Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Next Generation

My kids are the worst.  Utterly goofy silly little boys that manage to create a rave party out of the simplest moments.  They always conveniently forget to make their beds, flush the toilet and separate dirty laundry away from the clean laundry.  They are 18 months apart (not something I planned well) and extremely close.  Raising two loud busy little beings so close in age has felt like living in a daycare that never closes up shop for the night.  Did I mention they are inseparable?  The baby boy follows his big brother's cues like a faithful loyal subject and big brother always makes it a point to include baby boy in every one of his endeavors.  These two unique little dudes are the perfect blend of wit, grit and off beat charm.  My husband and I always joke how they managed to pick up all of our habits and personality traits, both good and bad, no matter how hard we tried to prevent it.

Unfortunately, our bad habits are the ones we noticed in them first.  Hubby's habit of yelling and talking loudly like he lives in a wind tunnel is apparent the second you enter our house and hear the affront of our high volume conversations.  My perpetual sarcasm and potty mouth comes back to haunt me every time I hear one of the boys threatening to let a four-letter gem fall out of his mouth.  We are not perfect parents by any stretch of the imagination, but we have a good time together and feel like we are doing an overall good job raising them.  I agonize over them and my parenting ups and downs when I zone out on my solo runs.  What parent doesn't constantly question their decisions and practices when raising their kids?  I am so afraid that every minor misstep I make will lead to permanent damage in our family dynamic, forcing my children to seek a life of crime or run up a boatload of bills in therapy.  Paranoid?  Sure, but I wouldn't be a decent mother if I did not worry about them on some overly protective level.

One interest my oldest son has been developing steadily over the last 2 years is running.  He runs regularly with the marathon club at his school and occasionally goes for 2-milers with mommy.  Although it should not surprise me that he picked up this hobby from me, it did whack me on the head the first time he wanted to tag along for a neighborhood stroll.  I ask him all the time why he runs and his answer is childishly innocent and simple.  He likes it (duh!) and it feels good when he looks back at how many miles he has logged.  Besides, he lives in a house where both mommy and daddy have weekly fitness routines so something was bound to rub off on him.  Ironically, I never considered what effect my running had on my kids.  My son doesn't know my insecurities about my belly rolls that ricochet around in my head constantly.  He doesn't know that I sometimes run as a type of mini-escape when daily pressures get too big for me.  He doesn't know that sometimes when I want to hide from my grown up responsibilities (including parenthood), all I am able to do is go for a run and hope that I feel better three miles later.  All he sees is that mommy consistently laces up those running shoes, heads out the door and somehow comes back home a happier person.  I imagine in a child's eyes, it must seem like a magical transformation happens somewhere out there on those runs.  Maybe in a lot of ways it does.

My parental running influence is not unique to just my household.  Some of the other "divas" in my running crew are noticing similar developments with their own offspring.  One junior diva has been kicking asphalt with us in early morning runs for months now and even has one major race to her credit.  Another mini-junior diva just signed up for a kids' triathlon training program, with her racing debut due this spring.  Unintentionally, we have each made our kids believe that running is the activity of choice or at least worth trying out.  For all our faults and shortcomings, it is a relief that at least for now, they choose to mimic us in a hobby that shows us at our very best.  Who knows if this infatuation with running will last beyond a passing fancy.  Before you know it, these kids may move on to other activities and interests that don't include us at all.  It is hard to ignore that my boys are sometimes too cool to hold mommy's hand or give a kiss goodbye to me in public.  I realize they are starting to view me as someone they need to outsmart these days rather someone they choose to cuddle with.

However, when I return home from a race with a big gaudy medal around my neck and mud-soaked shoes on my feet, all they see is a super badass athlete that happens to be their mom.  "Did you win?" is always the question that greets me at the door.  The absolute best feeling is when my husband brings them along to one of my races and I get to see them squeezed in with all the other sideline spectators cheering for their mom as if I was the only runner out there.  Their eyes light up when I stop to get sweaty hugs and high fives from my very own three person fan club.  They don't notice the hundreds (alright, thousands) of faster and fitter runners that pass me on the course.  Never mind the fact that I tell them repeatedly that I have never won anything in a running event other than scoring an extra banana at the post-race parties.  This has not swayed them from believing in the power of the sport.

Now not only are me and the other divas their mothers, but we are also their role models.  The way we train, the way we eat, and the way we rest are being watched by younger eyes trying to unlock the secrets of this new sport they may or may not choose to stick with.  My son will ask me for advice on things like when to hydrate and when to speed up, hanging on my words like he was listening to an Olympic world class coach.  I try not to turn all over protective and "mommy-ish" on him and respond objectively, sharing running wisdom I have gained over the years.  Moments like that are fleeting but golden in my eyes and I don't want to let them go.  Far into the future my kids and I may one day share a coexistence where our lives and interests no longer intersect.  By then, dear old mommy will no longer be the sun they orbit around.  I might possibly fade into the background as the one they simply check in with on major holidays or borrow money from when they are strapped.  My hope is that no matter where life takes them or what dreams they pursue, we will still share a common bond through a shared love of running.  Maybe this running legacy we are creating now will go on to future generations long after my running days are done.  At the very least, I hope they remember this time as a period in their lives when I was more than just their mom, but their inspiration.

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