I am a member of the Runners’ Club. You won’t find me out on a trail or treadmill. There are no exhausted but triumphant pictures of me at the finish line. This is a different club.
Look around at the children’s museum or playgrounds. There are fellow members of my club with eagle-eyes, a firm grip, and perhaps a thin line of sweat on our upper lip. On the surface we look similar to other parents, but our conversations and latte drinking are just a little less casual. A little…distracted. Then, a flash, and we are in position–leaping forward, crouched over, arms grasping at a toddler-shaped blur.
You see, our children are runners.
When my son John was three, we were finishing up a play date at the mall when he and his BFF ran off. I walked at a brisk pace tracking them to the double doors that blocked further escape. The kids were so little that it was shocking when one of them pushed the bar…and they left the mall.
BFF’s mom bolted and quickly apprehended the outlaws. The damage, though, was done. There were consequences and scolding, but the gig was up. John’s eyes flashed with the thrill of adventure and adrenaline. It was his first taste of true freedom, and I knew there would be no going back. With that, I was a card carrying member of the Runners’ Club.
Perhaps you, too, are a member of the Runners’ Club. You may be if you:
- Are thrilled to find a gated play area
- Shop where you can secure your child in a shopping cart
- Prefer restaurant booths over tables to minimize escape routes
- Have a (rarely successful) strategy to avoid your child flinging the stall door wide open in public bathrooms
- Own a leash and aren’t afraid to use it
Before one judges, be aware. Parents in the Runners’ Club are heavily caffeinated, have lightning-quick reflexes, and are willing to tackle when necessary.
In his defense, John is the kid who stands in the middle of a soccer field and yells “I love you mommy!” Even after pulling out all the stops whining for a treat, his first thought is to share it. He’s silly, affectionate, and loving. However, he has a runner’s instinct and irresistible call to mischief. He once grabbed a deodorant and painted it across the windows like a winter wonderland. He’s performed surgery on the upholstered lid of my sewing box. He once poured out a fruit fly trap on the floor and hid the evidence in my dryer. He’s not angry or acting out, just impulsive, curious, and delighted by shenanigans. Meanwhile, I am wary of silence, keep Magic Erasers on hand, and sympathize with the mother of Dennis the Menace.
Perhaps walking at nine months was a sign that he was anxious to take flight. There is a picture from a family wedding around that time, our posed smiles standing in contrast to the blur of John’s legs ready to dash as soon as I put him down.
It goes without being said that running away and destroying my house = not good. Naturally, there are consequences and measures to promote good choices.
But in addition to correcting and refocusing, there’s another thought that helps me to keep my cool.
The world is huge and full of amazing possibilities. In a safe and loving environment, it can be exhilarating to leap without looking, to put aside rules and fear of consequences, and just give in to pure joy. Granted, that mindset is offset by the reality of safety concerns and a touch of public embarrassment. After I catch my breath, though, I’ll reflect on our adventure with a little humor and appreciate his zeal for not just the destination, but the run along the way.