On the nights I decide we have not been sufficiently active I demand the boys (yes Dave too) walk the 1.2 mile, giant, steep, and heart-thumping hill close by. The hike is fast. The climb is hard and in a very short amount of time you can get in a good workout. The boys go to bed at 9:00 PM on school nights and wanting to make their bedtime, at 8:25PM I declared, “We must walk and we must walk now!” Moments earlier Dave asked if we were going on a walk. I was trying to finish up some research so I put him off. I feel badly because he and Eli were ready to go.
Yet with the clock ticking I insisted we were still going. As this pronouncement left my lips, Eli completely blew a gasket. Tears streamed down his face as he urged, “Mom, I worked very hard to get all my homework done so I would have enough time to watch t.v. and I WAS READY! If we go on a walk now then I won’t be able to! Mom, I never have time to watch [insert loud scream here]!”
Believe me I wanted to give in. Eli did work hard and he had a lot of homework. He was ready minutes before and I was not. I did not even know if we could be back by 9:00PM. I took a deep, am-I-doing-the-right-thing-by-forcing-my-boys-to-go-on-a-walk breath and said, “Eli, get your jammies on. Let’s get out the door and if we walk really fast I think you will be able to watch television for ten minutes.”
“No! Mom! No! It will take too long!” Eli insisted as I placed his pajamas (track shorts and an old t-shirt) in his hands. And of course as I readied Eli I thought of my own childhood and the time my own parents had the wacky idea of waking us up at 6:00AM everyday to “jog” (walk) the local high school track. Many-a-day did I shake my fists at Jim Fixx and his damn running book. And now Eli was shaking his fists at me and I really could not blame him. Not a Tiger Mom am I, but I sure want my boys to learn the joy of an active lifestyle. I am grateful my mom always urged us to walk around Lake Harriet every Sunday. I am glad she, and for that matter, my grandma (her mother), taught me to move.
“Guys! Guys! Kyle! Dave! Let’s go! We need to be back before 9:00PM!” I yelled.
Dave and Kyle met us at the front. It was a dark, moonless night, so dark that stars had no problem shining through. “Mom, look. It’s the Big Dipper!” Eli exclaimed. His tears were gone and we raced ahead of Dave and Kyle.
“Mom, my leg hurts. Slow down. I can’t walk fast.” Kyle pleaded. “Dave, Kyle, will you walk together? I made Eli a promise and I want to keep it.” Dave graciously turned back and I heard them talking about stars, literature, science and all the things they love to talk about. Their voices faded as Eli and I hustled up the hill. Not another sad word was uttered. I do not even think Eli cared if we made it home by 9:00PM.
We heard crazy dark-night-noises and laughed about my very sensitive startle response. As Eli grabbed my hand he giggled and said, “Mom, remember the other night when we were walking up the hill? You screamed when you thought the man wearing a backpack was a moose?”
“Eli. I startle. I startle easily and I am glad you have better eyes than I do. You can see all the scary things coming for us.” We both laughed and Eli piped in, “Like that garbage can right there. You night think it is a bobcat.”
“I couldn’t do it without you, Eli.”
We reached the top and Eli noticed a man in the darkness standing behind his car smoking. It was weird for us to see him there, especially after talking about all the nighttime surprises. Eli grabbed my hand again, we turned and headed down, passing Dave and Kyle. Dave tried to walk with us and Eli and I both insisted he walk to the top too.
And somewhere between the huffs and puffs and creepy-night-noises, I asked Eli, “how does travel make you a better world citizen?” (thank you Wendy Smith). My friend had asked me the same question earlier, her question and travel were on my mind.
“Mom, travel makes me less afraid. It makes me feel like I can go anywhere and do anything. I like to see how the rest of the world gets along.” Great answer! Travel does make us brave. Eli and I agreed it also makes us open. What I didn’t realize in that moment is that you do not have to travel far. Just moving and pushing yourself does just that; you are pushed and pushed out of your comfort zone. Eli began our walk completely irritated and he had every right to be completely irritated. We persisted. No was not an option and we both rose above. Because we opened the door, left our house and moved we had one of my favorite mom/som experiences ever. I am proud of Eli for pulling through. And yes, we walked fast enough! We came home, he had his ten minutes and then he happily went to bed.