Last Friday was the big annual fundraiser at my oldest daughter’s school: the Fun Run. We collected pledges for the week leading up to the run and my daughter’s goal was to run 15 laps. I’m not sure where this number came from, but I assume it was a result of discussions in her class. My daughter became completely emotionally invested in the Fun Run, even donating one dollar of her own hard-earned tooth fairy money to help her classroom reach its collective fundraising goal.
As the day approached, I realized that the time of the actual Fun Run conflicted with my yoga class, which I really didn’t want to miss (my schedule has recently changed so that I can only make 2 classes a week now, so I am fiercely protective of my remaining yoga time). I tried to gently inform my daughter that I would not be coming to the school to cheer her on (heck, I’m already at the school once a week to eat lunch with her and almost every week to volunteer). To put it mildly, she was devastated. She begged and pleaded for me to come. She attempted to bribe me with promises of perfect behavior. It got to me and the parental guilt kicked in.
A year ago, when I started the paleo adventure, my daughter was a super low energy kid. Even when playing outside, the type of play she preferred was quiet, sitting somewhere, digging in the dirt, drawing with chalk, or “telling herself a story” (what she calls imaginative play). She didn’t enjoy running around or chasing other kids. And if she did get lured into this kind of play, she tired quickly (and then melted down). Her lack of energy was one of my biggest concerns leading up to the transition to kindergarten. So, how could I not support her endeavour to run fifteen whole laps to support her school? How could I not encourage her enthusiasm for an actual activity?
I conceded to come to the Fun Run on one condition: that my daughter let me run with her. When I made this offer, my daughter’s entire face lit up! She was so excited to have me come and run with her. This would be even better than me coming to cheer her on! I think that moment almost trumped Christmas (almost).
I decided to walk the mile to her school. It would be difficult to find parking anyway, with nearly 300 kindergarten and first graders running at the same time and all of their families coming to support them. The weather was perfect and the walk was beautiful.
When my daughter’s class arrived on the field, I lined up with them behind her teacher, who also seemed to think it was pretty cool that a mom was running with the class. I wore my only purple shirt to match the purple spiritwear that the entire kindergarten cohort was wearing. The teachers and paraprofessionals all ran with their classes, also wearing their purple shirts. I was the only parent runner at first (parents were allowed to run, I wasn’t being rebellious or anything). It was so much fun! And, I made running the Fun Run with my daughter look cool, so that before long, plenty of parents, little siblings and even grandparents were joining their child for a lap.
I couldn’t believe how fast my daughter was! And how many laps she ran before needing a water break! After each water break, she would sprint ahead of me so that I had to work hard to catch up. We ran laps; we walked laps; we had water breaks; we did dance laps, swimming laps, jump laps, cheerleading laps, robot laps, and chase the coach laps. We did laps with other kids; we did laps with my daughter’s teacher; my daughter and I held hands for most of it (because she wanted to!). We chatted and we laughed. Actually, we laughed a whole lot. It was a very special bonding time and I knew pretty quickly that this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. We did 22 laps before we ran out of time (about 45 minutes). And combined with my brisk walk to and from the school, I got a pretty good work out too!
This may seem like a fairly simple, and even natural thing to many people. But this level of active play with my kids is not something I could have done a few years ago. And maybe more than that, it’s not something my daughter would have willingly done a year ago. She made it through the rest of her school day, and while the afternoon at home was quieter than usual (special treat movie afternoon since her little sister was also exhausted from being at her Mommy’s Morning Out program all day), we made it to bedtime without a major meltdown. It felt so amazing to do something like this with my daughter, to support her goals, to support her participating in such an active activity, to be healthy enough that doing this was just plain fun.
But, appreciating this moment isn’t just about appreciating being physically healthy and improving my daughter’s health through better nutrition. It’s about appreciating all the other related choices I’ve made–not just putting my high-powered medical research career on hold to be a stay-at-home mom, but the smaller things. I made a promise to myself when my daughter started school that I would be involved (even if I didn’t have time to be room mom or be president of the PTA), that I would be a presence in the school and in my daughter’s education. I also made a promise to myself to have fun with my kids, to play with them, to sometimes drop whatever I was doing to laugh with them. This day was about putting my child first and about appreciating how awesome that decision turned out to be for me. Finding balance can be hard for me, so this is kinda a big deal. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well. I’m trying to say that I appreciate both being physically healthy, but also having a healthy attitude and approach to life.
My daughter’s teacher told me that my daughter has a joie de vivre that is contagious in her class. I like to think she gets that from me. I sometime have a hard time relating to my oldest daughter, but days like this help me see that there are far more similarities between us than differences. And, in the words of my daughter, that totally rocks!