The Toddler Run

RobinSwansonBy Robin Swanson

I used to be an avid runner.  By “used to,” I mean before I was pregnant, before I had a baby, before I was sleep deprived and prior to acquiring an insufferable eye-twitch – one that the doctor has informed me is not, in fact, the result of a tumor, but is caused by lack of sleep, too much caffeine, or stress.  (Or  perhaps an unstoppable trifecta of all three?)  And by “avid” I mean consistent, never fast, but I enjoyed the distance runs enough to complete four marathons and a whole bunch of other races – just for the endorphin rush and some quality time with Lady Gaga in my earbuds…

And then there’s now.

I’m trying to get back on something resembling a running schedule, inspired by other new mommies who didn’t seem to fall off the exercise bandwagon quite so hard.  So over the past few months, I’ve taken my state-of-the-art jog stroller, baby in tow, for some test drives out on the local trails.

Here’s a recent attempt:

PREP: 

Fancy jog-stroller? (Lovely shower gift, thank you very much…) Check. Back in the delirious baby-shower days when I envisioned all those post-baby early morning jogs,  I specifically picked the bright orange stroller so that passing cars would be sure to see mom and baby jogging safely through the neighborhood.  Yep, I was going to take the world by storm at the crack of dawn with that stroller…

Water, sunglasses, visor, baby sunscreen, diapers, baby wipes, organic-gluten-free-sweet-potato O’s, sippy cup with apple juice, mommy’s cell phone, toy Elmo cell phone, Go Dog Go book?  Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.

Baby? Check.  He’s even appropriately bundled, if not entirely matching, for the new cooler, crisper, almost-Fall mornings.

I have a nano-second of pride in my preparation skills.

I’m a good mommy, after all…

OFF TO THE RACES:

We’re off and running, so to speak, approximately 4 paces, before I notice that my baby is playing with the Velcro on his shoes and cheerfully shouting  the dreaded words “uh-oh.”  These words always precede a detestable game where said adorable baby begins throwing whatever is in range onto the ground, saying ever-so innocently: “uh-oh…”  as if it is purely accidental that these things somehow are projected into the air.

And so it begins.  6 paces in, and I swoop in effortlessly to pick up the first casualty of the day – one baby shoe.   Luckily my well-equipped jog stroller has plenty of room in the undercarriage for an errant shoe…

Before I know it, the other shoe hits the ground too – but I will not be deterred.   Swoop in – shoe #2 in basket.  I got this.

We make it down to the neighborhood trail, but I clearly need to “redirect” my baby from the unproductive “uh-oh” game.  Under cover of woodsy trees and out of earshot of neighbors, we begin singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” a surefire crowd-pleaser every time.   He joins in for the E-I-E-I-O chorus.

I’m a great mommy, after all…

But just as we begin to enthusiastically “moo moo here and moo moo there,” a high-school cross country team on a training run passes by us, throwing  a few curious glances our direction.

I give them a cautious look back and a knowing smile: that’s right, girls – you too could be “mooing” on your morning runs!  Glamorous!  No shame in my game, I feel like we’ve done a public service to help prevent teenage pregnancy this morning…

And down goes a baby sock.  My iPhone says its 58 degrees, so I pause for a moment to replace the sock, at which point the other sock flies through the air and lands in the bushes to the side of the trail.  I fetch the sock, but unfortunately the sock-removal-and-projection cycle repeats itself.  Many times.

Alright kiddo – welcome to the school of hard knocks.  No socks for you!  Problem solved. Baby is grabbing his toes, giggling, and even gnawing on one of his socks for good measure.  We’re a good 20 paces down the trail and my heart-rate is commencing exercise mode.

At which point some well-meaning strolling mommies stop me in my tracks to alert me to the fact that my baby has removed his socks and is eating them.   Thanks, I say, cheerily blowing off the comment and recommencing the running.

No need to call Child Protective Services, ladies, he LIKES having his socks off – really, he does!

I’m still a decent mommy…right?

Guilt-inducing encounter brushed aside, we’re cruising now.  The trail is gorgeous, the leaves are turning, and I’m quite sure that the steady stream of organic-gluten-free-sweet-potato O’s that are continuously being projected onto the trail are either bio-degradable, or will be consumed by the wild turkeys that roam around here.  Bon appetit, feathered friends!

Then I see the hill ahead.  I used to love running hills – I would charge at them like a soldier running up Bunker Hill, like Rocky Balboa running up the steps to reach the Liberty Bell only to throw a few victory punches in the air.  With renewed determination, I charged ahead!

Very.  Slowly.  Despite the spectacular stroller’s aerodynamic features and cornering like it was on rails, pushing an extra 30 pounds up the hill was no small feat.

That’s when I heard a little voice say with vigor: “Go Dog Go,” yelling the title of his new favorite book. But my baby wasn’t reading me the book.  He was coaching me up the hill, like we were nearing the finish line of the Iditarod.  “Go Dog Go!”  I ran a little faster.  “Go Dog Go!”  I’m going, kiddo, I’m going!!!   And yes, I AM the dog in this scenario…

We reach the top of the hill and I’m wheezing.   So is my baby.  He’s imitating me.

My little Darth Vader and I settle in at a nice slow pace to recover from our strong efforts at Go Dog Hill. That’s when he shouts:  “Ju – Ju – Ju,”  “Ju Mama!”  I translate loudly for those who overhear – “Here’s your JUICE, baby,” quickly producing the apple juice I had at the ready.

I’m at least a thoughtful mommy… aren’t I?

(Note to self: work on “s” sounds with baby.)

Restart slow jog.  Baby is happily noticing each “birdy” and “doggie” we see, and aggressively says “hi” to anyone who passes by us on the trail.  For those who have the audacity to ignore my baby’s greetings, (or who are more likely wearing earphones), he will , in fact, turn around and repeatedly say “hi” to you until you are a mere spec of a being in the distance.

“Poopoo,” squeals the little voice from the luxury stroller that now stinks like the back of a New York City cab at 3 a.m.  Luckily for all of us (future diners excepted), I spot picnic tables up ahead.  We take our little detour for the diaper change, at which point I have a new appreciation for the sanitary value-added of tablecloths.

Back on the trail, I take the turn for the short-cut back to my house.  42 minutes and 2.5 miles in, I may not have run a marathon, but I definitely got a work-out.

I’m a tired mommy…

THE FINISH LINE:

When we pull into the driveway I notice that my chatty little bundle of joy is fast asleep.

There is no medal waiting for me as I cross the threshold into my open garage, but the chubby little arms wrapped around my neck fill me with more satisfaction than any race medallion ever could.

I put socks back on his dangling little feet, and realize that my eye hasn’t twitched this entire time.

Guest blogger Robin Swanson is a “Girl on the Grid” by day and a “Mom in the ‘Burbs,” by night.  She runs her own political PR firm downtown and prides herself on hosting spectacularly fun “Wine Wednesdays” with political insiders and reporter-types at her office.  She is also a proud mama in Folsom to her 16-month-old and two step-kids, ages 9 & 10.

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