Running with a toddler

For three days a week during the spring of 2012, Ben drove Linnea to school with him. Her sitter, our family friend, would meet them at Ben’s office in the morning and again in the afternoon to return home by 4:00. Because of an earlier dismissal at the school in which I taught, I would be home by 3:15 each day. Those forty-five extra minutes–sometimes an hour if traffic was heavy–could seem like an eternity when waiting for the chance to once again cradle and kiss my infant daughter.

So, I ran.   

I ran before I could talk myself out of it. I would bypass a basket of laundry and a messy room to get to my running shoes, yoga pants, and leash for Howard. Texted Ben, “Going running, look for us”. Locked the door. And into the fresh air. Out of the too-quiet house that would only make me long for my family to just be home already.

I would run in the grassy boulevard between two one-way streets that ultimately granted me the ideal view for seeing them driving my way. I ran until I saw them, their kisses my reward. I would wonder when I jumped in the car–me in the backseat and Howard in the front–what she thought in those moments. She said nothing, of course, maybe gave me a smile, and let me smother her cheeks with smooches and her little body with snuggles.

Fast forward to this afternoon: Ben and Linnea would be a little later than normal because they were at a soccer game for his school. After a visit with a neighbor and a change of clothes, I made the decision to go for a run rationalizing fifteen minutes would be better than nothing; laundry be damned.

I ran the same path as I took when this was my ritual. Eyes directed toward traffic scanning the cars for the black Honda civic with a carseat in back. They saw me before Howard or I did. My pace quickened when I realized it was them and Linnea gave me a smile that spanned the length of her face while her feet kicked wildly. And for a moment, I saw my daughter as an infant again, happy to see her mama in both the ages of 6 months and 2 and a half. Moments such as this seem to get better with her ability to more freely express her love.

I opened the door ready to rest my non-trained legs on the short car ride home. “Mama, I run with you,” Linnea asserted with a grin. For a moment, I thought how much easier it would be to just drive on and to be home with all of us there: Change her diaper, make dinner, get settled. I also considered how that 10 minute run could take upwards of 30 minutes with a toddler. Then, I looked at her face with her raised eyebrows and expectant smile and knew there was only one possible answer. So, I unbuckled her seatbelts, and said, “Of course.”

Linnea and I held hands and ran along the trail until she got distracted, “Oh Mama, a big leaf. Look!” We crouched to inspect it until she crumbled it with her fingers and giggled. We continued with our run. “Mama, let’s play hide and seek!” After a couple hiding spots behind trees, we ran further. “Mama, look at the big stick!” After explaining the difference between a branch and bark, she wanted me to hold her and reached her arms up as evidence. I looked down and with one swoop, did just that. We walked until we saw Ben pushing a stroller, Howard at his side, still a ways from home.

I realized then that Linnea was not the distracted one. Her comments on leaves, sticks and wanting to play were anything but distraction. I was the distracted one. I get lost in my head while I run not paying enough attention to the simplest pieces of nature that so easily catch her attention. And as a wise friend once told me, It’s not really about the run…or the endpoint…or how long it took me…it is about the view and journey. 

And I am grateful that Linnea continues to remind me of this time and time again. 

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