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Working out early in the morning is an absolute priority for me, but my kids’ back to school schedule presented a conflict. I knew I wouldn’t make it home in time to wake them up and get them ready. The first week of school, I skipped my morning runs, and one pilates class. I was not happy about it.
Unwilling to make this compromise, I sat my kids down and explained the situation.
“Mommy has to exercise in the mornings and the only way she can do that is if you guys help me. You each have an alarm clock. I’m going to set the clocks to 6:30am and I’m going to leave this list on your desk. Your job is to get up by yourselves, and start working on the list. By the time I get home, you need to be dressed and have brushed your teeth and hair.”
I couldn’t tell if they were taking me seriously, so I added, “Here’s the deal. I know how much you love staying up late on the weekends. That privilege comes with responsibility. If you can’t wake up in the morning by yourselves, then you won’t have the privilege of staying up late during the weekend.”
Eyes grew wide and mouths dropped. “What?” Justin exclaimed.
Now they’re listening.
“In life, privilege comes with responsibility and consequences, buddy. You need to be responsible for waking up to the alarm and starting your day on your own.”
That was all I had to say. The next day, I went to my pilates class and when I returned my three boys were fully dressed and ready to go. Everything was going well until the following Wednesday evening.
“Okay boys, let’s set your alarms. Tomorrow I run so I get home a little later than usual. It’s very important that you’re ready to go by the time I get back. Let’s go over your list.”
Orly had had enough. “Mooooom!” He whined.
“What?” I was confused. I hadn’t said anything different than the other days.
“You’re doing this every day. When are you going to stop running and doing pilates?”
“I’ve been exercising every morning for years, Orly. Nothing has changed.” But something had changed, because my morning routine was now interfering with his life.
“I know but every morning is the same thing. We have to wake up by ourselves, and you’re not here. Enough already. Until when are you going to do this?” He pressured me.
“Until I’m 100.” I answered, nonchalantly.
His eyes rolled. “Mom, give me a break. I’m being serious.”
“So am I,” I said. “I’ll be running and doing pilates until I’m 100.”
“No you’re not, mom. You can’t run and do pilates at 100 years old,” he scoffed.
“Wanna make a bet?” I challenged.
“Mom, you may not even LIVE to be 100!” He kept arguing.
I put my hand out. “Okay, let’s shake on it. I bet you if I’m alive at 100, I’ll be running and doing pilates.”
“And what if you’re not?” He asked.
“Then you’ll be telling everyone you know that if your mom were alive she’d be running and doing pilates!”
Orly’s hand met mine and we smiled as we exaggeratedly shook our hands up and down.
I laid with him in bed for a few minutes. “You’re funny, mom.” He said as his eyes drifted off to sleep.
I better stay in good shape! I laughed to myself as I walked out of his bedroom. I can’t control everything that will happen between now and when I get to 100 (or if I do). But by shaking hands with my son I did three things:
1. I showed him that I’ve set an intention to stay healthy and strong for as long as I can.
2. I made him my partner in the journey.
3. I held myself accountable to the kind of lifestyle I want to lead.
What seemed like an annoyance for my son at the beginning (running through the checklist and setting alarm clocks) became a light-hearted team effort. My son’s paradigm had shifted to helping me work towards my goal of exercising until I’m 100 by cooperating with me in the morning. And by me going for my run, I’m sticking to my end of the challenge.
I walked through the door the next morning and headed towards my kids’ bedroom. They were awake and ready.
“How was your run, mama?” Orly asked.
“Great.” I said, “But Orly, I suggest you start training soon—because when you’re 70 and I’m 100—you’re not going to be able to keep up with me!”
Sometimes we feel like we have to put our goals and dreams aside for the sake of our kids. And sometimes we do have to shift focus and readjust for them. As they get older, though, it is quite powerful to dream and partner with your kids. It’s important for them to know what you’re working towards, and how their cooperation will help you get there. That’s what great families do. They help each other, they push each other, and they hold each other accountable. Great families are always there for each other, even when they’re not physically there.