How to Be the “Iron Man” of Parenting

“Hope of dishonest gain is the beginning of loss.”

Tuesday, 9:05 a.m.
Boulder, CO

On September 5th, 1995 Cal Ripken, Jr., affectionately known as “Iron Man”, broke Lou Gerhig’s 56 year record by playing in his 2,131st consecutive professional baseball game. He then went on to play another 501 consecutive games before voluntarily breaking his streak of 2,632 consecutive games. Cal Ripken didn’t miss a Major League Baseball baseball game for 17 years. How many of us can say that we have done anything for 17 years and not missed a day?

So, what does it take to have that level of staying power? Among other things, and without putting words into Cal Ripken’s mouth, the ability to show up every day starts with a resilient body. When we feel weak, listless and sickly, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the slightest wrench in our day. When we feel strong, vibrant and healthy our outlook is much different. We feel…

Invincible!

If you have trouble getting out of bed or off the couch, then how do you ever expect to keep pace with your teenager(s)? Teens naturally have resilient bodies. It is a hallmark of the age. For us parents it’s a different story. I’ll be in my mid- to late 50s when my son hits his teenage years. If I don’t take care of myself now, I want to be able to do the things I want to with him. I must continually work to keep myself fit, flexible and resilient, or else I’ll be a spectator in my son’s life.

To create the resilient body we need to be active participants in our children’s lives we must do two things:

First, physical conditioning must be a MUST. It can’t be a should. We must resist the many forces pulling us in all directions. Regardless of business trips, vacations, set-backs, what have you, showing up and getting vigorous exercise regularly — and by regularly I mean at least 3 days a week — has to be a must. If it is not a must, it wont happen.

Second, we must learn to manage our energy. For Cal Ripken to not miss a game in 17 years, he had to be highly disciplined in what he did and did not do. He had to consciously choose how he spent his time, but more importantly how he spent his eneryg. Once you’ve decided that to be engaged with your children is preferable to watching from a far, you must make the same choice. What parts of your life are unnecessarily sucking up time and energy.  On some level, Cal Ripken always weighed the desire to be in the game against whatever forces were pulling him away from it. If the cost was to high or the risk to great, he would simply say, “No.”

Being physically resilient will help you keep stride with the challenges and activities you face at work, with your family, as well as with your goals and aspirations. You may not always feel a 100%, that is just not a reality, but resiliency keeps you from getting completely pulled under and, eventually, it brings you back to the surface.

17 to 18 years is what we have with our kids before they’re off. The best way to influence your children is to connect with them at their level. You must engage them where they are. Whether it’s hoops in the back yard, going to concerts, helping with their homework or listening to their stories, that’s where you need to be. That’s what they need from you. When you make that effort, then your children will turn to you when they really need it. Cal Ripken didn’t miss a game in 17 years. Don’t let your resistance keep you from doing the same — engage and connect with your teen(s).

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