My most recent running journey is as old as my 18-month-old daughter. Although I've been a runner since my youth, the pregnancy and then birth of a child is a touchpoint in both my athletic as well as spiritual life. With the birth of my second child, Zoe, I entered a new realm of motherhood. This is one where I can't have all my ducks, or children, in a row. I've always been I think calm as a mother, even with my first. People used to comment that I was so calm with Lincoln as he tried out his legs and independence it was as if this was my third child. But with the birth of my 2nd I am in a place that requires even more patience and resilience.
I'm at home providing daycare for my kids and their two cousins and sometimes some extra friends thrown in for good measure. The kids often make me laugh but they also make me yell out, "OH NO!" They are especially happy if I get down on the floor with them instead of towering about them bossing them around. But when you are a busy adult with a house you need to keep in order it can feel painstakingly slow to get down and talk to a child. Teaching them something new can take even longer but it can be so rewarding in the end when they look up to you with that smile.
So last night, I was running with my running group around the track and for the first time in a while my running and my mothering worlds collided. Nate actually had a night off from work and so he appeared track side with the kids mid-workout. My kids started hollaring, "Go Mommy!" each time I came around their side of the track. When I finished an interval and walked by they both ran onto the track to hug me, like I had won the race. They pushed me to my fastest mile ever in my life (7:38) and that was in the middle of a long hard workout of mile intervals. I felt like I'd run two races, my physical one with myself and the mommy race (trying to raise good kids who still love me in the end).
My new mile time also was cause for me to stop and reflect on how far I've come both as a runner and as a mother, since 18-months-ago. I'm sure a blog post talks about my first run AFTER giving birth to Zoe. I remember it as a long slow slog at a 16 minute mile, which is really a creative walking pace. I was pushing Lincoln in a stroller and had left Zoe with Daddy and finally gotten myself outside after 6 weeks of full-time newborn mothering. Since then I've learned a few things that helped both my mothering AND my running to get me where I am today. Here are a few.
If you get out and run every other day or so and try running a little faster or harder each time you will get faster. Also with kids if you set a boundary or teach a new lesson or get up and hold them tight in the middle of the night, this persistence will lead to happy children and a system that works well. If I get down on my kids level and open my arms they know they will get a hug. If I start counting down from three and I get to one before they have listened they know they are going to the bedroom.
Does what you are doing give you joy? Persistence can really knock the joy out of my running or my mothering so I need rest to refuel and come back again. I also need to remember the good and easy runs and the good and easy days mothering so that I can keep plugging along with them. I recall the giggles between siblings playing in the other room as I get some cleaning done or the sunrise over the American river as some Canadian geese fly over our running trail. Both these moments refuel me and remind me what I love about running and mothering. If I don't feel the joy then I need a break.
Sometimes to find my joy again I need the company of friends. One of my dearest friends comes over at least once a week with her two children and we don't sit around complaining about our lives. We instead invite each other to help us recount the joy in our lives. We fuel the smoldering flames under our joy for mothering, and other pursuits. My friend said to me just yesterday, "I'd rather have my kids be cranky here then at home with me by myself." Just like my running partners who often say, "I couldn't have run today without you." There is joy in the moment in the act of running and mothering when you have a friend by your side.
On that day 18-months ago I felt weak, overweight, and trapped in a body and new life that were so heavy and challenging. But even in that moment I felt the sense that I could accomplish anything. I sensed that if I could climb up out of that weakness into strength I could be proud of myself and that would be a great challenge to conquer. When I'm around friends who have no self-worth I feel drained. I try to fan the fires of, "you can do it!" beneath them to start up their joy again but they don't have any self pride to start with. If you want to become something different you can, but only you can convince yourself. You have to believe in the end product before you will ever get there. I believe that someday I will run the Boston Marathon. I also believe that someday my kids will grow up loving each other, the world, and their families. I can see the mountain top and will reach for it.