In an effort to get our 9-year old son less dependent on electronics and more dependent on being able to climb a flight of stairs without the aid of an oxygen tank, Heather has started to take him on a nightly run while I’m safe at home guarding our ice cream and couch.
At first, he was all for the idea and excited at the premise of running with mom. Enthusiasm that lasted right up until the point he went running with mom. She’s brutal. I’ve seen it. Word of advice, never go for a run with someone who actually enjoys doing it. With Heather, there’s no goal in mind, no weight loss motivation, just a passion for running around in circles even though nothing deadly is chasing her. I don’t get it.
What you want to do is run alongside someone like me. There’s no pressure, no expectations, and no requirement that the run even consist of running. In fact, it’s highly discouraged.
Case in point…at the last 5K Run we did together, I walked the entire course while watching Mickey Blue Eyes on my Droid. People lapped me, and Heather, who ran the course while pushing our daughter in a loaded stroller, ran back later to find me.
My pace was so slow that the police officers in charge of collecting the cones after the event were waiting for me at each turn. They would load the orange cones into their cars as I passed and then slowly idle their vehicles to the next checkpoint where they again waited for me to arrive.
Knowing my genes are alive and well in my offspring, it was no surprise to me that Michael was engulfed in tears and clutching his sides when they returned. It was as though Michael was trying to keep his insides on the inside while dealing with Exploding Lung Syndrome, a condition afflicting all males in the Zellers lineage.
As I watched him writhe in exhaustion, I could feel his pain. About eight years ago I also embarked on a run with Heather in the hopes that it would bring us even closer together and provide us with an activity we could both enjoy. She started out as my wife but soon shape-shifted into some barking drill sergeant urging me…no, ordering me to keep pace, and I quote, “suck it up.”
As I watched her fade into the horizon I realized that running with her wouldn’t help our relationship, it would kill it. Much like it had already killed off loyal fat cells and the ability to breathe without wheezing. I could hear my own heart pounding in my ears and it was telling me to smother Heather in her sleep. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and we had only passed the mailbox.
Michael stumbled his way to the grass like a soldier who’d just braved a thousand rounds of mortar fire while storming Omaha Beach in 200 pounds of gear. He was gasping for breath, crying inconsolably, and vowing to never do anything like that ever again.
Ever the concerned mother, Heather never broke stride or emotion as she sauntered by and said, “Get up Michael, one more lap to go!” It was then that he decided to just play dead. Hoping mama bear would lose interest and go about her business without him.
By the time they returned, he was a spastic hot mess. It look him 12 minutes to run the equivalent of 8 blocks. Roughly half the time it would have taken me to run a quarter of the way. “Not bad, son, not bad,” I applauded sarcastically while clenching a Fudgsicle between my teeth. If he’d been able to lift his face off the earth, I’m fairly certain he would have uttered his first profanity-laced tirade. Fortunately, gravity and a heavy head were on my side.
Well, tonight was Day 4 of Operation Torched Lungs, and as I sat on the porch watching them prepare, Michael defended his earlier hysterics and tears.
Me: “I don’t want any crying this time, either. Just focus on your breathing and keep pace with Sergeant Pain over here.”
Heather: “Daddy’s right. It actually makes it more difficult to breathe if you’re crying, Michael.”
Michael: “That’s not true. Kamryn’s doctor told me that crying helps you breathe better.”
Me: “Okay, yeah. When you’re six seconds old, that’s true. But not when you’re almost ten. Nice try.”
While I’m impressed that he remembered what he was told in the delivery room as Kamryn cried her first breath, I’m even more impressed that he processed and then translated the memory into justification for his behavior. I was half inclined to let him skip tonight’s run just because of how cute it was, but I couldn’t risk Sergeant Pain making me drop down and give her twenty for undermining her authority.
Alas, he completed tonight’s run 35 seconds faster than last time and not a tear was shed at any point during the run. My wife is elated at his progress but I don’t know whether to revel in his new maturity or fear the budding evolution of another jogging convert. If I get outnumbered in this household, I’m screwed.
Fortunately, I can take my 16-year old’s laziness to the bank. He’d be harder to convert than the Pope. It’s the three year old I have to be leery of. Right now, she essentially abstains from any vote. But once my wife sinks her fitness claws into her, I risk losing the majority rule that keeps me ensconced in frozen treats around here.
I’ll either have to whip myself in shape or learn how to play dead more effectively than Michael. If you know me at all, you already know I’m hard at work on shallow breathing. It’s my only hope.