Elisabeth Clay: Here’s How We Roll: A Note From Mama Clay

When I was thinking what to write in this blog, I thought of how I was raised and how it’s helped get me where I am today… but who knows more about how I was raised and taught than my mom, so this blog I thought should be written from her perspective. Here is what she thinks.

Our family and the dynamics of my family. My sweet husband does shift work on the North Slope of Alaska for Jacobs Engineering, so he is gone three weeks and then home three weeks. So, family time shifts around when he is home or gone. Even though we miss him it works for us. All my children were/are homeschooled so that schedule was different. We rarely all eat dinner at the same time, but we homeschool together, we all do laundry for each other, we pitch in working as a cohesive unit to support each other. Lis is taking David down to compete at Kid Pans. We may take a lot of guff off each other during stress times, but we give back at other times.

Many families see us as weird because holidays and birthdays and events are not the most important thing but supporting each other’s hopes and dreams is the most important role we can have. My older daughter was the youngest yoga alliance certified instructor in the U.S. She spends just as much time on yoga studio floors as anywhere else. My son beneath her was an excellent gymnast. Other children bounced between passions and that is great too. Lis had to wait until siblings were older to have to the time to really find her own passion. Looking back over time there were many things that influenced how we came to function as we do.

We are a blended family. Michael had two children and I had four. He adopted my four and we had four more together. But let me take a step back. While I was a single mom with for children, I had the opportunity to go to Chiropractic school. This was going to take time away from my children and I wanted them to be a part of the decision, so they did not feel I had stolen time and attention from them. We discussed the good and bad and they were on board. This was the beginning of how we operate.

I began to formulate a set house rules. I am a firm believer that we raise adults, not children. From very young they begin making decisions. I wanted them to learn that we make decisions and we live with the consequences. There are always consequences to every decision. Some we like and others we do not. If they make choices they do not like, I will be sad for them, but ultimately we each live with the results of our own decisions. So, here is how we roll:

1. Love

Love each other into becoming what we want from the other one. Rather than nagging and complaining and railing on each other. Love and have confidence in each other. My goal was to encourage and believe in them. If they wanted something within their physical capabilities, do it. This is probably the single most important principle. This applied to tasks and attitudes as well as relationships with each other. We are all imperfect and we are going to screw up. So, we find the things we do right and forgive for the failings. If we can do this, we will all become even more. Chastising was one of the things I hate most to do as a parent. So, I don’t often, but when I did, they remembered it. Usually it involved a danger situation or disrespect.  

2. Dedication

If they are willing to put in the work to the best of their ability, I would provide support and encouragement to the best of my ability. Dedication and sacrifice are how we excel.

3. Excel

You only can excel at one or two things at a time. Pick and choose what is right for you at the time. Then put all your effort into those couple of things.

4. Honesty

Be honest with yourself and others. One of the many things I tried to stress is how to be honest with ourselves and others. My goal was to not put them in a position of feeling like they needed to lie. I hated being lied to. For these reasons they had lots of room to make their own decisions. They were expected to always let me know where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing. In exchange for all that laterality they had no curfew, no bedtime. But if they violated my trust they lost all mobility. That only happened on a couple of occasions.

5. Trust

Trust ourselves and those we are close to, whether that is coaches, family, or ourselves. If you waste time deciding to or not to trust, valuable time is wasted in forward progression. If you are in it trust them until you know you shouldn’t and then get out.

I see lots of parents who push or decide for their children what is important. That is not my decision. I make none of those decisions. It is not my life. I am only supportive. These children of mine are all headstrong and determined. Make no mistake, they are not perfect, they are not angels… in fact they can be donkeys behinds. But regardless of our imperfections we support each other.

I will relate a story right before the Atlanta Open: Lis had forgotten to pack her flip flops and it was time to drive to the airport. The shoes could not be found and, it being a part of the way she does things, she had a bit of a melt. Mickey told her to chill and she told him not to butt in where he didn’t understand. When I got back from taking her, he had already worked out in his mind why she was so upset and totally understood. It is impressive to me that not only sympathy, but empathy was there. He was able to put himself in her shoes and understand. No one got their feelings hurt and both felt supportive and supported.

As a part of raising adults, I get questioned all the time what Lis is doing. What is her schedule? Which airport? Who she is going with? I must laugh, Lis has been traveling alone to compete since she was 13. She has been making her own travel arrangements for at least a last year and a half on her own. She manages her own travel and competition money. I am simply here to support her, usually by taking her to and picking her up from the airport. If she wants consultation or for me to pick up the slack when she is heavy training, mostly because her mind is in competition mode, I will.

It isn’t the lack of trials that allows us to be great, but the tools we are given to solve them. I am grateful we seem to have found what works for us. May you all find the same!


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