R is for Running

Parenting tip #243 —

Little boys have lots of energy. Make them run.

“Fred” running around the house — 2004ish


Running boy from Time for Bed, Ned by Pam Zinnemann-Hope, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Man on a bench from The Old Man and the Afternoon Cat by Michaela Muntean, illustrated by Bari Weissman

Rabbit from ?

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J is for Journey

“I ran away once and you didn’t even notice,” one of my children told me accusingly.

It brought back a flood of memories.

I ran away once. Slighted once too often by my siblings, unappreciated by my parents — I knew it was the only thing I could do. So I put a loaf of bread in my backpack, along with a flashlight, a jacket, and a pack of matches, and headed up the hill behind our house.

The first bit was steep and prickly with wild raspberry bushes. I huffed with exertion and didn’t stop to enjoy a single berry.

I hiked past the little spring-house that had been the source of water for the house before my parents dug a well.

Finally I reached a grassy knoll and sat down to rest.

I waited for someone to come looking for me. Surely someone would notice I was gone.

I waited, imagining the shock and the worry. My mother would ask each sibling, “Have you seen Sally?” and the worry would grow.

They would look all around the house and the barns. She’d probably make Peter or Jimmy climb into the hayloft to see if I was there.

But they wouldn’t find me.

The tall grass on the hill was perfect for putting between my thumbs and whistling — but I stopped myself. Someone would hear it. Then they would know where I was.

The grassy knoll, it turned out, was also an ant hill so I moved to a little mossy spot near a tree.

I pulled out my loaf of bread and ate a slice — not because I was hungry, but because I was bored. Plain bread is also boring, I discovered. I wished I had brought a jar of peanut butter. I put the bread away because I knew it would have to last me at least a week.

As I started to stretch out in the moss for a little rest, I nearly placed my hand in a pile of animal droppings. Abruptly I sat up again. Hugging my knees, I started to cry. Surely I was the most unloved child ever.

House with the garden behind it

But down the hill was my house.

And my family.

And my dog.

And our passel of cats.

I climbed to my feet and headed back.

My mother was working in the garden, picking beans or peas.

“I ran away,” I announced to her as I got closer, “and you didn’t even notice.”

She straightened up and looked at me. “You need to be gone more than 20 minutes if you want me to notice,” she said.

And she went back to work.

All that passed through my mind when my own child told me about running away.

I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t repeat my mother’s words.

“I’m sorry,” I said.


Child with suitcase and backpack from Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch, illustrated by Jack E. Davis

Plants from a broken pop-up book

The Record Board

Whenever I go to a pool, my eyes are drawn to the record board.

It’s kind of funny, because I haven’t always been a fan of the record board. Helen still holds over 20 age-group records at the pool in Cooperstown — the earliest from when she was 8 years old, and the latest from when she was 13. Then we moved, and she started racking up high school records in Greene.

Margaret in the middle

A couple of years ago, I caught one of the swimmers in my group staring at the record board in Cooperstown.

“Do you know Helen Zaengle?” she asked.

“I do,” I told her. “She’s my daughter, and she’s Laurel’s sister.”

“Wow,” Margaret said. “She has a lot of records. I’m going to break some of them.”

That was the moment my feelings about the record board changed.

Helen was very good at swimming from a young age. She loved winning races — although there was one time when she asked me why she couldn’t get a rainbow ribbon (the ribbon handed out for participation); all her ribbons were blue.

The record board wasn’t posted at the time, and, quite frankly, I think Helen and I were both unaware of all the records. When the record board went up, part of me felt a little embarrassed because I never sensed that Helen was swimming for the glory of the record board or all the accolades. She swam with the truest sense of the amateur — a love of the sport.

But I worked in the pool these last few years with all those records at my back, and I tried not to look at them. Don’t misunderstand — I am very proud of Helen, but not because she rules the record board. I just think she’s wonderful.

Margaret helped me to see that the records are goals for other swimmers, not to induce pride, but to produce hard work.

Michael Phelps said, “Goals should never be easy,” and Margaret took that to heart. She’s 10 years old now and continues to push herself harder than her peers. She still hasn’t made it to the record board, but I have no doubt that she will.

Laurel swimming breaststroke

Last year, Laurel made it to the record board, by breaking a record that had been up there since before Helen was even born. 11-12 100 Breaststroke.

This year Laurel was studying the records to see if there were any she was close to.

“How about that one,” I said, pointing to 13-14 200 Breaststroke. “I think that one is do-able, maybe not this year, but next.”

The name next to the record: Helen Zaengle.

Helen called me right up. “I heard you told Laurel to break my record,” she said.

“Heck, yes, I did,” I replied.

“I think that would be great,” she said.

She holds her records with open hands, bidding other swimmers to take them, and I think that makes me even prouder than all the records combined.

The Role of Timers

misc 0048 & Under swimmers swarm around the pool deck like ants on a sidewalk. Some are aimless, while others seem to know where they are going.

Clueless. That’s often the word I use to describe 8-and-unders.

Mama can’t hover on the deck. Only those who are supposed to be there can.

Guards — aka Meet Marshalls — protect the entrances. Most coaches and officials wear their credentials on a lanyard.  Swimmers enter through the locker-rooms; their suits and goggles are their credentials. The other support staff — the timers, the timing table, the meet marshals themselves, the ribbon writers and heat winner awarders — are either known to the people running the meet or wear a lanyard identifying their role.

Of these, my heart always goes out to the timers.

Timing is the first role most parents get to play to help at a meet.

“What if I do it wrong?” new parents ask.

“We’ll train you,” is the usual response.

Start – Stop – Reset. Those are the only three buttons that really matter on the stopwatch for the timers.

Start the watch — not at the sound of horn but when you see the strobe. It’s important for parent/timers to understand this for two reasons — 1) since light travels faster than sound, it may be slightly more accurate, and 2) the strobe is why no flash photography is allowed at the start of a race. Swimmers who learn to watch for the strobe may react to a flash from a camera and be charged with a false start.

Stop when you see the hand touch the pad. That means you have to stand where you can see that happen which isn’t behind the blocks.

Reset. Write the times on the clipboard as fast as you can and reset; the next race starts almost immediately.

One of the officials I work with loves to tell the story of how he decided to become an official. “I couldn’t write fast enough,” he says, laughing. “After I got yelled at one too many times, I said, ‘Hang this — I’m going to become an official!'”

Timers are the unsung heroes of swim meets. They are moms and dads who come out of the stands and work the deck. Their feet get wet. They miss their own child’s finish because they have to watch the lane assigned to them. They get yelled at and blamed for all sorts of stuff. They are expected to make sure swimmers are in the right heat and the right lane, get up on the blocks, and have their goggles on. And all of that is mostly the swimmer’s responsibility.

Which brings me to yesterday.

I was standing on the side of the pool as a stroke official. That means I walked along the side watching the strokes to make sure everything was in accordance with the rules of that stroke. No flutter kick during butterfly, stay on the back for backstroke, toes pointed out for breaststroke kick, and so on.

The referee blew the whistle for 8 & Under girls 50 backstroke. Seven girls hopped in the water and grabbed hold of the wall. One lane was empty.

I looked at my program to see who was missing. It was a little girl from a team in our league. I could see her standing behind the timers, wrapped in her towel, shivering, looking clueless. I wished with all my heart that the timers would turn around and see her, but they were talking.

The starter said, “Take your mark.”

Then, “WHHHHHAANK.”

After the horn, the timers parted and saw the little girl. I watched them look at the clipboard and start talking. I shifted my attention to the swimmers in the water.

“What just happened?” her coach asked.

“She was right there behind the blocks,” I told her. The coach bustled over to the meet referee to see if they could get her in another heat, but no dice.

The ruling was that it was the swimmer’s responsibility to get in the water. The timers didn’t prevent that. The swimmer didn’t try to get through.

She was clueless as to what was going on probably because other people are always looking out for her.

Which is part of why I love the sport of swimming.

From an early age, swimmers learn to take responsibility for themselves. They have to pay attention.

It’s small stakes when they don’t. A missed race. A possible missed ribbon.

But the world keeps spinning and another race will come.

Or you can blame the timer and teach kids that they are never responsible for the things that happen.

It’s those blasted volunteers with wet feet who sacrificed something who are at fault.

 

The Bathroom

She was waiting for me when I came out of the bathroom this morning.

No, no — not one of my children, although, as you can imagine that has happened to me more times than I care to remember.

Every mother quickly learns that the bathroom is a refuge.

Every child learns just as quickly that if he (or she) waits long enough outside the door, Mom will eventually emerge.

And she can hear you if you talk to her through the door.

If a sibling is being mean and Mom is in the bathroom, a note under the door will sometimes expedite her emergence.

But she may not be terrible happy about it.

Bathroom = Sanctuary

I imagine, if Quasimodo hadn’t had Notre Dame to carry Esmeralda into as he rescued her from the gibbet, if he hadn’t had that great cathedral to escape to, he would have found a bathroom.

I no longer have to use the bathroom as a hideout from my children, though.

Yes, young moms, your children will one day learn to leave you alone in there.

Or they will be so busy with their lives that they won’t care one whit if you’re in the bathroom, the bedroom, or any other room in the house. As long as they are fed and the wi-fi is working, the natives will not be restless.

img_1256Now I have a cat that waits outside the bathroom for me.

Yes, a cat.

She follows me around the house. Down the hall. Into the kitchen. Into the living room. Up and down the stairs — not on quiet little cat feet, like the fog, but thumpity-thumpity, like an angry rabbit.

She loves the bedroom where she can hide under the bed and pounce on my feet as I walk around it, straightening the sheets and blankets. I think she especially loves that she can still surprise me

I draw the line at the bathroom.

Her litter box is just around the corner. She likes to supervise my cleaning of it, patting her paws on the scooper as I sift the litter and, um, the other stuff.

But, no, I don’t want her in my bathroom.

It’s that sanctuary thing.

So she sticks her paws under the door a few times to let me know she’s out there and then she waits.

Do cats outgrow this sort of behavior?

Taking Care of Me

In the selfishness of my heart, I could picture it — somebody taking care of me.

Fixing all my meals.

Bringing me the foods I like.

Tending to my needs.

Like a cruise ship — without the cruise or all the people.

Being a mom and a caregiver is exhausting at times.

I suppose it doesn’t seem like anything too difficult. How hard is it to fix tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich every day?

Or to do laundry.

Or take out the garbage.

The monotony of it could tend towards boredom. Kathleen Norris, in her must-read book Acedia & Me, said,

Might we consider boredom as not only necessary for our life but also as one of its greatest blessings? A gift, pure and simple, a precious chance to be alone with our thoughts and alone with God?

She reminded me of why I am so suited for this job.

While washing the dishes, most of the time I am quite alone with my thoughts and with God. I am running through the scripture I’m memorizing or praying for family and friends. When a family member joins me to dry the dishes, it is a special delight.

The truth is — a cruise has never appealed to me. All that basking in the sun and eating rich foods and drinking fancy drinks.

Okay, the sun part sounds good.

But the lush extravagance doesn’t.

I’d rather be repotting plants.

Or weeding the myrtle.

Or taking out the garbage.

img_1154Yes, I find satisfaction in dragging the big garbage can to the end of the driveway for the garbage man to pick up. Today, I’ll clear a swathe of snow as I do it and walk back to the house in the path cleared by the can. Later, I’ll carry the much lighter can back to the house and put a fresh clean bag in it for the new week.

The other day though, in the grumblings of my heart, I wished someone would take care of me. In a flash I saw it — lying in a bed in a nursing home, having to be turned to prevent bed-sores, having someone spoon the food into my mouth all the while talking with a co-worker about the weekend past or the weekend ahead, having someone choose what I was to wear and dressing me in it.

I shuddered.

Nope.

I take it all back. I don’t want someone to take care of me.

I’m fine, thank you.

And so very thankful to be able-bodied and independent.

Pursuing Dreams

I remember when Sam learned that he had arthritis.

He had been struggling with shoulder pain and gone for treatment for tendonitis, a common problem for swimmers. He couldn’t lift his arms over his head and the physical therapist commented that he was like an old man.

Fortunately, someone recognized that Sam had a bigger issue than tendonitis — a “more global problem” is how they put it.

After running a bunch of tests, they gave him the life sentence — psoriatic arthritis.

“What am I going to do?” he asked. “I won’t be able to do the things I love.”

By that he meant climbing, paddling, skiing and all sorts of other outdoor activities. Sam was tempted to throw in the towel.

His rheumatologist looked him in the eye and said, “It doesn’t mean that at all.” He encouraged Sam to pursue his dreams.

And Sam did.

That was ten years ago.

The first time we went to British Columbia, I knew Sam would thrive there.self-in-bc

img_0553Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when he wanted to make it his home.

And found a lovely Canadian woman to marry.

When Sam was home at Christmas, he mentioned going to “physio” — that’s Canadian for physical therapy. He works at a canoe and kayak store, and has recently been having trouble lifting boats over his head.

Instead of giving up, he’s working (again) at strengthening those shoulders.

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson is the poster boy for psoriatic arthritis.

I think Sam should be — his story is more inspiring.

To me, anyway.

But I may be biased.