Bethany Meyer, with just one last long run before the taper for Boston Marathon, added some zip lining to her training plan over spring break. Bethany is running as part of the team sponsored by Stonyfield Organic Yogurt: Click here to check out the other badass runners on the Stonyfield team and see what's going on with them.
Four kids is a lot of kids. I am reminded of this every time I run. Because my bladder leaks. It doesn’t matter that I empty it multiple times before lacing up my sneakers. Short run or long. On the track or the trail. Hydrated or not. My bladder leaks. Four kids will do that to a girl’s bladder.
Four kids is a lot of kids. I am reminded of this every spring break. I want desperately to take our boys to amazing places. I wish we could fly to Florida and swim with the dolphins. I wish we could jet to Arizona and touch a saguaro cactus alongside my niece and nephews. I wish we could go to California and dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean. I wish we could head to the Grand Canyon. To Yellowstone. To the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To Alaska. To Europe. To Mexico. To Grand Cayman. To build houses in South America. I know enough to understand the important parenting moments happen in the car, at the dinner table, in the backyard, any minute of the most mundane day. The desire to travel with them is less about the parenting piece and more about the opportunity to experience things with the people I love most. I don’t care what shoes we wear, what cars we drive, where we eat dinner, or how big our house is. I want to experience the world with my children. While they are still children. I want to make memories in places beyond our zip code. I want them to respect different cultures because they’ve been--albeit briefly-- immersed in them. These are my dreams for my family.
The reality is putting this show on the road costs many, many dollars. More than we can afford on our what-do-you-mean-your-shoes-are-too-small-we-just-bought-them-last-month middle-class budget. For this reason if you Google the word “stay-cation,” a picture of my family will pop up on the Wikipedia page.
My kids just finished spring break. While it’s not in our budget to do big trips, there is something about March that makes me want to shed the confines of our house after the long, cold winter. Which is why, last week, we schlepped our party of six to Williamsburg, Virginia, for two nights. Thanks to my favorite travel agent, Groupon.
Four kids is a lot of kids. I was reminded of this as soon as we got to Williamsburg and everyone looked at me and asked, “What now?” The boys are 13, 11, 9, and 6. And then there’s the biggest boy, who is 43. It’s difficult to find an activity that engages all of them. With all due respect to our forefathers, I suspected that Colonial Williamsburg was not a viable option.
“How about a treetop adventure that includes zip lining?” I asked.
They answered my question with an almost unanimous chorus of, “Oh, yeah!” David, at 43, is just as much the adrenaline junkie he was when we met 20 years ago. Trevor is 13 and a thrill seeker. Sammy is 11 and up for anything. Chase is 6. He’s small enough to fit on my hip. What he lacks in stature he more than makes up for in swagger and attitude.
Alex, 9, is the only one who remained quiet. He is all heart. When he looks into your eyes, he sees straight into your soul. He is a peacemaker. Kind and unsure of himself. The physical things have never come easily to him. That he has to work harder makes him that much more lovable. And he wears glasses. Which is, quite possibly, the cutest thing in the world.
“I don’t want to go, Mom. I’ll fall, and it won’t be fun,” Alex whispered as he pushed his glasses up his nose.
I bent down to meet his blue eyes. “When we get there, they will put each of us in a harness so we don’t fall. Let’s at least give it a try. If you don’t enjoy it, I will hang out with you.”
Because I am deathly afraid of heights. Minor detail.
Trevor and Sammy were quick studies and flew through the introductory course. Worried about Alex, I quickly offered to stay with him, leaving David with Chase.
Alex proceeded with care and caution through the first several obstacles. Clip-tweezle-clip, clip-tweezle-clip. Looking anywhere but down, I followed shakily behind him. “Alex, I love how brave you are for trying this!” I yelled.
“You know I get embarrassed when you give me compliments, Mom!” he called over his shoulder.
I smiled and turned around to share my excitement for him with David. Unfortunately, Chase was screaming in his face. Because attitude.
“And I am NOT having fun because I don’t LIKE to do it the way YOU tell me to do it, I just want MOM to help me because I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!”
David has an inordinate amount of patience for Chase. Except when zip lining. Trevor’s and Sammy’s laughter echoed throughout the treetops. They were overhead, midway through a much more challenging course. The kind of course that appeals to David. I knew he was dying to join in their fun.
But what about Alex?
I turned to see him nestling his clips into his cable and smiling as he sailed through his first zip line.
“Way to go, Alex!” his brothers yelled from their perches in the trees. My heart swelled as I watched him beam with pride while he gave them a quick thumb’s up.
“Alex!” I called, “Wait down there! Wait for me, I just have to get through this…”
“I’m fine, Mom! Don’t worry about me, I’m fine! Just stay with Chase!” Alex called as he headed for the next course alone.
David heard Alex release me of my duties and immediately clip-tweezle-clipped his way around Chase, who was still screaming. “He’s all yours,” he muttered, as he clip-tweezle-clipped ahead of me, sprinting across a tightrope in an effort to complete the intro course and catch up with Trevor and Sammy.
I balanced precariously on a bouncing metal circle 25 feet above the ground with three of my kids scattered among the treetops, my husband in hot pursuit of two of them, and the fourth one closing the gap between us with screams of, “I SAID stop right THERE, I need to be FIRST!”
Four kids is a lot of kids I thought.
Holy cannoli, I am afraid of heights I thought.
Chase and I fell into a rhythm as soon as I let him go first. Clip-tweezle-clip. “I couldn’t do this if I was only 5,” he boasted. Clip-tweezle-clip. “But since I’m 6, I’m big enough.”
“Mmm hmm,” I agreed.
Clip-tweezle-clip, “Hey, dude, up there over my head! I see your shoes! I can do this because I’m 6! I bet you couldn’t do it when you were 6! Ha ha!” Clip-tweezle-clip.
“Kindness, Chase,” I reminded.
“Aw, 6 is like the coolest age, Mom.” Clip-tweezle-clip. “Because I can go zip lining.” Clip-tweezle-clip.
“That’s right, buddy,” I murmured, half listening while I gripped the wires with white knuckles and scanned the trees to locate my family members.
Trevor and David were high overhead, whooping and hollering as they took turns shaking the thin rope beneath their feet. Sammy tossed his head back in laughter from a neighboring perch.
But what about Alex?
I scanned the trees to find him maneuvering capably through an advanced course. Working at his own pace. All by himself. His momentum and confidence growing with every step he took.
And the afternoon continued like that. The laughter of my older two sons and husband echoed through the forest. Chase heckled more advanced climbers from the safety of the beginner’s course. I struggled not to let my adrenaline and fear get the best of me. And Alex, sweet Alex, conquered one challenge after another. All by himself.
I had worried most about him.
I had worried only about him.
Unencumbered by the rest of us--much to my delight and surprise--Alex sprouted wings and was able to fly.
Four kids is a lot of kids. It’s too many kids to take to Boston to watch me run on April 20. I will carry each of them in my heart, in my smile, in my struggles, in my thoughts as I will my legs to carry me over the farthest distance I will have ever run.
I have one more long run on the calendar. This Sunday I have to run 2 ½ hours.
I have been so fortunate to have had the company of my marathon BRF for every long training run. We’ve filled the miles with laughter, with secrets, with hopes, with tears, with stories, with raw and almost startling honesty.
But it’s time for me to take a cue from my little boy with the big heart. It’s time I go out there and put one foot in front of the other, without the laughter, without the stories, without the safety net of a friend to pull me through. I have to be free of the noise.
I’m heading out Sunday all by myself.
Just like Alex, it’s time for me to sprout my wings.
Just like Alex, I hope to fly.