We signed up the whole family to run our school's annual 2K/5K Family run this past weekend. Last year was our first year running it together; despite my protests at the time (I might die, go into rhabdomyolysis, etc etc given my baseline inert state since having kids), I ended up having a really fun time. It even got me into running regularly for the past year. Granted, I've been running short distances, around 2-3 miles at a slow pace, but I'm doing it 2-3 times a week without fail and have come to enjoy it. (Added bonus is watching TV shows while on the gym treadmill which I would never otherwise be exposed to, including Long Island Medium and Hoarders: Buried Alive. Fascinating.)
Being in better shape and actually used to running made me much more excited to run the 2K this time around. Also running it would be Jolie (9), JL (6), our au pair M, and my mother-in-law. I convinced my husband, an Ironman-distance triathlete, to do the 5K instead of running with us since he'd lap us anyway by the end. Our 3-year old would wait on the sideline with my parents.
Now, last year, JL ran with me while holding my hand the whole time. Yes, this was sweet, but making it physically more difficult to run. Believe me, I did not need any added difficulty. He told others after the race that maybe he could have won if he didn't have to run with (running-challenged) Mommy. Gee, thanks, kid.
At the start, everyone took off way too fast. I tried to keep up with Jolie and JL and keep them in my sights. JL, in particular, zoomed off- could not believe how fast he was going. I had to go much faster than my usual pace to catch up and run with him. We were flying and passing people. Probably about 3/4 of the way done, JL started to feel it.
"I need to walk!" he said. "My legs hurt!" "I'm tired!"
I switched to rally mode. "C'mon, JL! We're almost there! You can do it!"
He really wanted to walk. I told him he could walk, but that I would keep going and he could catch up to me later. This got him to push it out more. He didn't want to walk alone.
We kept running. He grabbed my hand. We ran for awhile like that. I kept cheering him on - Let's go, JL! Let's finish it! I know he was struggling. But, I also knew we were almost there. Just a couple of more blocks and then we'd turn and see the finish line.
He was a trooper. He kept pushing it. We held hands. When we turned the corner and saw the end with the banners and the crowds, we dropped hands and he spurted ahead to finish.
We crossed the finish line within a couple of paces of each other - triumphant but totally spent.
We watched as others came through - a couple of his friends from Kindergarten and their parents. We saw Nana come in, we saw my husband come in for the 5K, then M and Jolie.
When the awards were announced, we heard JL's name announced for first place finisher of the 2K for his age group (6 and under)! He ran to the podium to receive his medal, and I could see his heart bursting with happiness. BURSTING.
This is a boy - the middle child- who is often in the shadow of his big sister and more-needy baby brother. He needed this moment.
As I watched him glow, showing his medal to everyone afterward, seeing that smile on his face, I was filled with a special kind of mothering joy. If I wasn't there alongside him, he would have likely given up, started walking, falling behind. And isn't this an amazing part of what we can do as parents? Being there, cheering them on, helping them do what they think they can not. Helping to make the moments that are filled with confidence-growing, heart-fluttering, self-celebrating pride.
For me, helping JL win that medal was the best Mother's Day present I could ask for. I am so glad I was there, helping him have a bursting moment.