This has tipped my balance

My mama guilt has been running high as of late, pun intended.  You see, for the past three months, I’ve been focused on a lofty running goal: the Around the Bay 30K, a Southern Ontario pinnacle event in distance-running.  I’ve done the full 30km race only twice; once in 2004, with the youthful abilities of speed and recovery on my side, and once in 2008, as an under-trained newlywed, happy to be running alongside my husband.  Since then, running has been bumped down my priority list.

But now, two kids and a decade later, it’s been bumped back up.

My kids are a bit older, and we’re beyond the all-consuming baby/toddler stage, so I’ve had the time to rekindle my love affair with my sport.  For the last year, that’s meant mostly solo miles, with the highlight of one run per week with my dear Michaela.  Our ultimate goal is the 2019 New York City Marathon, but I felt my mid-week motivation waning as the cold weather and dark mornings descended upon us in the late Fall of 2017.  When my wheels came off in June last year, I knew things had to change if my New York dream was to come true.  So, in November, I joined a new training group, thanks to the advice of my friend Sarah.  And it’s been a game-changer.

This group does their long runs on Sunday mornings.  Although this is nothing new for me, the difference is that my long run used to hover around 15km, but for the past three months it’s been almost twice that.  More milage means more time required, and my quick-run-while-my-children sleep Sundays have been put aside for the last number of weeks; this has tipped my balance.

Balance is a fine line that I tiptoe along, often trading sleep for other priorities.  I’m sure many of you are in the same boat.   And so, with minimal family disruption, the bonus being other like-minded people who think it’s normal to get up before 5:00, my alarm clock rings at 4:45am on Tuesdays and Thursdays; my run is done and I’m back home before the rest of my house wakes.  The same can be said for my 6am 10k on Saturday mornings.  But as my Sunday group long runs have progressed in distance, I’ve had to rally my village.  My husband has been on his own for breakfast duty and hockey practices, for transporting kids and mobilizing sleepy children into cold vehicles.  My father-in-law has helped juggle back-to-back practices for two kids on two ends of the city and my neighbour has stepped in to carpool when other plans fell through.  The village for my children has become the village for me. It-Takes-a-Village-to-Raise-a-Child-6001

But there’s guilt.

Guilt at missing kid’s activities.  Guilt at putting it all on my husband’s shoulders.  Guilt at asking for help.  Guilt at doing something that’s all for me.

But there’s also joy.

Joy at doing something I love.  Joy at running times that seemed impossible only months ago.  Joy that my children see me value my health and my fitness and myself.

Joy that I didn’t quit when it GOT DAMN HARD.

Bring on the taper, let’s chase more joy.

IMG_6748

This is my heart rate data from my last long run in this training cycle (33km).  Most of it was done in the pre-dawn darkness of Sunday morning.


“You are the joy of my life”

I was snuggling with my five-year-old daughter before she went to bed the other night, as is our normal routine.  She’s got a chiropractic-approved mattress in her bedroom, but for the last couple of months, she’s insisted on sleeping on a double air mattress on her floor.  This came about after my brother and his family visited at Thanksgiving; we set up the air mattress for additional sleeping space while they were here and, well, she’s staked her claim and insisted that the air mattress is her preferred sleeping spot.  So, there we have it, an expensive mattress sits unused while a cheap air mattress is favoured and cherished.  Kids are weird.

But, back to my story.  After we read bedtime books, we shut out the lights, and I lay beside her for a snuggle.  This is one of my favourite parts of the day; the part where she tells me her thoughts and asks me lots of questions.  This is uninterrupted, one-on-one time, the stuff parenting dreams are made of.

“Mom,” she whispered, her sleepy face snug up against mine, “you are the joy of my life.” joy

My heart filled and my tears welled up.  She said it just like that: “you are the joy of my life.”  Could there be a more perfect statement?  In just seven tiny words, she articulated the feelings I’ve had for years.  Joy, yes.  Joy of my life, definitely yes.

My eight-year-old son is also still in the snuggle-with-mama stage of life.  Last week we walked to school hand in hand, and I marvelled at the little boy who is growing up right before my eyes.  “When do you think you’ll be old enough that you don’t want to hold my hand anymore?” I asked him.  “Mom,” he said confidently, “I will never be too old to hold your hand.”  Oh, my sweet boy, how I hope that’s true.

My husband and I have been talking recently about how we’ve found ourselves in the “sweet spot” of parenting as of late.  We no longer have the physical challenges of babies and toddlers and we’re not yet into the emotional challenges of tweens and teens.  We can take our kids anywhere without worrying about naps and strollers and baby food, and yet they still want to be with us, with the full, unbridled enthusiasm of youth and naivety.

This is very likely our final Christmas with two Santa-believers still intact, and you can be sure I’m going to soak it all in, just like I’ve tried to do throughout their childhood.  I’ve heard that “the days are long but the years are short,” and I’ve found that to be true as this parenting train has rolled along, picking up speed as it goes.

Oh yes, you are the joy of my life.

the days are long

 

 

 


Roots and Wings.

I was thinking long and hard about what to write about this week, and the only thought that came into my brain was back-to-school. I tend to write about the happenings of my life, and the return to September, and now October, routines have been at the forefront lately, as I’m sure they have been for many of you.

This year was a bit different for us, as it was the first year of “nothing new.” We didn’t move, or switch schools, or have my work schedule change. The logistics of our life look essentially the same as they did last school year, so we knew what to expect from a timing perspective. My son entered grade three, and my daughter started into Senior Kindergarten. In Ontario, the Kindergarten program is two years long, and starts the year that a child turns four years of age. Back in 2014, the Provincial government rolled out full-day Kindergarten to replace half-day and alternate-day programs, so my daughter began full-time school last year, at age four. It was rocky.

Not having been a daycare kid (my husband and I have managed to work opposite hours so that one of us could always be home with our kids), she did two years in a three-mornings-per-week Preschool, to get her prepared for Kindergarten and used to the idea of being away from home, and most notably, away from me. Her and I have a special bond and she’s a mama’s girl through and through. Last year, all year long, even into June, she would be teary at school dropoff. “Mom, I don’t want to go to school, I just want to be home with you.” Oh, how she broke my heart.

We tried everything- special necklaces, “kissing hands,” pictures from home, notes in her backpack, meetings with the teachers. We were always told that her days at school were happy and settled, and she was always all smiles at pickup time; but more often than not, she would cry at dropoff. I would pull myself away from the school gate each morning and stand out of sight, watching her cry and wipe the fog from her little glasses, and I would cry too. I would walk back home alone and feel like a monster for the better part of the morning. “How was your day, sweetheart?” I would ask at pickup, “Great!” She would exclaim, oblivious to the torment that she’d put her mother through yet again. The daily text thread to my husband read something like this:

Me: Tears again. I’m dying. This is THE WORST.

Him: She’s okay hon, she’ll get through it.

Me: Why are we doing this to her? She’s only four! Four year-olds should be with their mamas. It’s nature!!!

Him: Her days are good, it’s just the first few minutes. She’ll be okay.

Me: I am the worst mother. My HEART IS BREAKING.  Sob…..

Okay, so I have a touch of drama up my sleeve. But honestly, watching your child cry while knowing that you can’t help them, is quite possibly the world’s worst feeling. If you’ve never been through this with your children, you may not understand what I’m talking about, and you probably don’t think this is quite the big deal I’m making it out to be. But when you’re in it, let me tell you that it’s a very big deal. I’m a bit of an attachment-parent, kind of on the hippie side of the scale- my kids regularly sleep in our bed, I nursed them both into toddlerhood, and I was a regular baby-wearer, so this child-away-from-me stage of life does not feel natural or normal to me. We have very carefully constructed our life to have me closer to our kids. This school-aged-transition was as hard on me as it was on her.

Fast forward to this year, and I was expecting more of the same from her. Through the Summer she spoke about how she was going to miss me when she started school and flashbacks of dropoff haunted me. And we have had more than a few tears over the past few weeks, but I’m happy to report, we’re on a streak of six consecutive cry-free dropoffs. She’s grown and matured, she’s gained independence, she’s built confidence, and I can see a different kid when I send her into the playground in the mornings. She wants to be there. The reluctance to let go of my hand is lessening, the quivering lip is all but gone, and the vulnerability of her foggy glasses has disappeared. Maybe she’s ready. Maybe I’m ready. I’m not sure how it happened, but we’ve turned the page, and my baby grew up.

roots and wings