Lashinda Demus will be blogging for espnW in the lead-up to this summer's Olympics. Check back in April for more on her journey to London.
Young children don't understand world championships, Olympics, American records, or any of the statistical minutiae that track and field aficionados like to geek out on. My 4-year-old twin sons, Dontay and Duaine, have a much simpler way of looking at the sport: Did Mom win or lose?
More often than not lately, I've been able to tell them, "Mommy won!" I'm coming off the most successful season of my career. Last September, I won my first-ever individual world title at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea. In the process, I broke the 16-year-old American record in my event, the 400-meter hurdles. The title was a bigger deal to me than the record; the record will be broken eventually, but I'll always be in the books as the 2011 world champion. But of course, neither the record nor the title really registered with the boys. When I got home from Korea, I just told them I had won my race.
Now I'm focused on the 2012 outdoor season, I hope, which will include success at the Olympic trials and a medal at the Olympic Games. In 2006, I was stunned, and (I'll be honest) not altogether thrilled, to learn that I was pregnant. The fact that I was carrying twins was even more of a shock, even though twins run in both my family and in my husband's family. Dontay and Duaine were born in June 2007, and though I'd had a very difficult pregnancy, I managed to get back in shape in time for the Olympic trials in June 2008. But I had a bad race at the trials, and finished fourth -- just missing the top-3 finish I needed to qualify for the Beijing Games.
Four years later, I'm training for the Olympic trials again, but this time Dontay and Duaine are fun little boys instead of tiny babies. I love having boys; it's what I was hoping for when I was pregnant. I thought, I so don't want to deal with little girls, I just want boys. But they're so rough with each other. I'm convinced boys are, by nature, a danger to themselves. You have to watch them every second so they don't get hurt.
Even though they're fraternal twins, everybody says they look identical, and they look alike to me, too. It took a while, when they were babies, to tell them apart. It doesn't help that I am addicted to dressing them alike. I only just recently let them start wearing non-matching pajamas. But when we're getting dressed to go somewhere, I'll always put them in matching outfits. It's something that I like doing, and until they deny me that pleasure, I'm going to keep doing it.
Their personalities are where they distinguish themselves. Duaine is more outgoing with other kids, and he's also more of a protector type of guy. He wants to make sure I'm OK, and if I'm sick he'll come and ask me if I need anything. Dantay is more affectionate -- he's the lover of the family.
Trying to be an elite athlete while being a mother to twins is difficult -- but it's all I know. Every situation is different for every parent, and I don't know what's hard and what's easy, because the only thing I've dealt with is twins. I get the hang of it a little bit better every year. I figured out that you can't preclude your kids from your life. Everything I do in my career, I try to include them, so they won't miss me as a mother, and I won't miss parenting them. You don't have to do it all alone. Just bringing your family on the journey with you makes it easier.
I bring them with me, physically, when I have meets in the U.S., because I like for them to see me race. And sometimes they'll come to the track with me when I'm training. The other day, while I was warming up, Dontay ran three whole laps of the track (three-quarters of a mile) without stopping. I was amazed to see he just kept going!
As for me, I just keep going, too -- with July 1, the date of the women's 400-meter hurdles final at the Olympic trials -- in the forefront of my mind. My mother, who is also my coach, is working a lot with me on technique (more on that in the next blog!). The boys have been talking about a milestone that's even bigger than the Olympics. They can't wait to go to "big people's school," as they call kindergarten, in the fall.