She did. And then she had an opportunity to start paddling with us. She did that too. And then the little one felt that she was missing out on something special that mommy does with her older sister, so she joined as well. And now, it is our thing. They come to practices and races with me. The hyped voices in the car after that rainy practice were theirs. I listen to them with pride. They went through a difficult practice and did not whine (well, not much). I am sure they have that same feeling of lightness I have after doing something good and hard and satisfying. They look happy. They sound happy. I feel less guilty for not being home and having fun on the water now, because they are with me. But who knew that feeling less guilty will come with a price too? This time, is the price is losing the hour(s) that were just mine, where I could chat with the ladies without a filter and go for a drink after practice even though it is a school night. Or have a day at the festival where I get to be just a paddler and not a mom-paddler who now has a longer checklist: do we have three life jackets, do we have three chairs, is there enough water, polysporin, where is the special sunscreen for the little one, do they have enough dry clothes, were they in the sun too long, did they eat.
Admittedly, I let my control-ish tendencies to seep into these activities, as if it was another day at home. And that could be part of the problem. Could I just let myself have fun with them, with less to do’s on the list and more focus on the sport, the camaraderie, the nature? I would love them to see me as a fun loving, motivated, sweaty paddler (I cannot call myself an athlete), proud of my medals, focused on my training, cherished friend and committed teammate. I want them to have those values too. I want them to be committed, and athletic, and friendly, and most importantly to have a guilt-free fun now and always. I guess, this was an unexpected mission for me to have – to show them by example.
Check out our interview with The Manager Mom – and don’t miss her blog!