Saturday, June 9, 2012

Training versus Children

Just came back from watching The Avengers. Recommend it. In one scene, Captain America asks,
"Without that suit, what are you?"
and Ironman responds,
"Billionaire, philanthropist, playboy, inventor."

Not a bad answer. I thought how cool that was, and then it occurred to me that I have a Ph.D., co-founded a company that went from zero to a million dollars in less than two years, sold my share, founded another company and won a world judo championships. And I had four kids.

Oh, to the guy who wrote me a few months ago about my blog and told me what a horrible person I was to put that on my blog and that a truly educated person and real martial artist does not brag ...

Well, guess what? All of it is true. It's like I told you that I live in Santa Monica. If you live in a hut in Elbonia, that's not my fault. This blog isn't a homework assignment. If you don't like it, don't read it. Oh, speaking of homework, I did some on YOU and found out that you never graduated from high school and that although you did judo for years, you never even won the national championships.

So, go fuck yourself.

But, I digress.

I was going to talk about children. Recently, four males who very decidedly should NOT go fuck themselves, made comments that made me think about training versus children and just how children have an impact on your life in general.

One was Leo Frincu, who posted on his blog about committed relationships. His point was that if you were really committed you would do the same things as when you were single. You'd take care of yourself. You'd go to the gym. You'd shop at Abercrombie and Fitch instead of Old Navy, put on some expensive perfume - and not go schlepping about in sweat pants.

I tweeted back that is really easy to say if you have no children. My husband has put on probably 100 pounds in the 16 years we have been together. He hasn't spent a lot of time at the gym. However, when Ronda was 15-16 years old,  needed money to compete and train around the world and we were not comfortable with the mandatory program USA Judo said she would need to comply with to get funding from them, he said,
"That's okay. I'll write some more shareware, work overtime, you can take on some more business and we can get the money to pay for it."

When Maria was accepted at New York University and we needed to come up with $40,000 a year he said,

"Don't worry about it. We'll just work more and make the money to pay for it."

When Jennifer was accepted in the masters program at USC and even though the tuition was free because I worked there, the taxes sucked up a couple months of my salary, he said,
"That's okay. I'll write some more shareware, work overtime, you can take on some more business and we can get the money to pay for it."

Are we seeing a pattern here? Perhaps I should mention that he is not their father. The girls were aged 10, 11 and 14 when we got married. Of course, he never saw it that way. One day, when Julia was little, she asked,
"So, Maria is my half-sister and Jennifer's and Ronda's half-sister, and they are all my half-sisters, but Jennifer and Ronda are full sisters- "

Dennis stopped her and said,
"No. There are only sisters in this house. No halves. They are all your sisters and you are theirs."
That sounds pretty committed to me. The point is, though, that all of those hours of work have to come from somewhere. Something has to give.

Time is not infinite.

The second person who made me think about this topic was my co-author, Jim Pedro, Sr. who, wonderful guy though he is, disapproves of me in myriad ways. One is that he believes in keeping a clean house. While my house is pretty clean now, it was a disaster for all of the years my children were growing up. Jim said,
"It's just a matter of discipline."

I asked him how many years his children were living just with him. He said, "None." (It wasn't a rhetorical question. I actually didn't know that.) Okay, if you have a wife who stays home and cleans , with no other job, you can have three or four kids, a job, go to the gym, and have a clean house. Same thing if your kids don't live with you.

However, for five of the years when I had three small children, their father was in and out of hospitals while I worked, took them to school/ preschool, tried to teach them to read and check their homework. I got them to swim practice, track practice and soccer practice, paid for private schools. I was working as a professor and running a consulting company, writing scientific articles and grants and teaching judo.  In fact, the reason I taught a judo class once or twice a week is that I would have to show up and work out.  I changed bandages on my husband when he came back from surgery and never for one second had a thought of leaving him, no matter what.

I think that is pretty committed, even if my house looked like a Hoarder's episode some days.

When their father passed away, I was doing all of that plus taking care of the children the best I could by myself. When Dennis and I got married and had another baby, I had help, but I also had a new baby, a growing business, three kids in school and one of them on the way to the Olympics. I took Ronda to practice seven times a week, spending 14 hours or so just driving in LA traffic to get her there, not to mention waiting around at practice. For 16 years, I was on one judo committee or another trying to raise funding, improve coaching, because I saw the negative impact the situation had on my child and I wanted to make it better for her, and for all of the other kids.

At the same time, I was trying to get Julia to read more, trying to get my niece, Samantha, who lived with us, to study more, reading Maria's college applications, driving Jenn to San Francisco to start her junior year of college - and a million other things that take time and money.

So, no, I did not have the cleanest house or the newest car or even put on make-up.

Jim said,
"You could have cleaned your house if you went for fewer bike rides on the beach."

I told him that yes, he was right, but going biking and then having breakfast on the beach with Julia, or flying to Boston and having brunch with Maria and my two granddaughters and a whole lot of other things are  a bigger priority to me than having a clean house. So was taking Ronda to practice, paying for Maria's college tuition and getting Jenn to her student teaching assignment so she could get her credential. For years, my house smelled like cat piss because when Jenn was four years old her father got her a kitten for her birthday. The cat lived to be 19 and by the end it could not climb the stairs so we had to have the cat litter downstairs and sometimes it still missed and peed in the hallway. But Jenn loved that cat.

When you have children, you have other priorities.

The third man who said something was Fernando from Florida who tweeted,

"I can't imagine Ironman saving the world if he had four l'il iron men running around."

and the fourth was Travis Stevens, now on his way to the London Olympics who tweeted,

"Being dead doesn't scare me. Not being able to compete scares me."

It's true that once you have children, there are things you cannot do, but you make choices. We decided to spend less time cleaning our house, less time at the gym, less money on nice clothes, cars and Botox for ourselves. Instead, we spent it on private schools, college educations, training camps in Europe, summer science camp, driving to track meets, judo practice and trips to Universal Studios and Disneyland. We also spent a lot of time on programming and statistics because it paid our bills and we truly love our jobs.

I am not complaining. Every one of my children was wanted. I actually wanted to have six or eight children but it just did not work out that way.

Okay, so I didn't save the world. Neither did Iron Man. He's not real.

My house is pretty clean now, with just one child at home, but so what if it wasn't when there were three or four kids living here. I tried my best to raise well-educated, healthy, good people. As my oldest daughter, Maria, once said,
"My mom isn't Martha Stewart, but she could totally kick Martha Stewart's ass!"

Once I had my first child, my competition days were numbered. I almost quit competing after Maria was born, and it was my older brother,  a father of two daughters himself by then, who encouraged me to keep competing. He said if I quit then, it would not be humanly possible to keep from holding it against her later on. So, two years later, I won the world championships and promptly retired.

Do I regret it? Not for one second. I remember thinking exactly like Travis when I was a competitor, feeling sorry for people like Dr. James Wooley (competitor in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics) and not believing him when he told me he didn't miss it one bit.

Now I smile when I remember that. I won the world championships and retired from competition when I was 26 years old. What a sad pathetic life if that was the peak of what I had ever accomplished.

Remember that scene in Field of Dreams when the farmer says,
"What a tragedy that you were only a baseball player for only one day"
and Shoeless Joe Jackson replies,
"No, son. If I was only a doctor for one day, that would be a tragedy."

So, I have been a mother for almost 30 years. It has meant less time at the gym. But I am definitely committed. And it is no tragedy (whether I cleaned my house or saved the world or not).

My point is that we all make choices. When you are competing, and maybe even afterward, it may be important to make the choice to train every day. Somehow, though, once you have children, different things seem important.

When I'm not ranting on the Internet, I am making games that teach mathematics and social studies. Learn how to compute a perimeter, navigate down the rapids, shoot deer, reduce fractions to lowest terms. Have fun and be smarter. Games for Mac, Windows, Chromebook, iPad and Android. We've got you covered! From free (!) to $9.99


Chad Morrison said...

I enjoyed this post - sincerely. But I have to admit, I was disappointed. After reading the title, I was really hoping for tips on how to up my game against the young, weak, and small, so that next time someone asked me the hypothetical "How many crazed, zombie 5 year-olds would it take to take you down?" I would have a better answer... But I'll wait for a future post on that topic... =:>

Carlos said...

great post. The one thing I always missed is not having kids, but I admire those that sacrifice their lives for their kids.

Leo Frincu said...

AnnMaria, I think you just missed my point. Really? I was trying to educate people to take care of themselves, not by shopping, clubbing, buying expensive perfume, etc (btw, what are you wearing? how much $$?) lol. I said take care of yourself by keeping your spouse around (see divorce rate) and do your best (exercise, eat healthy, stay active/fit) to get to see your kids getting old (see obesity rate, heart attack, diabetes, etc). I'm glad that I can be an inspiration for you ;-)

traderez said...

WORTH REPEATING = the good DR. is

a personifed cyclone and she

and her Rowdy daughter are

lifetime brats IMO.[8^)lol


Dr. AnnMaria said...

Actually, Leo, I am torn . I see these moms of gymnasts or ice skaters for example who spend ALL of their time on their child's sport and they have no time for themselves. Is that wrong? I really don't know.

Al B Here said...

Great post. Loved it, in fact. But to keep you accurate, I'll add this: it was Dr Archibald "Moonlight" Graham who made the doctor comment. Not Shoeless Joe. :)

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Well, I'll have to watch the movie again then to brush up on my references (-:

dsimon3387 said...


Totally in agreement with you. I actually had to leave my PHD program with all classwork done because my second was born. Your response in this post speaks for me....Presently we live in Baltimore from San Francisco so one of my boys can attend one of the best art schools. And yes the sacrifices are worth it, kids are worth it and there are physical reprecussions which I would not trade. Just happy to hear about Dennis and to hear you say the things you have on this matter. I know I am not crazy for the things I have said and done so our family can thrive. Like Dennis I have gained a bit as well

PiP said...

OK, I was ROLLING at the line "So, go fuck yourself," in bold no less! :-D

I loved this post. I'm trying to finish my PhD while being the primary/only caretaker of our son, and I'll admit it is MUCH more work than I imagined it would be. Dr. A.M., you're consistently an inspiration! When I want to start bitching & whining, I try to think of how hard you'd slap me over the head for doing so, & I promptly zip my lip.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

PiP -
How do you know I slap people on the head for whining? Have my daughters been talking to you?

Anonymous said...

As a person who had no mother, it's always interesting to read the thoughts of such a great a mother. I envy your daughters!

Nat√°lia said...

I absolutely love this post and became unbelievably inspired by it. I am a huge fan of your daughter Ronda and now of you as well!

I do, however, have just one question based on my own experiences with my parents and this post:

Why did you and your husband decide to support your children in their choices? Because it was their dreams, because there was potential for them to be successful, or both?

Broken Andy said...

A guy in my Judo class suggested I check out your blog, and this post certainly made that good advice.

Life is a series of choices, and it sounds like you've made some really good ones. Choosing deliberately, even when you sometimes make the wrong choice, is better than making no choice at all.

Brain Surgeon MD, Black Belt & World Champion in Sum-Flung Dung said...

Dr. AnnMaria PhD MD MBE World Champion is absolutely bragalicious! I've heard of humble bragging, but she really takes the humble out of it! ;) I heard she was made the honorary mayor of Braggadocio, Italy. It's been said that she legally added her resume to her name...and this makes for VERY LONG introductions. Lol

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Natalia -
I think we always supported our children in their choices eventually, unless we thought they were really going the wrong direction.

If they chose to lay on the beach drinking beer all day, we would be against that.

It's my opinion that you will have a happier life if you work hard with the talents God gave you, and I think my children have generally tried to do that, so it only made sense to help them as much as we could.

We chose to have these children and since we chose to have them I think we were obligated to do the best we could for them.

Of course, our view of the best for them and theirs were sometimes quite different when they were young!

Andrew Tomlinson said...

I enjoyed this post, especially after having read the Atlantic article by Anne Marie Slaughter about not being able to "have it all." I strongly believe you can have it all if you adjust what having it all means, and that means making choices, just as you discussed in this post.