I’m on a quest… a quest for sound parental advice. For the past 8 months I’ve been feeling like a total failure at this mom-thing, and it’s not a particularly welcoming feeling to be failing at your job. I’ve sought guidance from many sources, mostly from parents with children ages equal to or greater than my own, who seem to have reared decent kids.
The wisdom I’ve received from my interviewees ranges from “Stand your ground. Do NOT give a millimeter. Make sure they know who’s boss.” to “Back off. Just let things go. It’ll all turn out.” Some days, I feel like I’m swinging from one extreme to the other, a beginner trapeze artist trying desperately just to hang onto the swing.
The constant through all of this havoc has been my running. In recent years (recent because I’ve been running less than four years), I stopped running from about November through March… or sometimes June. This winter, the need to pound the pavement instead of my children drove me outside or to the cooler temperatures of our basement where the treadmill resides and the children tend not to be found.
Thankfully, the weather is warming up, and I’m back outside along with the rest of the fair-weather Lancastrians.
One such sunny Saturday morning, our entire household was in a full blown uproar. I don’t remember who started what, but by the end of it, all four of us were involved, each parading his/her temper and sporting emotional scars. After the showdown, I fled the house in full running gear and later realized with a dead phone battery which meant no music to keep me company.
Instead, I had to listen…. to my knees cracking as they warmed up, to my breathing and my feet picking up an even tempo. I listened to my mind replay the blowup, analyzing what went wrong and how to react differently. I replayed the words that were spoken to my children, words that were meant to deter future negative behavior, but was pretty sure they had missed that mark.
Then all of a sudden, I heard one of the scariest sounds you can ever hear as a runner… the sound of the horn of a tractor trailer that’s heading straight toward you. Even now, my heart beats double time as I relive that moment. I had no idea why the driver was blowing his horn, and in my confused state, there was a moment of sheer panic when I thought it was all over. This. Was. It.
In that moment, I realized how small and weak I was compared to this monstrous machine that could wield serious and permanent damage to my body. I had absolutely no way to defend myself against this gigantic piece of metal that was speeding toward me. The truck was larger, louder, and quicker than I was, and could easily turn me into mincemeat.
Obviously, the truck passed without incident, and I quickly gathered my over-dramatic thoughts. The truck’s message had been short and light compared to the level of sound I know a big rig is capable of producing. I’m 99.95% sure the driver was simply “tooting” his thanks because seconds before I had stepped off the road, over the cement curb and was attempting to run (remain upright) in the grass, allowing a decent amount of space between the truck and myself.
(I always think the odds of me tripping on grass-covered, uneven ground and falling out into street only to be squashed by the very traffic I’m trying to avoid are much greater than if I simply stay on the street and keep sure footing. But I can understand why a truck driver would rather I be in the grass than sharing the road with him/her.)
As my heart slowed down a bit and my mind slowly refocused on my children whom I would soon encounter, my thoughts stayed partially with the truck. And I worked it out… at least the start of it.
I am the truck. I am larger, louder and quicker than my children. I can easily make mincemeat out of their hearts, their intentions, their joys, and their failures. I have great power, the power to do serious and permanent damage. I also have the (great) power to build up.
And this is where I will start.