Basic Week Parenting

2020-01-12 09.45.34

When I was training seriously, I’d start most seasons with 13-weeks where I would “stay put and roll the week.” Having a simple, basic week is a powerful tool for getting stuff done and avoids the cost of variation.

The cost of variation is the energy required to consider alternatives, to choose and to negotiate for “space” for ourselves.

When you are at the limit of your ability, patience or capacity to recover => eliminating unnecessary variation (and associated conflicts) can be a big help. I’ve brought a similar approach to my family.

I’ll use my son’s schedule as an example, here’s what he’s doing November to April:

  • Monday – school/soccer
  • Tuesday – school/water polo
  • Wednesday – choir/school/jiujitsu
  • Thursday – school/swim lesson
  • Friday – school/go to mountains
  • Saturday – ski group/movie night
  • Sunday – family ski/back home

Every-single-morning, he’s going to read for 20 minutes before doing anything. He is usually reading by 6:31am.

Despite everyone “knowing” the schedule, we write it out and place it on the kitchen counter. This lets everyone have a look and get comfortable with the plan.

There is variety between the days, but little variation between the weeks. For example, I don’t need to worry about what we are going to do on a rainy February weekend.

+++

The bulk of my “life” fits into the time before my kids wake up, when they are at school and my “days off.” In the winter, many weeks, my wife handles the kids from end of school Thursday to Friday evening.

Bedtimes, my own included, are set so we can wake up and keep the week rolling. When we start to get run down bedtimes move earlier and earlier.

I give myself zero flexibility with my own wake-up time => “no excuses wake-up” eliminates energy spent on choice.

2020-01-12 13.35.20-1

Some principles we use.

Sleep, school work and healthy eating is our highest priority. Create the habits and energy to outperform.

Kids don’t know what they want. Our minds are hardwired to complain about every single change and variation => just look inside! Absent a repeating schedule, you are certain to have endless negotiations. Exhausting, when you don’t have energy to spare.

My kids want: love, to demonstrate competence and acceptance => the schedule needs to provide everyone with a chance to meet their basic human needs.

Clear ownership of responsibilities. Who is doing what? The kids are hardwired to compete for your time. Lay out the mommy/daddy times, make it equitable. With our preschoolers, showing them their “mommy days” was very important to reduce conflict and let mom see she was doing enough.

Keep it rolling at grade level. I do not care about the relative performance of my kids. I am most interested in identifying holes. If you have a future Rhodes scholar in the house then it will become apparent in its own time. However, if you miss the fact that your little one doesn’t know how to read then it will severely damage self-confidence, their attitude toward education and their capacity to teach themselves.

+++

My constraints are extremely useful as they keep me from over-doing-it. I have a track record of burying myself with fatigue.

My goal is to do what needs to be done, strengthen my marriage and have peace of mind => to know I am executing to the best of my ability, most days. I know what I want.

Because I witness my internal dialogue, I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings!

Meeting a reasonable basic week gives me an anchor and avoids the temptation to increase my expectations of myself.

Simplicity and repetition.

 

Time and Attention

2019-09-24 15.55.26.jpg

Early in my fatherhood journey, I created an effective cover story => the need to generate cash for the family.

My cover story was a socially acceptable justification for being away from my family.

As additional kids arrived, and I watched my wife deal with the day-to-day, it became obvious that my avoidance strategy would not take my life where I wanted it to go.

2019-09-24 18.31.29.jpg

I have a quirk => I “see” and “feel” the risk of future regret.

Due to my quirk, I will usually choose the path of least regret, regardless of short-term pain.

My thinking went like this… having been through one divorce, is my avoidance strategy moving my marriage towards where I would like it to go?

And this… you know, my friends tell me that parents have very little impact on their kids, even if that’s true… Do I want to spend the last twenty years of my life wondering if the kids would have had a better outcome with me around?

2019-09-24 18.45.01.jpg

Once I re-framed, the choice was obvious.

Time to do a better job at home.

However, at that point, mourning for my past life set in.

It lasted for five years!

2019-09-24 18.51.34.jpg

A key parenting principle:

if you show interest in something I enjoy then I will reward you with time and attention

In offering myself to my family, I seek to offer my best self:

  1. We do it their way – their speed – their level of competence.
  2. I don’t teach, coach or instruct. We simply spend time together.
  3. We do the activity one-on-one.

My primary goal is to establish the link between:

  • fun – Dad – camping
  • fun – Dad – skiing
  • fun – Dad – biking
  • fun – Dad – hiking

No agenda with regard to pace, duration and difficulty. No agenda!

Keep the trip short. The pictures in this blog are from an 18-hour mid-week camping trip. As another example, our youngest has precious memories of skiing with me => initially, the skiing took less time than the driving!

Train before the training. The world gets a better version of me if I’ve done a workout first.

2019-09-24 19.14.45.jpg

So if you’re feeling bummed, or avoiding life altogether, then get out of the house and start making the association between fun and what you like to do.

As I tell Axel in the backcountry…

It’s self-rescue or sit down and die.

By the way, if you look deeper then you will see the association of “fun” is really between you and your kid.

…or you and your spouse.

A Better Set of Problems

2019-09-14 07.05.49My favorite place in the United States is Blue Sky Basin.

From Blue Sky, you can look west and see The Mount of the Holy Cross – it’s a humbling view, which reminds me of beauty and personal insignificance.

Mountains are good that way!

2019-09-13 14.44.34When I tell folks about my mini-adventures, they might say “I wish…”

  • I wish my spouse…
  • I wish my kid…
  • I wish my boss…

Pay attention to your spoken wishes, and do.

2019-09-12 17.40.11

Am I willing to do whatever it takes to turn my wish in to reality?

Using my son’s hiking, I have insisted, “I will never…”

  • drive long distances
  • walk slowly
  • carry everything
  • give up “my day”

Going deeper, unlocking the benefits of marriage required me to modify what I thought were my best qualities.

Well, do you want it enough to change?

2019-09-14 07.45.21.jpgSecond, pay attention to the reality that you’re going to feel the same!

Memory is different than experience…

…and my experience often feels like a problem.

My experiences are largely forgotten, replaced with new problems I dream up. Fortunately, I am free not to take myself too seriously.

This insight, requires paying attention and not taking my thoughts too seriously in the moment.

I started by noticing my #1 habit that was clearly making things worse => acting on anger in low-stakes situations.

What is your #1 habit that’s holding you back?

2019-09-14 07.52.57.jpgWith a bit of luck, I have a few hundred Blue Sky laps remaining.

Each time I look over to Holy Cross, I’ll be reminded of a job well done.

Fill the world with reminders of your best self.

Quenching A Thirst For Adventure

2019-08-30 19.44.42Being sensible for too long can leave me with a desire to BUST OUT something extreme.

However, there is a substantial hangover if I’m away from home for long.

How to maintain an adventurous spirit without putting a huge strain on our lives?

2019-08-30 18.38.03I’m fortunate to have pals with serious jobs, who do fun things.

I’ve been paying attention to their mini-adventures and planning my own.

  • Excitement => moving through nature in darkness
  • Novelty => route finding in new places
  • Risk => uncertainty, weather
  • Companionship => sharing the trip with my son, or my wife
  • Short duration => back home within 30 hours

Small, frequent doses of shared adventure, while meeting my obligations on the home front.

Do you know your “good enough?”

2019-08-31 08.32.02

 

Better Relationships

2019-06-12 15.56.43June’s a happy month for me.

June 2000, June 2004, June 2005, June 2011 => milestones of a better life.

Before I arrived at better, I had a lot of experience with making my life more difficult than it needed to be.

“Relationships” was a particularly weak area.

When I got married (for the second time), I had no experience of being in a good marriage.

However, I had a willingness to look carefully at my role in creating a divorce.

Invert.

Do less of what moves you away from your goals

+++

As a coach, I would advise my athletes to:

  1. cut your intake of alcohol, sugar & cheese in half
  2. pay attention to what causes you to binge
  3. pay attention to what causes you to miss training

What were we doing?

  1. Learning how to take things out
  2. Learning how to get out of our own way
  3. Training the ability to look at our shortcomings and, gradually, address them

+++

What are the things that screw up relationships in my demographic?

Avoid being away for long periods of time. With no kids this meant business trips under 14 days duration. With three kids (6, 8, 10) this means I’m rarely alone.

Why’s the above important?

Let’s see…

Athletic couple, physically attractive, raising their heart rates independently, frequently apart.

Don’t come home tired. My wife put this on me a decade ago and it made an immediate difference. I’d go further…

Be seen to help out. When you’re smoked, don’t park yourself in the middle of the house and do nothing! I’ve made a habit of puttering around doing housework. It serves me well.

Away a lot, coming home tired, not assisting… if I wanted to create the perfect storm for my spouse to burn the relationship down (and feel relieved doing it) then that is a good place to start.

+++

Anyhow, we got to “better” and then we had kids!

Six years ago, our crew was 0, 2 and 4 years old.

Back then, my wife’s goal was pretty simple… Get. Through. The. Day.

Working through that period is when we noticed 1-2-3 (above) resulted in better.

Better, not easier!

+++

But the kids grew up and it does get easier.

And I looked around and discovered that I know what a great marriage looks like.

Nothing like what I would have expected!

 

Expectations

2017-04-07 18.43.38One year from now, the preschool years will be over.

I’m grateful.

+++

A favorite quote about racing comes from Scott Molina…

You don’t have to feel good to do good.

Another from John Hellemans…

When I want to quit, I know I’m going at appropriate race pace.

Both these gentleman have won a lot of races. They know their subject matter well!

Part of what they were seeking to teach me was performing at a high level feels a certain way, and it isn’t pleasurable.

2017-03-31 20.01.54So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, with your ears ringing and a headache starting… it might be how parenting feels (and the capacity to endure and not retaliate is what parenting well entails.)

That’s how I manage my expectations…

…to reduce the sensation of panic at the first whiff of misery!

2017-03-31 16.54.18.jpgAs the preschool years end, I’m going to find myself with…

Young people who are genetically programmed to want to spend time with me. Kids like us by default — our main role is not to screw up the relationship.

Young people with skills to share an active outdoor lifestyle with me. The skills were taught by outside experts. My role is to keep-it-fun.

+++

I wanted you to know what worked…

  1. Be willing to ask for help.
  2. Up-skill myself.
  3. Up-skill everyone towards shared activities.

It gets better.

2017-03-19 09.49.21.jpg

Family Cycling

2015-09-04 08.22.00Here is the link to my last piece about cycling with babies and preschoolers – also the Endurance Corner article about Active Parents.

Roll forward 18 months and the kids are aged 7, 4 and 3. The four year old just transitioned from a strider and the three year old is comfortable on her strider as well as a three-wheeled scooter. I wouldn’t have expected some of the changes.

One of my rules-of-thumb is to consider selling anything that I don’t use for a year. So, I sold my racing bikes, race wheels, powermeters and Garmins. When I need a road bike, I rent a top-of the line model. Considering maintenance, upgrades and airline fees – a net savings of more than $1,000 annually for the family.

2015-09-10 16.03.31I spent $5,000 and bought a haul-a-day and a family tandem from Bike Friday. My main bike is a 29er and the 20-inch wheels on the Friday bikes were an adjustment. Disc brakes and front/rear flashing lights with both bikes. Flat pedals for me and shoe cages for my daughter on the tandem.
2015-08-27 18.41.29Most the cost (above) was in the tandem but it’s a game changer for exercising with my oldest. She loves it and we’re up to 20 mile rides. If I remove a second row seat in my Sienna then it fits inside my van and we did several trips this summer. Now that school is back in session, we use it as a commuter to/from her climbing.

When I got the cargo bike, I expected to be able to sell our second car (my Sienna van) as well as our double bike trailer. It’s not going to happen.

Turns out that the second car was useful, it’s now the sitter’s car. The adjustment to not having a car of my own left me a little grumpy. I went so far as to price out what a third car would cost the family. When I calculated the costs associated with a new car, a third car and my existing car… it got a whole lot easier to adjust my life. My effective savings are $5 per city-mile not driven. Human powered whenever possible and treat Uber like a free service.

The cargo bike gets the kids up high and in the air. They love it… when it’s warm. I have kept the trailer for cold and wet mornings, when I bundle up and take one for the team.

2015-09-04 08.11.37SAFETY – it turns out that I don’t enjoy riding on city roads with my kids on their own bikes! This shouldn’t have surprised me (but it did) because I was a nervous boyfriend when Monica and I would train together. The kids and I prefer bike paths, even if they double our travel time.

We didn’t go electric as I have the horsepower (just) to get a hundred extra pounds up the local hills. If you aren’t a strong cyclist then consider front-wheel power assist for the cargo bike.