Facebook Twitter

Arianne Brown: Moms need to claim their athletic genes

SHARE Arianne Brown: Moms need to claim their athletic genes

I am an athlete, and have been my entire life. I played varsity basketball, soccer, and ran cross-country and track — eventually earning a college scholarship as a track athlete. I’ve raced in nearly every running distance, all the way up to a 50-mile race, and continue to do so today. I compete — oh, how I compete.

I love how it feels to run fast up in the front, pushing my body to its limits. I feel joy in pulling out backflips and twisty flips on the backyard trampoline, and even trying to land tricks my children dare me to do. I feel complete solace while whipping across the wake on a slalom ski as many times as I can until my hands give way and I am forced to let go and sink down to the lake, only to get up and do it again. And I get all sorts of giddy when my kids ask me to go out in the front yard to play a pickup game of basketball.

Yet, when I watch my 14-year-old help his team to a district win at a cross-country meet or score a key goal in a soccer tournament with high stakes, or my 11-year-old steal the basketball from the other team for a breakaway basket, I never see myself as a contributor to those abilities.

When I witness my 10-year-old compete fiercely on the field, accepting nothing short of a win, or watch my daughters tumble flawlessly on the tumble track, performing passes consisting of back handsprings, tucks and whips, I think to myself, “Wow, they sure take after their dad.”

Why? Because I am the mom, and have always seen myself in a supportive role, contributing only my snack-making capabilities, van-driving prowess and my high-pitched sideline cheers to my children's ability to perform well.

Call it gender stereotypes that I have placed on myself. Call it my own insecurities leading to my inability to see that I could have ever passed anything genetically or even nurturingly viable to my children.

Whatever the reason or reasons, I have always struggled with this. It wasn't until recently, however, when my oldest son, Anderson, needed to complete a track workout when all that changed.

Due to missing a practice, he needed to do a workout that consisted of a 1-mile run under 6 minutes 30 seconds, an 800-meter run in under 3 minutes, a 400-meter distance in under 1 minute, 30 seconds, and a 200-meter sprint in under 40 seconds. My husband wasn't able to run with him, and he needed a pacer. So, I volunteered.

To my surprise, I completed the workout without a hitch, being able to help my son to his goal pace. And when we were done, he looked at me with a mix of unbelief and pride. I could see in his eyes that he was proud of me, and that look he gave me changed everything.

I knew that he knew he had a strong mom. For the first time, I felt like I could claim his athletic ability as something I contributed to. Yes, he was strong like dad, but he was strong like mom, too. He knew it, and I finally did, too.

As mothers, even ones like me who are athletes, it is often hard to claim the athletic genes in your children. Moms are seen as the tender-loving caregivers they are, but often not as the strong, fast, competitive and passionate athletes that is so much a part of them, too.

And I aim to change that.

My kids are every bit as strong, tough and fast as their dad is, and should continue to claim those attributes they received from him. But “Strong like Mom” also has a good ring to it, if I say so myself.