I remember a few years ago I watched a family of four bike by my idling car beside our favourite park. I was sitting in the driver’s seat, sipping my latte and stealing a few extra minutes of calm before unloading the kids from their car seats for a quickie park visit. This fit family strolled by, smiling and peddling in total tandem. They looked like a happy, healthy bunch. Obviously, my first thought was: barf.
But not-so-deep down, I was envious. I had just delivered my third baby in less than five years and my body was a total wreckage. The thought of getting the kids (and myself) in gear for a bike ride, or any sort of coordinated family physical activity, seemed totally impossible. And by impossible, I mean totally not worth the energy.
Our kids love being outside: biking, walking, scooting, sledding. Our house is within throwing distance of a baseball diamond, soccer pitch, sledding hill, jogging path, playgrounds and an open, inviting green space. These ‘backyard’ amenities are the reason we built where we did in southeast Calgary. I love watching my kids soak in the sun (while amply protected from the rays) and inhale the fresh mountain air just beyond their back door. But that’s just it, most of the time I’m watching.
Many of our outdoor activities are left to my husband. He also loves being outside, and somehow musters the energy and patience to take the kids into the great outdoors almost every day. I’m not always an active participant. In fact, I see their excursions as opportunities for me to be left alone. I know this seems silly, and maybe even sad, but sometimes being left out is what I think I need. A break from the kids and a chance to be alone with my thoughts, books and mind-numbing TV shows.
So on Sunday, when my husband was switching our two-year-old’s sneakers to the correct feet and hunting through the mitten bin for a long-lost hat, I was already imagining myself standing in the pantry of our empty house eating handfuls of gummy bears and contemplating life. I was asked, as I always am, to join them. My husband could see that my eyes had already glazed over as I was entering my meditative state, but to his surprise (and mine) I said, “Yes.”
Before I could stop myself, I ran upstairs and changed into my running gear and was ready in time for the first of several attempts to leave (extra sweater, water bottle, bathroom break) and then we were off.
My husband ran and pushed our double stroller with the two littlest ones and our dog in tow, while I jogged behind. Our oldest daughter rode her bike in the increasing distance between my husband and I as we made our way around the neighbourhood. I noticed that as our little convoy passed people on the street, they all smiled and nodded approvingly. We weren’t as coordinated as the family of four who lapped me years before (in fact, we looked more like misfits chasing an ice cream truck than a cover photo of a MEC catalogue) but we were a happy, healthy bunch. I felt included, and it was exactly what I needed.
And maybe, just maybe, another family looked at us smiling and strolling by and thought to themselves: barf.