At some point on nearly every weekend morning, my husband and I discuss our plans for the day. Usually, we’re in our son’s room, one of us propped on the bed reading aloud from Harry Potter, the other sitting on the floor helping our son find Lego pieces.
The conversation goes like this:
“What do you want to do today?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the Met?”
“Sure, that sounds good. … What time do you want to run?”
“I thought I’d do six miles today. Maybe I’ll go at 10:00?”
“What about you? Do you want to go for a run now?”
You get the drift. Scheduling our runs is a small constant -- like going to the grocery store -- and negotiating them almost always happens in earshot of our son, who is six.
Last weekend, he announced that he would like to come running with us. My husband and I weren’t sure he meant it — he wants to do everything we do until he realizes it’s boring — but he persisted.
When I got back from my six miles, my husband and son were waiting, dressed in running clothes, doing toe touches. I reset my GPS watch and together, we headed down the block. Our goal was to jog in one direction for half a mile, then my son and I would turn back toward home while my husband would keep going.
My husband and son were running about ten steps in front of me, completely adorable with their twin baseball caps and big sneakers.
Then I overheard two women commenting on them: One said, “That is so cute!” to which the other replied: “But isn’t he a little young for that?”
It wasn’t the time or the place to get into it, but no. I don’t think you’re ever too young to get out and move around. And if you want to do it with your parents and your parents think it’s fun to run on city streets, well, joining in seems fine to me, as long as your parents are sensitive to your limits and needs.
But the issue of kids and exercise can be fraught. Maybe there are weight issues or body image issues in the mix. Maybe the kids feel competitive with their parents, or vice versa. Or maybe the skill sets are mismatched. A colleague told me that she never works out with her teenage daughter. She is athletic, her daughter is not, and she doesn’t want her daughter to feel bad about being outperformed by her mother.
When I was a teenager, I hated exercising with my parents. They were always out at 6 in the morning to swim laps in what I considered to be freezing cold pools. Ugh.
But now, I'm grateful for the example they set. Even when I didn't want to go out and sweat, I had proof that it could be done — with a kid and a job and everything else. My mother has swum laps three times a week for 30 years, in countries around the world, and has vibrant good health to show for it. Now my mother and I swim together about once a month, a comforting, lifelong ritual.
Last Sunday, when the watch announced we’d completed half a mile, my son and I kissed Daddy goodbye and turned back. Eventually, my son decided that he wanted to walk for a bit, and we did. The last block, we broke into a run again and finished with a triumphant high five at our door. He was super proud to have run a mile — and so was I.
Go team go!