We had a rocky start to September. The Kenyan didn’t want to go back to school. I wish I could say it was because he had experienced the summer of his life. It was not. He didn’t want to go to school because, for the first time since he was 6 years old, his three best friends weren’t going to be there.
He shrugged his shoulders in reply to my asking, “how was your day?” after the first day of school.
I saw the same shrug in reply to that question after the second day of school.
And an identical shrug after day three.
Before he fell asleep that night, I stretched out on his bed next to him.
“Talk to me,” I said. This approach does not work with Waldorf because he is 13. But this is all the prodding 11 needs. At least for now.
“Since my friends are gone, there’s nothing for me to do during recess. No one for me to walk with or talk to. I’m just…alone.”
I pushed the mental image of my child sitting dejectedly against an overgrown oak immediately out of my head. This boy needed a pep talk, not a weepy parent.
“What is everybody else playing?” I asked.
“Mostly touch football. Football scares me,” he answered.
Football scares me too. But I can live with touch football at recess.
“If it scares you, you should try it! It sounds strange, but Dad and I believe that. Get out of your comfort zone. As long as it’s not drugs or something reckless. You know that, right? ”
He nodded almost imperceptibly. “I don’t know how to throw a football,” he whispered.
“I’ll teach you,” I answered. “Tomorrow morning. Before school.”
“But I don’t know the rules to football,” he continued.
“Ask your friends to explain the rules to you. It’s probably less complicated than it looks.”
“I don’t want to bother anybody,” he said.
Ah, the curse of the middle child runs deep in this boy. I know it intimately. I’ve lived it for 40 years.
“Kenyan, you’re going to have to ask for help. Some kids will be annoyed. They’ll treat you like there isn’t a place for you on that field. Don’t let that negative energy into your space. I bet you’ll find that most of your classmates will be excited that you want to play, and they will love sharing their knowledge with you. You may like playing touch football. And something magical happens when you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s difficult to describe. You have to experience it to understand it.”
“What if I’m bad?” he worried.
“What if you’re good?” I countered.
So B&B LOVES football. He has been waiting a long time for one of our boys to express an interest so he can share his passion for it. When I told him that the Kenyan was interested in playing but needed some pointers, he leapt from the bed in excitement.
He began pacing, “I’ll need my football. My good one. Is it in your car or my car? Or is it in the shed? Or the front closet?”
“Slow down, Troy Aikan. You can make breakfast tomorrow. I’m going to teach him how to throw,” I said.
“Aikman. Troy Aikman,” he said with a disgusted look on his face. “I. Will. Teach. Him. How. To. Throw.”
“No, you won’t. You’ll damage him if you teach him. I’ve caught your passes. In the chest. They leave marks. They’re like bullets,” I argued.
“I. Will. Teach. Him.” He was scoffing at this point,”and I will not throw bullets.”
“Lobs. They have to be lobs. Otherwise, I’m teaching him,” I continued.
“Fine. Lobs. I. Will. Teach. Him. How. To. Throw.”
“OK, then.” I turned off the light. He went downstairs in search of his good football.
After breakfast the next morning…a breakfast that I
made microwaved…the Kenyan and B&B went into the backyard. B&B taught him how to throw a spiral and, as promised, tossed lob after lob to our son.
When I picked the kids up from school that afternoon, I brought warm soft pretzels to hold them over until dinner. The Kenyan’s pretzel grew cold. He was too busy playing touch football to eat it. He was catching passes and running for touchdowns. He turned out to be one of the fastest on the field. He was surrounded by a sea of animated faces, encouraging him every step of the way. There was a spot for him on that field, and he had claimed it.
My boy was shining.
A week later, I took inventory of my people as I stood on that playground. The Kenyan was engaged in a game of touch football with his new group of friends. The Interrogator sat on top of the monkey bars, encouraging the Verb to join him. It was 4:15, so we had a few more minutes before Waldorf finished soccer practice. Just enough time to check my email.
And I opened it up to find this…
Do I want to run the Boston Marathon?!?
Before I had kids, I knew exactly how I intended to parent. I wouldn’t raise my voice because my kids would be good listeners. I would not succumb to the pressure of purchasing the dreaded electronic devices. My children and I would be too engaged in stimulating conversation for those shenanigans. It would be a team effort–with willing participants–to keep the house clean. Particular pride would be taken in keeping the toilets immaculate. Dinner would be love at first bite no matter what I cooked. They would request I cook meatloaf once, sometimes twice, a week. Eager to connect with me, my children would, unprovoked, tell me every single thing going on in their lives. I would have plenty of space on my bookshelf. No need for parenting books when you go in with an airtight plan like mine.
Then I had kids. Four of them. All boys. The reality of having children changed all of my preconceived notions about what it meant to be a parent. And everything I thought I had known went down the toilet. Unfortunately, it was the only thing down the toilet. Because, with boys, the pee goes around the toilet. And under it. And on the bathroom walls.
What is that?
I’ve had similar intentions about running. Specifically, I’ve always said “I would never run the Boston Marathon without qualifying.”
And then I received an email inviting me to run it as a member of Team Stonyfield, the official yogurt sponsor of the 2015 Boston Marathon. (YoBaby YoBaby Yo! No, seriously, Stonyfield’s YoBaby was the first yogurt that I fed to each of my babies!) Equally amazing, I’ll be asked to write about my journey. The reality of being offered that opportunity changed all of my preconceived notions about not having earned a qualifying time in order to experience it.
The Kenyan ran over to me just as I read the email.
“You look pale, Mom,” he noted.
“Buddy, you won’t believe this. I have a chance to run the Boston Marathon.”
“That’s cool!” he smiled.
“It’s the coolest. But I’m scared,” I confessed.
He didn’t miss a beat, “If you’re scared, you should do it!”
“I’ve never run a marathon before. I don’t know what happens beyond 13.1 miles. Boston is the marathoner’s marathon. It’s for the best of the best. People will say I don’t belong there. Runners will say that.”
He put his hands on my shoulders, “Mom, you’re going to have to ask for help. So what if people are mad? Don’t let that negative energy into your space. I bet you’ll find that most people are rooting for you and want to share their knowledge to help you do your best.”
“But what if I can’t be the Mom you guys need me to be because I’m too tired from my training?” I asked.
“Honey, what if I’m bad?” I whispered.
“Mom,” his eyes twinkled as he smiled at me, “what if you’re good?”
My friends at Another Mother Runner and the fine folks at Stonyfield Organic have given me the opportunity of a lifetime. Nine lucky women and I will be running the 2015 Boston Marathon as Team Stonyfield.
And I’m scared.
I’m going to need some help along the way.
But I believe there is a place for me in that sea of inspiring runners.
I hope I am able to shine. Just like my boy.
I’m stoked that my first post is live today at Another Mother Runner! I will be chronicling my training journey on their website from December-April. My blog will remain a place for amusing and/or poignant stories that pretty much always contain curse words.