Heather and Marianne, two long-distance BRFs, are going to document their #FindYourStrong Marathon training weekly on Tuesdays. Although training has started, it's only started for the first three waves (marathons on October 3-4, 10-11, & 17-18). Registration is still open for all waves, and will be open through June 19. Heather has a solo performance today; she and Marianne will be back to writing together next week.
Training this week has been slightly tougher than usual, mostly because we’re undergoing training of a different sort: sleep training. The last time we went through this, we had to fasten a bike lock around a baby gate at the entrance to our son's room. Even with the lock, we had to deliver him back to his room five times the first night after he used two different chairs, a storage box, the trash can, and the mountain to his train table to climb over the gate. (In case you were wondering, that determination better come from me and it better translate to marathons in the future.)
Let me tell you, when before I became a real parent—and not just one in my mind—I never would have been going through this. My children would pick up all their toys before bedtime. They’d shower the room with goodnight kisses before cheerfully skipping upstairs while singing a song, VonTrapp style. They would carefully brush their teeth, change into jammies, no pull-ups needed because obviously they stayed dry through the night. We’d cuddle up for storytime and then I’d tuck them gently into bed. Those imaginary children were asleep before I left the room.
They would do those things because I had parented so well. Whenever I witnessed other people’s children resisting bedtime or waking multiple times during the night, I would make sympathetic murmurings, but really I was thinking “They’re obviously not doing something right. I would never put up with that behavior.”
I like equations. It’s not so much that I’m enamored with math, but more that I love a right answer. I like knowing that I’m on the right path, making the correct choice. Unsurprisingly, parenting has not been smooth sailing for me. As it turns out, there are no right answers in parenting. Or, perhaps more accurately, there are 17,000 right answers to every question, because everyone insists that their answer is the correct one.
Oh—and as a bonus —everyone wants to give you their answer.
As a result, I have spent much of my time as a parent grappling with indecision, self-doubt, and guilt. People will say, “Trust your motherly instinct! Mama always knows best!” But what if I can’t feel an instinct? What if I don’t have one? Should I feed him peanut butter before 2 years of age? Should she be picked up and comforted, or am I spoiling her? When exactly does that pacifier need to disappear? Did we already ruin her life by introducing a pacifier in the first place? How the hell am I supposed to know any of this? And where on earth are the manuals for these kids?
A while ago, I made an offhand comment to my parents that running is the easiest part of my life. Concerned and possibly alarmed, my mom asked, “What’s so hard?” After all, by most standards I do not have a hard life. I lead an upper-middle-class existence in a delightful suburb with a fantastic family, a job I care about, and full health benefits. The streets of Hudson are not tough. Life isn't that hard. It’s that running is.so.easy. There are zero decisions to make.
Someone (in the case of the #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge, Coach Christine) gives me a prescribed plan to follow, and I know that if I follow that plan, it will yield good results. Want to run faster? Do speed work. Want to run farther? Gradually increase your distance. 1+1=2. Equations. Right answers.
Even when sleep was interrupted and sacrificed this week, my marching orders were clear: 3 miles; 4 miles; 6 miles... On Monday, after a night of who-knows-how-few hours when even the devoted morning runner in me couldn't bear the thought of a 5:45 a.m. alarm, I stuffed my running gear into a workout bag and got in those three miles before leaving the office for the day. On Tuesday when I fell asleep before the screaming kid did, when he woke early the next morning as I was leaving for my run and my husband asked me to stay, I did it again despite the obnoxious heat and humidity. Why? Because that's what the plan said to do. I didn't have to think. I just had to go.
Back in the murky world of parenting, my 3.5-year-old son does not want to go to bed. He doesn’t want that bedtime story. He wants to be tucked in approximately 874 times. We didn’t snug up his feet and toes properly. He will wake multiple times during the night and repeat the painful process. At bedtime—or worse, at 3 am—he will ask questions about my father-in-law, who died so very suddenly a month ago, leaving us all breathless. I will waver between wanting to provide comfort and reassurance, and feeling the need to lay boundaries. Am I making it worse by giving in and going in? If I stay firm am I making it worse because he feels abandoned? Indecision. Doubt.
I'm taking comfort in the thought that a month from now, a year from now, five years from now, things will be different. We'll be wrestling with something else. And in the meantime, I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking solace in the results that follow. At least I always snug those laces just right.
We gotta know: Is running the easiest part—or at least one of the easier parts—of your life?