April 16, 2018
We’re not one of those “we all do this” kind of families. You won’t hear me say “we’re all night owls” or “we all love chocolate candies filled with copious amounts of peanut butter” or “we’re all super into bird-watching.” We can barely even get ourselves in semi-matching clothes for family photos, let alone get ourselves into unanimously matching tastes and preferences for life. I’m sure our family has its own particular vibe, its own quirks that make other people say “yep, you nerds are all Watsons,” but most of the time you’ll pretty much always find at least one odd man out.
Something you will definitely never hear me say is “We are all athletic and competitive.” Some of us are both (Todd and Cooper), some of us are one or the other (Foss is athletic, and Will’s three-year-old craziness could possibly be construed as competitiveness), and some of us are neither (I’ll let you do the math). These differences came to bear during a triathlon that recently occurred in Lake Havasu City. One of us participated in it (hint: that was Todd), and the rest of us came along for moral support. But it turns out that even when it comes to moral support, we all have our own unique and special (and sometimes terrible) ways of offering it.
My oldest two boys were super supportive, and they think that Todd is the coolest. They also thought that the lake itself, while perfectly adequate for competitive swimming, was even better for skipping rocks in, and they sought every possible opportunity to send some stones dancing across the water (in honor of their dad, of course, who they discovered is not only a solid triathlete but also a pretty mean stone skipper). The competition was fine, but living the lake life was even better.
Foss, my five-year-old, was also supportive, and he also thinks Todd is the coolest. In fact, he was so inspired by Todd’s coolness that he decided to run his heart out for I-don’t-know-how-far along the course where we were watching the event. (I want to say it was a mile, but I just looked at a map and I don’t think that’s at all accurate. He weaved around a lot though….that might have added some distance. Can I just say it was a mile? It was a mile.) He didn’t think he was part of any competition. He didn’t think he was racing anyone. He was running for the sheer joy of running, and it was magical. He was wearing flip flops and running through mostly sand, and it seemed that his energy was indefatigable. For him, the competition was fine, but the joie de vivre that it inspired was even better.
My three-year-old Will may think Todd is the coolest, but he could hardly be called supportive, because he was not aware (or so it seemed) that anything important was even happening. He seemed to think our trip to the lake was mostly about creating fun and happiness for him, and he was waiting to be entertained. Therefore, it was both disappointing and distressing to him when he discovered that not only were we there for purposes other than his own enjoyment, but that he’d also have to actually exert himself at various points throughout our time. On the morning of the triathlon, we walked a couple of miles along the course so that we could see Todd throughout the event. Two miles is an easy enough distance for most folks, but it is rather far for a suburban toddler accustomed to strollers and car seats. He was not a fan of walking, and he demanded to be carried almost constantly. When I failed to submit to his demands, he literally fell on his face in the sand and wept. I turned around and saw him face-down, arms stiffly at his sides, weeping about the unfairness of the world. It was pitiful. For him, the competition was NOT fine, and the two mile walk it demanded of him was even worse.
I also think Todd is the coolest, of course, and I’m also super supportive (of course). I myself have exactly zero aspirations to participate in athletic events of this nature. For me, the competition was getting four boys out of our RV and down to the course in time to see their dad enter the freezing cold water. It was not losing the wedding ring that he swam over and handed me when he saw us watching on the bank so it wouldn’t slip off his finger and fall to the bottom of Lake Havasu as he swam (presumably to be discovered someday by hobbit-like lake dwellers). It was getting my oldest two boys to get their eyes off of the ground in search of perfect skipping stones and pay attention to me and to their little brothers and the race course and the traffic all around us instead. It was stopping my five-year-old from exuberantly darting out in front of racers and other pedestrians (the course was not closed). It was persuading my three-year-old to actually move his chubby little legs and WALK for the love of everything holy. It was getting to the various checkpoints on the course at the right times so we’d actually see Todd, so he’d actually feel supported. It was trying to pick out which cyclist was Todd (a strangely difficult task — turns out, when cyclists are heading towards you in practically identical cyclist-outfits, they all look very, very similar) so we could cheer for him. It was making sure that, once we made it to the beautiful little beach at the finish line area, I got the older boys from their stone throwing and my five-year-old from his running and my three-year-old from his crying in time to actually watch the finish line and see Todd cross.
How about the triathlete himself? Todd was prepared and confident and didn’t seem nervous. He got out there and did his thing. No big deal. He even made friends along the way, some college guys who happened to be at the finish line when Todd came calmly sailing across and whose cheering definitely outshone my own. (Fun fact: I’m not much of a “woo-hoo”er when it comes to sporting events. I’m more of a supportive smiler.) He chatted with his new buddies for a few minutes, then we packed up his stuff and headed back to the RV park so he could get a refreshing RV park shower. We took a boat out that afternoon (he drove it), we walked around the London Bridge area of the city (he carried our three-year-old when he once again became fed up with walking), and he drove us home in our RV the next day. Cheerfully. Competently. No big deal.
I can’t say “we all love sports” or “we’re all competitive” or “we all love to walk/run/skip stones/lie face down in the sand and weep.” But I CAN say this: We are different. That’s something we all have in common. And we like each other a lot. Even Will, who whispered “I like you” in my ear each time I caved and picked him up on our walk. We’ll work on matching outfits and hobbies, but for now I’m okay with whispered “I like you”s, with supportive smiles, and with Todd’s crazy athletic events that take us, one and all, out of our comfort zones and into the world.