Last year, the Oklahoma City marathon ran past our house, and my boy was enthralled. He wanted to train to run, and he asked me if I would train with him. So, I did what any reasonable mother would and told him summer in Oklahoma was a terrible time to train to run and that we might die of heatstroke if we tried.
I hoped he would forget about the whole thing. But Fall came, the weather cooled, and he asked again. Now, we have done a 5K together. We’re working towards a half marathon.
In this process, I have discovered a deep and abiding love for running, and my son and I have had profound conversations about faith, hopes, dreams, and our relationship. Just kidding.
Mostly I spend my time wishing I had taken better care of my body during my 30s, when I was endlessly pregnant and nursing and not running anywhere except after toddlers. Things ache in places I don’t even understand. The boy talks to me about the evils of deodorant, science fiction ideas, and funny stories of things that have happened with his friends.
When we go up hills he yells out “epidural.” If you do not understand why this is hilarious, I cannot explain it to you (seriously, I can’t explain it). I understand what he is explaining to me a smaller percentage of the time than I should probably admit to. Our training has struggled through weather, viruses, and a hurt knee.
Have I mentioned that training to run also involves running?
In my work as a psychologist, I see a lot of teenagers. The thing I am most struck by time and time again is how much they want to connect with their parents. I have never worked with an adolescent who did not want this, even when every part of their behavior might suggest otherwise.
And to be clear, the teens I work with tend to have loving, invested parents who would do just about anything to be more connected with their kids. I don’t know the secret sauce for staying connected through the teen years, but I do know I want my boy to know that I am here for him. I want him to know he can say anything to me and I will do my best to listen.
I want him to know that I am thrilled that he is my kid and that he extended the invitation to run alongside him. I pray he remembers I love him enough to yell “epidural” at the top of my lungs as we crest the hill.