The beginning of the school year revolves around pretty much one thing–cross country. Yes, there is school and homework and various other social things. But, these other things are only added to the calendar if is does not interfere with cross country. So, as much as my daughters enjoy (not always) cross country, here is a somewhat unbiased look at its impact on our lives:
- Wake up time: Cross country practice starts at 6:00 AM through almost the end of October. Since they don’t drive themselves and can’t walk there, my wife an I alternate between assuming taxi duties. After my wife’s dropoff, she usually drives in to work and fires the computer up early to be prepared for any of the east coast meetings she needs to participate in. When I return to the house at about 6:20, I usually drag for a couple hours before crawling back into bed OR I go immediately back to bed. Even when there are exceptions to adding more sleep to my beauty (or something like that), I often do not function at to high of a level without hoarding some more “shut-eye”.
- No weekend off: It would be one thing if it were only during the week, but all of this training has to be put into action sometimes, and the sometime is almost always the weekend. Since it gets warm later in the day, the meets also occur early morning. As it is our coaches desire to arrive at all meets an hour before the first heat so the course can be walked prior to running, the kids sometimes need to be at the course 2 to 3 hours before they actually run. When the meets start at 8:00, it makes the adults coffee addicts for a solid couple of months.
- Four girls out the door: They try so hard, but it is hard. When they leave the house, they need to have their lunch, a water bottle, a couple of snacks, a change of clothes, and shower supplies. If it were just one or two kids, I could keep track of things a little more closely. When 4 girls (no matter how responsible and/or sincere in trying to get everything) participate in this daily morning ritual, it is no surprise when a couple times a month an extra trip needs to be made to school to fix a “whoops”. (Snacks are not a “whoops”; lack of clothes definitely are!)
- Prepacked breakfast and lunches: Even though they do provide cereal for the kids to eat prior to school, they usually need something before their morning cross country work outs. The quality of this morning snack depends on their planning (both the night before and the morning of) and their pickyness. Almost all lunches are packed the night before. This causes the front of the refrigerator (at least 2 of the shelves) to look like something nearly any engineer would be embarrassed to claim any knowledge of. Each girl may have 2 or 3 plastic containers and possibly a sandwich bag with a pita/wrap/bread inefficiently balanced on top of a few other soon-to-be consumed items. This is a little chaos–far less chaos and inefficiency if it were necessary to get everyone up 10 minutes earlier to pack their lunches in a semi-sleeping state.
- Leaving something in the taxi: This is usually a pretty simple “turn around and remove” the forgotten item. It is the “turning” around I dread. This morning, I started turning around as soon as I heard my cell phone ring. (I don’t get many calls at 6:00 AM) Even though it was an early hour, the other drivers seemed to be bothered when I took up 2.5 lanes waiting for a opening. As I have been known to say when we leave the house, “Don’t forget your pants.”, I will now add, “Don’t forget your waters.” as I prepare to pull out of the school parking lot.
- Differing schedules: This year, I have 1-middle schooler, 2-high schooler, and 1-cross country photographer. The middle schoolers don’t practice every day, and the photographer really doesn’t have to be there for practice. (The taxi driver goes into a rant if he/she has to drive the school route to many times within a 2 hour period.) Due to this schedule, two (or one) or our students are forced to be there early with nothing specific to do. When the season started, the coach held the line saying they couldn’t go into the school. With this rule softening, the “non-practicers” can hang out in the school and safely do their homework without over-straining their sand-encrusted eyes.
Now, that I totally discouraged everyone from encouraged their kids to do cross country, I will try (some may call these big stretches but I prefer to view it as just being optimistic.) to point out some good things:
- More opportunities for dates: As we drop the girls off at the school so they can take the bus to the meet, my wife and I get chances to have more little dates together. Although breakfast is not my favorite date meal, it is better than nothing. (It would be better if Texas had a few Bob Evans restaurants….) Our conversations are often somewhat superficial as the “talking” part of our brains are content to hide their wit until after coffee or mental boredom becomes impossible to bear. If you can like your spouse consistently at a time prior to 6:00 AM, you should have a good marriage. 😉
- Self-esteem in the kids: Both of our bio-daughters are pretty consistent-to-improving in their meet participation. Our Korean exchange student has never run competitively before. She started getting up early shortly after arriving–no matter how much her body’s clock fought her. She ran despite the pain and all out rebellion of most of her muscle groups. She endured excessive sunshine (based on info I have, Koreans like cloudy days with some rain. Full sunshine is an allergen that makes them run to shade while practically abandoning all concerns of personal safety.) As she ran her first meet on a difficult track and completed the course in front of many other runners, you could see the satisfaction on her face of having accomplished something. (My daughters were 2 – 5 minutes ahead of her in time. The coach is convinced she was not winded enough at the end and she can cut 4 minutes from her time—ohhhhh, cross country coaches!)
- Part of a team: The coach acts like a coach. She praises rarely, and criticizes freely. Whether it is loyalty to the coach or it is all of the runners uniting against a shared dictator, the team is very supportive of each other. The high school kids cheer on the middle school kids. Because the team needs 5 “good” times to have a chance of placing at the meet, even the slowest athlete is given very positive encouragement to “hang in there”. (Since it is a small school, no matter how slow the 5th member of the team is, there would not be a team capable of competing without him. )
If my youngest daughter participates her senior year, we have 4 more years of this madness. It is not our desire for our girls to get good enough to get any type of scholarship out of this sport. We know it is one of the experiences that makes them more interesting people. It is an activity that balances them as people. And, as parents, we are not supposed to think of our comfort. Children are a gift, and we owe it to them to let them know it. Comfort is for cruise vacations; life is a series of experiences shared with others–regardless of the time of day you need to be there to be bathed in it.