Just want to start this off by saying (in case you don’t already know) that parenting can often be a soul-sucking experience. Don’t get me wrong, of course sometimes it’s great; they make you laugh; they make you proud. But mostly they just wear you down to a little nub. At least until they’re in college (and even then, only if you’re lucky).
And that’s just before your first cup of coffee, mind you.
Anyway, basketball season ended, and since Clooney is the kind of kid who needs some structure and activity to his days, I suggested he try running track this season. He’d never done track, but he’d done a couple of cross-country kind of activities in the past. He’s long and lean, so I figured track would be a good outlet for him.
Clooney’s kind of artsy. I mean he loves art, but more than that, he’s into music. He can talk about music these days the way he could talk about cars from the time he could speak. Not that he can’t still talk about cars. Generally speaking, he can talk about anything. In fact, his rambling
conversations could talk cats off the back of a tuna boat. But anyway, he plays three instruments: electric bass, the clarinet, and cello. He also sings in the school chorus and has a part in the drama club’s spring play. He’s plenty busy, but I still worry that he will be sucked into that iPad, that Minecraft will turn his brain to pudding, that he needs more stimuli. I’m a mom. I worry…
His school doesn’t have an elementary track program, so when I went looking for a program, choices were kind of limited in our area. I finally found one through the Catholic Youth Ministry, but our church doesn’t have a track team, so I had to sign him up through the diocese website, and then get a dispensation to put him on the team of another parish. Already I was jumping through hoops, but hey, a mom does these things.
After we got signed up, we were able to get more information about the team. The first sign that perhaps we’d made a mistake, was the practice schedule: Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5:45 until 7. Not ideal, since he has bass lessons on Tuesdays until 5 and drama climb on Thursdays until 5 as well. But again, I’m Mom. If he wants to run track, I will make it work.
His first practice was cancelled because of late-season snow, so the first practice he actually attended was on Thursday. Thursdays are a bit crazy for us, because I signed The Princess up for a dance class this season, thinking that she could take a school bus one day a week to the school that offers this after-hours program. However, I was mistaken on this point, and didn’t find out until after I had paid for the class. So, every week, I pick up the Princess from her school and drive her to this other school, about 15 minutes, for the class. It’s not really a big deal, but I have to pick her up at 5 as well. The dance school is only about a mile from Clooney’s school, so it actually kind of worked out, in terms of picking them up around the same time.
On a normal day.
The first day of practice, was also the day that I took our dog to be groomed. She wasn’t ready to be picked up until 3:00, so after I got her, I took her with me to get The Princess. After dropping off my daughter at the dance class, I ran the dog back home, which was 20-25 minutes from the dance school, depending on the traffic. Got the dog settled at home, grabbed some cold chicken for Clooney to have for dinner before track, and headed back to get them both. First I picked up The Princess, and then I headed over to get Clooney, and one of our neighbors’ kids, with whom we carpool. From there, we headed back toward home (at 5:00, traffic is thicker, so 25 minutes was making good time). Clooney ate his dinner in the car, but it turned out that he had forgotten to bring his track clothes, so after we dropped off the neighbor, we stopped back at our house for him to change, and to drop off The Princess with her older brother, Edison, who was by then home from his own after school activity.
Clooney quickly changed, filled a water bottle, and we headed to the practice, which was 10 minutes away, but still in heavy rush-hour suburban traffic. Lots of cars, lots of lights. I missed a parents’ meeting with the coach, but I got him there by 6:00, which I told the coach would be a regular occurrence.
After I saw that Clooney was settled, I got back in the car, went home, fed the other two kids (because Manfrengensen was working late), walked the dog, and went back to the track to get Clooney. By that time, the sun was going down, and it was getting cold. I stood watching him run for a bit, and then he saw me. The coach told them he’d see them Sunday at the meet, and the kids were free to leave. Clooney came through the gates with the crowd, broke away to come to me and said, “You know what? I don’t want to do this. Track’s not really my thing.”
And I just kind of felt like this:
Okay…so Manfrengensen is pretty fit. He didn’t used to be fit. I mean he was fine, not overweight or anything, but he didn’t make an effort to exercise regularly. Then we moved, and we’re less than a mile from a YMCA, so he started going. At first, he started swimming, and then he started on the stationary bike. He’s quite competetive, so every time, he competes against himself, trying to top his last time or distance.
Then this summer, he started running, and he LOVES it. Loves it. He’s thinking about trying to run in the 2012 NYC Marathon. He’s serious business kind of running. Every day, he posts his progress via a chip in his Nike onto the Facebook; every day tells me that he set a new record. In short, he is into it. And he makes running sound like it’s so much fun.
He’s pared down now, his body looks almost Avatar-sh, only you know…not blue. And he hasn’t grown a tail. But I feel like when I hug him, I’m hugging a washboard. And when he hugs me, it’s probably like he’s hugging a bag of laundry.
So, I’ve been trying to exercise. Summer is hard to do regularly because the kids are on crazy schedules…I’m not even going to bother to lay out my lame excuses for you. There’s always an excuse.
It seems like everyone I know (except Manfrengensen) is doing some kind of Couch to 5K program. Just in case you haven’t heard, been under a rock, or just aren’t in tune to that kind of thing, Couch to 5K is an app you can download onto your phone, and it takes you gradually from the couch to being able to run a 5K. Supposedly. You warm up with a 5 minute walk, and then you run for a minute, walk for 2, run for 1, etc, until eventually, you do more running than walking, right up to all running. So I hear.
I thought I would try it. I got some good stretching in, following a stretching regimen I found on Youtube, and then I ran on the treadmill. And I couldn’t make it past 20 or 25 minutes. I couldn’t complete Week 1, Day 1. I would get a pain from my ankle to my knee (I have sprained that ankle so many times — have I ever told you what a graceful individual I am?) and I would have to slow down and stop. I tried different shoes. I tried more stretches, but I still couldn’t make it past 25 minutes.
So last week, I figured, perhaps it’s the treadmill. The weather had cooled, so I planned to run outside in my neighborhood. It was Wednesday, and it also happened to be the one day a month that I cook for a local soup kitchen. I had made the chicken, but then I also make a couple of desserts. The plan was to stretch, put the brownies in the oven, Couch to 5K for half an hour and then back to take out the brownies. So simple, it was bound to go south.
I locked the door, put the spare key in the zippered pocket of my pants and began. It was a beautiful, glorious afternoon. And since my house faces parkland, there was plenty of shade under which to run. It wasn’t bad at all, in fact, at times it felt almost good. But then, at the 15-minute mark, the pain began. I thought I would push through, and I tried, but it was too much, and I limped home. Got to the front door, reached into the pocket and all I found was a hole. A hole! Where the key should have been! And the oven’s on! I’m like Lucille Ball over here, a sit-com mom, goofball, in short: a total dork. I am up a creek sans paddle or even any kind of floatation device.
I started looking for the key. The ground was covered with piles of the first brown leaves of the season. I scanned the street, the curb, the grass, my eyes darting (and by the way — brilliant me, I decided not to wear my glasses for the run so I was like Moleman looking for a glint of sunlight shining off anything at all) in vain for the key. I was saying a prayer to St. Anthony, because that’s what we Catholics do, until I was chanting it aloud, even injecting an expletive toward the end: St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around, my fucking key’s been lost and can’t be found. In retrospect, perhaps the expletive wasn’t a good idea, because as it turned out, St. Anthony gave me the high hat.
Manfrengensen was at a meeting that day, far away. My father had a spare key, but he was working, and I didn’t want to have to bother him. But time was ticking. Half an hour was up. The brownies were drying up in the pan, shriveling, becoming inedible, to say nothing of the potential fire hazard that seemed to become more inevitable with each passing minute.
I had to cave, and I called my dad (hoping that the number I dialed was his, since without my glasses I couldn’t read anything on my phone). After I told him I’d locked myself out, he said he was really busy, so I added, “Dad, I’ve got cake in the oven.”
“Oh, Jesus!” he exclaimed and hung up.
Ten minutes later he barrelled into my driveway. Said he was sorry, he was having a terrible day. He owns a 19-unit apartment building that keeps him very busy, and that day, someone had water leaking from her ceiling. They couldn’t figure out exactly where it was coming from, and he’d had to drop everything to come help me.
And he did. Let me tell you something about my dad: He’s my hero. I cannot tell you how many times the man has rescued me, but I can tell you that it’s been every time I’ve needed rescue. Superman’s got nothing on my dad. He’s awesome.
He tossed me the key, which I proceeded to drop inside the door pocket of his truck. And once I had fumbled to retrieve the thing, he took off to go solve other people’s problems. He’s the man.
So it’s actually a story about my relationship with my dad, rather than the disfunctional one I have with exercise. I think the fates are telling me that running might not be my thing. But I will find something. There’s a kick-boxing class that looks pretty cool at the Y this fall. I wonder if I can do that without hurting anyone. (Can’t you just see me losing one of my shoes?)