A couple of months back, when the baby was just a few weeks old, my husband, the toddler and I took her for a stroll in the buggy to the local park. While we mooched along in the sunshine, only occasionally having to yell sentences like, ‘PULL YOUR JEANS BACK UP!’ and ‘DON’T TOUCH THAT DOG POO!’, a runner headed towards us. As she passed, I said proudly to my son, ‘Mummy does that.’
He looked at me with an expression that can be described as, at best, withering.
‘No,’ he replied simply. ‘Me run. Daddy runs. Mummy walks.’ And off he trotted.
Erm, excuse me? Was I just heckled by a two year old?
I tried to console myself. This must be part of his latest phase, where no one is allowed to do/like what he is doing/likes. It goes like this:
Him: ‘Me like grass and flowers Mummy.’
Me: ‘Aah, that’s lovely. I like grass and flowers too.’
Him: ‘NO! NOOOOO Mummy! [Cue fists and foot stamping] Me like grass and flowers. [PAUSE] Mummy likes sticks.’
Me: ‘Oh. OK.’
So, that had to be the case in this latest scenario, surely. He knew Mummy ran, didn’t he? He must remember those trail runs we did together through the woods, with him bouncing along happily in the running buggy, back when he was… how old was he? Oh. It was before he could walk.
Oh dear. Toddlers are harsh critics. They say what they see.
To my son, I am a walker. A plodder. A buggy-pusher. While Daddy does all the racing, chasing and throwing-up-in-the-air play at weekends, Mummy can usually be found sitting on her arse on a park bench (feeding the baby), swaying to and fro (rocking the baby) or standing next to the buggy (ensuring no one abducts the baby). A walker? If I’m honest, my son was being generous.
There was only one way to change his perception of me.
I waited until six weeks after the birth (that seemed the sensible option, because, frankly, no one wants to risk bursting a stitch “down there”). And then one morning, after making sure the baby was fed and cuddled up to Daddy, and the toddler was engrossed in Peppa Pig, I made my move.
‘Mummy’s going for a run!’ I announced.
No reaction. He hadn’t heard. But I wasn’t going to let this go unnoticed.
‘MUMMY’S GOING FOR A RUN!’ I yelled. Into his ear.
‘Bye bye’, he replied. He didn’t turn away from the telly. Bloody Peppa.
And so it was, I set off on my first ever-so-gentle run/walk. And it felt freeing, and exciting, and energising, and exhausting, and frustrating, and upsetting all at once. I rejoiced in the fact I was out in the fresh air doing what I loved. I mourned the fitness I had lost and the fact I felt like a complete beginner once more.
But I was running.
As I rounded the corner towards home, my husband was standing on the doorstep, toddler in his arms, waiting for me. The sheer look of excitement and astonishment on his little face (the toddler, not the husband) almost made me shed a tear of happiness.
‘Look, look!’ he screamed enthusiastically. ‘Mummy’s running! Keep running Mummy!’
I intend to.