“Listen up! We’re going 5 to 6 today! We’ll stay off the trails because it’s muddy! But, you guys need to get comfortable with distance!”
5 to 6 MILES?! Lay off the crack pipe, lady.
I peer down at the Kenyan, standing next to me in the rain. He’s whistling and kicking stones with his brand spankin’ new sneakers.
Between the steady pounding of the rain and the whistling…my child hasn’t heard a word his track coach just said.
“Alright, everybody ready? We have under an hour, let’s get moving!”
I sidle up alongside his coach.
Me: “Um, hi. I’m the Kenyan’s Mom. Did you mean 5 to 6 miles cumulatively? Or individually?”
We both look at the Kenyan. He’s still whistling.
Coach: “How old is your son?”
Me: “He’s 8.”
Coach: “And what’s he up to?”
Me: “Pounds?” No freakin’ clue. “I don’t really know what he weighs off hand, I have 4 kids, so”
Coach: Cutting me off, “Miles. What’s he up to in miles?”
Oh, nuts. This kid has only ever run circles around our couch. How do I calculate that distance? Well, let’s see…he runs while he watches one commercial-free cartoon. Which is approximately 23 minutes.
Me: “He’s up to 2 miles. 2 ½ if he’s well rested.”
2 ½ miles if none of his brothers launches off the couch to tackle the Kenyan mid-run. Which is an epidemic in our family room.
Coach: “He’ll be fine. You running with him?”
I try to suppress a giggle. Am I hearing this right? I’m attending one of my kids’ sports practices, and I get to exercise? I’m actually encouraged to accompany him?
Track. Practice. Rocks.
Me: “Happy to.”
She turns her back to me, then quickly turns around again.
Coach: Smiles, “I don’t know what my kids weigh either. I have 5.”
Well, well, well. Look who speaks my language.
“And I homeschool them.”
OOOF! Well, that’s been settled. The homeschooling mom always wins.
Me: “Come on, Kenyan, let’s get moving!”
This kid loves to run. He’s been running since he could walk. He’s SUPER high energy, and the running settles him down. Everybody knows this about the Kenyan. And he knows it about himself. When the Kenyan gets antsy in school, his teacher instructs him to do laps in the hallway. When he gets home from school, I set the timer, and he runs for 8 gloriously uninterrupted minutes before starting his homework. It’s unorthodox, but it works for him.
A 1/4 mile in, I glance over and smile at my male clone.
Kenyan: “Mommy, seriously, why are we running in the rain?”
Me: Winking, “Because we’re hardcore, buddy.”
Kenyan: “No, Mommy, you and Daddy are hardcore. I could run in the family room and not get wet.”
Don’t think I hadn’t already considered that.
Me: “Ah, indeed you could, Kenyan, but here you are part of something. You are a member of a team. Dedicated to improving. This is the only place we need to be. Not many Moms and sons get to do this together on a rainy Saturday morning. I think we’re pretty lucky, huh?”
Kenyan: “Freezing cold rainy Saturday morning.”
We swap gloves because his, like the rest of him, are already soaked.
This promises to be a long 5-6.
I. Love. To. Run.
Back when I was a kid, and I hadn’t a clue what stress was, I hated running. Fast forward to one husband, one mortgage, two car payments, two kids under two years old, and one father diagnosed with cancer…and a runner was born.
Am I setting a healthy example for my kids? Yes. Can I still run faster and farther than all of my sons? You bet your ass. But Waldorf is catching up in speed, and the Kenyan is gaining on me in distance. Do I like what running does for my body? Uh, hell yeah. But these aren’t the reasons I run. They are the icing on the proverbial cake. I run because I like what it does for my mind. A run always brings me balance…even a bad run. It is the great equalizer in my life.
And if ever a girl needed some peace, it’s me.
One mile down and the Kenyan is hanging tough. The elements haven’t done him in yet. They haven’t done me in yet either, but I’m thinking the silence may get me soon.
I open my mouth to say something, but quickly catch myself…
Typically I bitch about B&B when I run. And the kids. Can’t go there, can I? Let’s see…
Me: “So, Kenyan, would you consider yourself more a math guy or a language arts guy?”
Weakest conversation starter ever.
Kenyan: “Language arts.”
Me: “Me too!”
End of conversation.
We trudge on in silence. He slows to a walk.
Mile 2. Probably his first two consecutive miles of his life.
Me: Taking off my hat to wring the rain from the brim, “I’m so proud of how hard you’re working.”
Take that, Nurture Shock.
Coach pulls alongside us in her golf cart somewhere in the 3rd mile.
Coach: Looking at me, “Don’t make him go the whole 5 to 6. He may be too young still.”
Master of the obvious.
Kenyan: “Mom, I think I’m gonna puke.”
Me: “You’re not gonna puke. You may vomit, but you won’t puke.”
He looks at me and smiles. He’s not gonna puke.
Kenyan: “I’ll toss my cookies.”
Me: “You’ll boot.”
Kenyan: “I’ll regurgitate.”
Me: “You’ll hurl.”
We repeat this cycle…run, walk, wring out hat, positively reinforce wet 8 year old, scour our brains for synonyms for vomit…for 1 ½ more miles.
What the hell are we doing here? Is he enjoying this at all?
After practice, we drive home. The Kenyan complains his legs are tired, but it doesn’t stop him from resuming his circular running pattern around the family room almost immediately.
B&B: Quietly, “How was it?”
Me: “I think it was a disaster. But he didn’t complain too much. So I can’t be sure.”
The Kenyan talked earliest. Full goddamn sentences at 11 months. He leaned against me one day while he was watching Sesame Street. Reached out, patted my leg, and asked me, “Got crumbs, Mommy?” Nope. Mommy just needs to shave her legs, my little Baby Einstein. If he is at all displeased with something, he is very vocal about it.
B&B: “You know he would whine like an old lady if he didn’t like it.”
Me: “No doubt. I just hope he’s not doing it because we are runners, and he doesn’t want to disappoint us.”
B&B: Nodding, “See how he feels at the next practice.”
We drive to the next practice. No rain. Slightly chilly evening. I’m nervous, but trying to hide it.
Me: “Kenyan, I’m excited we get to run together again. And no rain this time!”
Me: “Kenyan? Are you OK?”
Kenyan: “Huh? Oh, sorry, Mom, I was just reading.”
He thinks I didn’t catch it, but my 2nd grader smuggled The Hunger Games into the car in between some Geronimo Stilton books. I remember hiding Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret between some Beverly Cleary books when I was his age.
Naturally, he’s my favorite today. Hey, I know it’s over his head, but it’s not like he’s unsupervised on YouTube.
We arrive. He does his warm-up laps. Then he does his stretching. Finally, Coach sends us out for a 3 mile trail run.
I suspect she just hammered the nails into the track coffin.
The first mile I’m sprinting to catch him. I don’t even need to look at my watch to know he’s running trails WAY faster than I do.
I hope my 8 year old doesn’t smoke me this entire run.
When I finally catch up, I’m winded. And he’s smiling brilliantly.
Kenyan: “What’s the matter, old lady? Can’t catch me?”
Game on, little man.
Me: “You’re fast tonight, Kenyan. Let’s see if you can run the entire time…no walking. Try your best. If you can’t, that’s OK. It’s something to work towards next time. But, if you can, I may hear Dairy Queen calling your name.”
Kenyan: Cupping his hand around his ear, “What’s that you say, banana split? You’re calling my name?”
Yes. I use rewards. And sometimes they contain calories. Guess what? It works.
He doesn’t stop once.
Well, except for the run-in with the “puppy”.
The Kenyan is deathly afraid of dogs. I don’t know why. He hasn’t had a traumatic experience with a dog. He’s just totally freaked by them. And I love dogs. But I think a healthy fear of a dog is a good thing for a kid. He keeps his distance, and he reduces the risk of a dog biting him square on the mug.
So, we’re cruising along…we have ½ mile left. The Kenyan hasn’t slowed a bit. He’s picking out ice cream flavors…
Kenyan: “3 scoops, right? I think I’ll get strawberry…no, no, no…cookies and cream, moose tracks, and….”
I keep running, smiling, thinking he’s alongside me. He’s not.
I turn around to find him standing as still as a statue with a look of panic in his eyes. His lips are moving, but barely a whisper escapes, “I’m afraid of dogs, I’m afraid of dogs, I’m afraid of dogs.”
I follow his line of sight and see a dog the size of a small bear running around in a field to our right. His owner’s attempting to train him, but he is headed straight for my Kenyan.
I change course and sprint at the oncoming dog.
We collide 10 feet before he reaches my son, who is now wheezing with fear.
And then the damn dog mounts me and attempts to impregnate me.
Come on, not in front of my kid!
His owner finally catches up to us and attempts to remove his gigantic animal from my violated body.
Owner: “Sorry, he’s a puppy. He’s still so excited.”
I gathered that.
I have hay in my hair and paw prints on my running gear. But we’ve got a run to finish.
Me: “Kenyan, you were saying? Cookies and cream, moose tracks, and what?”
Kenyan: “Oh, oh, yeah, maybe cake batter.”
We finally finish, and I have to turn away from him and act like I’m catching my breath.
Truly, I’m hiding my tears.
I couldn’t be prouder of my 2nd son. The baby who smiled when the breeze blew. The one year old who took his first steps and then ran. The toddler who worshipped his older brother. The little boy who began drawing and wouldn’t stop until each detail was perfect. The boy whose younger brothers always want to sit alongside. The child who has more imagination in his little finger than I have in my entire body.
He didn’t think he could do it. I didn’t think he could do it. I know it’s “just practice”, but the Kenyan buried it. And I couldn’t be prouder.
So, we head straight to DQ. I call my Little Sister out on the West Coast to fill her in on our evening.
Me: “I love track! It’s so much fun! And today Coach had us do a trail run…my favorite!”
Little Sister: “Wait, are YOU running track or is the Kenyan running track?”
Me: I glance over my shoulder at him and whisper, “We’re running it together.”
Kenyan: “I can hear you, Mom. I AM RUNNING TRACK! NOT MOMMY! Now tell her about the ferocious beast that attacked you.”
We get home and B&B looks at us expectantly.
B&B: Reaches over and removes straw from my hair, “Well?”
Me: Smiling, “He killed it. KILLED it. ½ mile warm up, 3 mile trail run, ½ mile cool down. Without stopping.”
Kenyan: “Except for the puppy incident.”
Me: Shaking my head, “Please, Kenyan, it makes me feel dirty. Let’s not talk about it.”
B&B: Smiling and high fiving the Kenyan, “We’re really proud of you, Kenyan. Way to turn it around!”
Kenyan: “Mom, did I run 4 miles tonight?”
Me: “You sure did, buddy.”
Kenyan: Smiling, “Only 1 more until I’m at 5 miles…just where Coach wants me to be!”
He runs up the stairs to shower. And I shake my head.
I stand corrected. Son of a bitch WAS listening.