Last year around this time, I wrote a post called "Everything I Need to Know About Parenting I Learned from Penguins." As we come to the end of another Penguin season, here are some further thoughts.
- Who you are matters. Watching the Senior relay swim their last home meet event in homemade capes with messages like, "Senior Penguins Rule!" and "I never go to practice!" touched my heart. (It's a tradition for them to do something goofy for their last race). These guys are each deeply invested in the team, and able to own their fabulousness and humanness at the same time. One of your children may need oodles of encouragement just to participate, and another may need you to be on the lookout for more challenging experiences. As parents, I believe we need to look for opportunities that not only allow our children to be themselves, but also celebrate who they are.
- Other People Matter. In looking at the research on life satisfaction, relationships with others matter. This has been a huge part of being Twin Lakes Penguins for our family. Sure, there are some individual races in life and in swimming, but the favorites of many are the relays. These are times when the event is greater than the sum of the individual lengths. And cheering for the other teams is as important as swimming your own race. These times tend to be the favorite events--that is, the events that bring the most satisfaction, happiness, and fond memories--for Penguin swimmers who are looking back on their summer swim "careers" and in life in general.
- Who you choose to surround your family with matters. Every summer for the last 10 years, we have spent the better part of our July arranging our lives around summer swim team. Looking back, we have consciously chosen to surround ourselves with other swim team parents and families who have similar values. We socialize with them throughout the year, our kids hang out with other swim team buddies outside of swim season--we have created our own Penguin village, and it is good. Life is not about winning every race, it is about intentionally choosing a community to spend time with. However you do this, do it. Be intentional, and cultivate time consciously with others of similar (but not necessarily identical) values as yours. This has the potential to have a deeply profound and positive effect on your family.
- Traditions, rituals, and rites of passage matter. In addition to the goofiness tradition I mentioned above, there is another part of being a Penguin. Whether you've been on the team for one season or 15 years, we have a tradition that seniors stand on the blocks and are recognized for their swimming and other accomplishments. Then, they are presented with a gift from the team. They are recognized in front of family and friends (for many, this means friends with whom they have grown up, with whom they were allowed to be uniquely themselves and applauded for it). Many of the young people who stand on the blocks are also life-guarding at the pool, and a few go on to become coaches of the team during their college years. Younger penguins see this, and are inspired. Done well, rituals and rites of passage can play a wonderful role in adolescence. Find some or create some for your family. Whether it's pancakes every Saturday morning, moving through ranks in scouting or sports, or getting creative about responsibilities and privileges at home, create ways to recognize your children are growing up, and celebrate it with them.
- Your involvement matters. Whether you enjoy being in charge, or contribute by being a "worker bee," get involved with your children's activities. Drive, work the concession stand, bring baked goods, coach, cheer them on. A good friend once told me her rule was to only yell encouragement, not instructions--that is the coach's job. You don't have to do it all, but do your part. It takes a village of Penguins to put on a swim meet, and it takes time and energy to develop relationships that last with your children. And from "countdown to launch" perspective, it's all worth it. Go Penguins! Go Parents!