The Waiting Game

And and Rob SwimWhen I was growing up, I was raised on stories of how my uncle taught himself to swim in a creek not far from his house and how both of my parents learned to swim as adults.  One of my fondest pool memories is clinging to my dad’s back while he did the crawl across a pool.  My least favorite memory is falling off a sailboat with my dad into a river and, being a young swimmer (but in a life jacket), struggling to hold onto him while he kept pushing me away while trying to secure the boat so that we could get back in it; he told me on the way back to shore and many times that night that he was watching me and that the life jacket would keep me afloat.

That memory continues to haunt me and, even as I write this, I can feel many of those same emotions that I had almost 50 years ago.  Swimming is a life skill.  That’s why my parents made sure that my brothers and I learned to swim, why Ontario has a Swim to Survive program for every grade 3 student in the province, and why I have put both of my boys in swimming lessons.

My oldest son loves the water and always has.  He loved going to his weekly lessons, listened to what he had to work on and improved to become a strong swimmer.   I was certain that his little brother would follow his steps; how wrong I was!

The Littlest Dude started lessons when he was three years old.  For the first year, he was fine.  Then one Sunday afternoon, in the middle of a lesson, he had a meltdown – not a typical 4 year old meltdown but a full-fledged “I need my mom” panic attack.  For the last few weeks of that session, we had anxiety about going into the pool, tears once he finally got in and screaming until we were told “Don’t bring him back until he is ready.”

And it has taken years for him to be ready.  We have gone swimming at the Rec Centre and public pools but, for whatever reason, I simply have not been able to get the Littlest Dude back to swimming lessons.   He cried and lost sleep over the grade 3 Swim to Survive program but he was able to get through it; I think peer pressure helped with that.  This year, now that he is almost 10 (so a lot more mature, right?  Ha!), I was hopeful that he would be ready to start swim lessons again.

Andrew - Swim A
The Littlest Dude at his swim assessment.

On the first week of holidays, I took him to see a local swim school.  The Littlest Dude seemed to like it and agreed to an assessment so that he could take lessons through the summer.  On the day of the assessment, panic set in; I could not get him out of the house.  I called the swim school and apologized.  Then, I proceeded to tell The Littlest Dude that he was not allowed to go swimming anywhere, even with me, all summer unless he was taking swimming lessons.

And I meant it.  I struggled with the heat wave and other days with high temperatures and he didn’t ask if we could go to a pool;  he knew.  Last week, we had what has become a regular discussion: “We need to teach you how to swim this summer.”  We were running out of time as we didn’t have the earlier potential of 8 weeks of lessons ahead of us; we had just two.  I knew that if I didn’t get him in the water before the end of August, the chances of his taking lessons over the fall and winter were next to none.

“Okay,” he agreed.  “Can we do them next week?”

Andrew - barbecue swim
Permission granted. Now that he is taking lessons again, he can hang out with his brother in the water.

Within 24 hours, everything was in place.  He had done his assessment and registered for two weeks of swimming lessons.  The bribes were in place: a day of zip-lining for finishing Week One and a trip to Wonderland at the end of the session.  What he doesn’t know is that I had planned both as summer activities anyway but was waiting until the timing seemed right.  Without a doubt, the timing is now right!  We also discussed organizing fall swimming lessons at the end of the first week and he is already thinking that Thursday nights will be best for both of our schedules.

Every afternoon, I give The Littlest Dude a 30 minute warning before we have to leave the house for his lesson.  Once we get there, I give him the 5 minute, 3 minute and 1 minute warning so that he can make that last minute trip to the bathroom and, every single time, he waits until the very last minute.   And every single time, I take a deep breath, often more, and remind myself that this is okay.  He is taking swim lessons; he is learning; he is finally ready.


The Race to the Buses

This month, it has been obvious that my boys live a runner’s life.  Ironically, though, they don’t run.  I wish they did as both have a beautiful stride and my youngest has natural speed.   At times, I think they are ready to jump into the running scene and, then, they pull back.  I think that they are intimidated by seeing me train and race; I think they worry that they have to put in the same dedication and effort, and come home with the same kind of results.  When I questioned both, and separately on this, their replies were “no”.  But deep down, I think that they are simply intimidated, believing that they need to follow my footsteps, race and race well.  One day, they will be ready; meanwhile, I’m not pushing it.

Canada Day - Andrew and Mom
Eating Tasty Tatters, one of the day’s highlights for The Littlest Dude.

I saw the excitement that running brings to The Littlest Dude on Canada Day when we headed to Bronte Harbour to watch the evening fireworks.   When we heard that there were only 4 shuttle buses to take everyone – hundreds of spectators – back to the parking lot with our cars, the two of us knew what that meant.  It was going to be a race to the buses.   As soon as the final applause started, we were on our feet and running.  Follow me!  Stay on the outside of the crowd!  Run next to the teenagers (since they wouldn’t be rushing home so it was a section that wasn’t moving)!   All of my race-start strategies came through, and The Littlest Dude instinctly knew what to do.   And we made it; we were on one of the first four buses to leave the harbour.

PanAm Flags and Tents
Tim Horton’s Stadium, Hamilton, Ontario

This past week, we faced the craziness of shuttle buses again when we left the soccer field in Hamilton, where we were watching PanAm Soccer.  This time, it was the fourteen year old who sensed what had to be done.  In the last few minutes of the game, he looked at us and said, “When the game whistle goes, we have to run.”  And he was right.  Unlike the hundreds of people at Bronte, we were leaving the stadium at the same time as thousands of other soccer fans.  The two boys are smaller than I am so they could weave their way through the crowd inside the stadium more easily than I.  Once we were outside, though, the starting horn sounded in our minds and we raced to the shuttles.   I heard my youngest coach his older brother “Stay on the outside of the crowd.  It’s faster.”  I watched them jump curbs and hurdle trash lying on the ground, and I hoped that they wouldn’t bump into anyone.  We made it to the buses quickly, which got us to the GO station with 40 minutes to spare.  It made us wonder why we rushed out of the stadium but we had fun doing it, so much fun that we raced out of the stadium the same way on the other two nights that we were there.

Each night ( at Bronte Harbour or Tim Horton Stadium), my boys proved to me that they can run.  They have speed and they can manoeuvre.   For them, running is fun.  But, for whatever reason, they aren’t ready to make a commitment to Cross-Country or Track and Field.  And I’m just fine waiting for it to happen because, once they do, they are going to be awesome!



The Challenge of Change

Like most kids, my 9 year old is often keen to try something new.  But he also loses interest very quickly.   If I am lucky enough that he does stay interested, it is usually due to sameness of the activity – whether it be the structure of the same day and time, the routines surrounding it, or the “no surprise” approach.

Last week, after we started riding our bikes in the mornings, I completely expected him to be bored within days.  He isn’t.  Without even thinking about it, I have managed build consistency around our cycling and that has kept him motivated.   We ride in the morning; he picks the route; we always plan to add a bit more distance each time.  Consistency.

This week, I have been trying desperately to get him to do something different.  “Let’s ride north this time,” I suggested.  “Nope, I’m good,” he replied. “I’ve got a route planned.”  And he did – the same route as the one before but a little bit longer.  Last night, I almost tasted a mommy victory when I got him to ride with me while I headed out with my running club, somewhere different and farther.  At first, everything seemed fine but, once he realized it wasn’t just me he’d be riding with, he walked away.

Tonight, I changed my approach.  I gave him incentive.  “I’m going for a run into the trails and I need you to come with me.  I want to take some pictures in Sixteen Mile Creek so I need you to carry my phone.  That’s right.  I told my kid that he could carry my phone around with him – on his bike.  The coolness factor overpowered him.  “Wait, can I watch the end of this show?  It’s only 13 more minutes.”  Sold!  I had a cycling photographer.

Sixteen Mile Creek - bottom hillKnowing that he prefers trails to roads, we started on a gravel path for the first 2K.  Sure enough, within those first 2K, he was bored.  But as soon as we got into the trail system, the adventure began.  We had the challenge of hills, the beauty of green space, and the excitement of being alone to pull us deeper and deeper into the system.   When one hill became too difficult to ride, I walked up his bike while he found places to climb and take pictures, pictures that I didn’t really need other than to make his presence feel valued.  Four kilometres into the our ride/run, we decided to take a slightly longer route as it would be less hilly and an easier ride home.

It wasn’t long before we realized we were lost, and another adventure began.   We worked our way out of the trail system and navigated back to familiar streets.  Again, he pulled out my phone to take pictures.  This time, he tried his hand at action shots.

Postmaster RunWhen we got home, he asked if he could ride with me again.  He has goals: to ride downhill, to ride part of the way up the big hill, and to learn to take some cool pictures.  To me, that sounds like time well spent together.

Keeping Fit in the Family

Last week’s task in the job-jar was a simple one: tune up my mountain bike.  When we lived in Toronto, in our life without cars and kids, I rode it all the time, challenging myself to log 20 commuting miles a day.   Now that we are living in the suburbs, as active as we are, my mountain bike has been neglected.   This summer, though, feeling commitment-free, I decided that it was time to clean off the dust that had settled on its handlebars and spend some active time with my 9 year old.

Tuesday was our first ride.  I got dressed – cycling shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet and sunglasses.  “Mom!  You need to go change.  You can’t wear that!”  When I asked why I couldn’t wear my cycling gear (after all, we were cycling), his response was simple.  “You look too bikey.”

“Too bikey.”  Wow.  That was definitely a new one.  After much discussion and a huge sigh, I reappeared in my jean shorts and t-shirt, not quite as excited as I was before.  “Okay, that’s better.  But do you need to wear gloves?”  “Yes,” I insisted.  “I’m older and my hands get numb if I don’t.”  This time, I won.

mountain bikes

The two of us headed out for what I expected to be a 10K ride.  We got as far as his school when he was ready to turn back.  “Really, that took all of 3 minutes?”  “But, Mom, I’m just getting started.  I don’t want to do too much too soon.  I have to get use to it.”  After some more negotiating and agreeing on riding an extra kilometre, we arrived at our driveway in what seemed like minutes later.   My son was feeling quite accomplished; he had gone out for a bike ride with his mom.  Me, I was feeling a huge let-down; we rode just under 3K.

Before we got inside, though, I realized out great that ride was.  Yes, we only rode 3K… but we rode 3K together- and without stopping.  That was our starting point.  I realized that this was not about me; it was about teaching my son to ride his bike -for his fitness, for our pleasure, and to teach him the rules of the road.   I needed to build on his success and find a way to motivate him.   “Next time,” I said as we went inside, “let’s try to go a little bit further.  Let’s ride a little bit longer every time we go out.”

This morning, my 9 year old rushed into the kitchen.  “Mom!  When are we going for our bike ride?”  Today, there were no negotiations; I knew what to wear.  And guess what?  We rode 5K!



Work, work, work

That’s what the past week has been for me: work, work and more of it. Somehow I’ve managed to keep the boys clean, fed and happy, but my fitness has been lacking.

Mind you, not all of this is due to work. Monday was a planned recovery day from Sunday’s race. On Tuesday, I did plan to run late but hubby got home at 10:30 and, for me, that’s too late to go out. Wednesday night we had ran, ran and more of it; my shoes would have taken days to dry out if I ran. Last night, I finally got a run in. So, of all the weeks for work to throw off my balance, this was, I suppose, a good one.

As you can imagine, after not running (or cycling) for 3 days, I was more than antsy to get out last night. It was 7:15 by the time the boys and I headed in for the night, and withdrawal symptoms were setting in. I was shaking, I was hearing voices (Hurry, get your stuff on. Don’t answer the phone; they’ll leave a message), and panic set in (the skies were dark and thunderstorms were predicted). Nothing could stand in the way of my run until….

“Mom, I want to come with you!” called Number Two.

“Then, be quick. Get your shoes on and go to the bathroom.” I knew he was likely to fall asleep in the jogger at this time so the bathroom trip was a must. Well, Number Two knew I wasn’t messing around with time; he was ready faster than I was.

“Wait! I want to come too!” yelled my oldest.

This was a surprise as, recently, he has been bailing on my runs.

“Really?” I questionned.

“Yeah, gym class failed today. I didn’t do anything. I need exercise.”

Ah, music to my ears. I gave him the same shoes and bathroom message and we got out and back – just in time to avoid the big drops of rain.

So, the pressure of work is off and the pressure from not running has dissipated. Does anyone else feel this way about missing a few days of working out? For me, that deadly number is 3; I just can’t go three days in a row without something. Yup, I’m a junkie.

Coming up: 5K Race on June 6th; 10K Race on June 8th
Yes, there is method (and reason) to my madness

15 and 12

I’m not talking miles here, and I’m not writing about kilometres either. It’s about push-ups, full-body, nose-to-the ground push-ups. Years ago, when I taught aerobics, I did them all the time. Once I got into running, I did 5 sets of 8 every other day – until the boys arrived. I was able to get back into that regime after #1 but with #2, my dedication went down and never came back up.

One day last summer, I glanced in the mirror and realized that my upper body was surprisingly in really good shape. I could only attribute that to being a mom as I was constantly picking up my youngest cling-on: at day-care drop-offs, through a parking lot, from the kitchen to bath…. Looking back, the list seems endless. Other times, I worked on my upper body by pushing my 35 pounder in the baby jogger. At the end of the summer, I panicked about needing to develop some upper body strength over the winter as my baby jogger days seemed to be coming to an end. The need to get back to push-ups and dips was becoming obvious. But, life got in the way and that never happened.

Yesterday, when #2 was in his jogger for the first time in a few months, I honestly didn’t notice him being any harder to push than last year, even running into the wind. So, it looks like I may have another full season of baby jogger/core/strength training ahead of me, and that is great.

However, tonight, while on my windtrainer, #2 happily bounced in to “be alone”. He sat down behind me and quietly read his new Superhero books. Well, he must have sent me some of his superpower love because after stretching, I looked at him and announced, “I’m going to do something I haven’t done in years. Do you want to watch?”

And, then, it happened. I went down and back up 15 times – not all of the way down, mind you, but respectably, flat back, tummy in, arms-doing-the-work down. I rested and did 12 more. Now, I’m not sure how impressed #2 was but he rewarded me with a plastic pancake and syrup from his kitchen. Life continues to be good.