When I was a kid my parents worked opposite shifts so either my dad or my mom was always home. During my formative years, (I guess.. when are your formative years, anyway?), my mom worked primarily night shift and dad worked second shift. This left a bit of the taking care of my brother and I to my dad during the day. Enter my dad’s group of friends that play tennis together. They play almost every day, weather permitting, either singles or doubles, depending upon who is available to play. As an aside, we used to (respectfully, of course) refer to this group as our own town’s little United Nations. I think only a couple of the guys Dad hung out with were actually natural-born US citizens. As a kid watching them play tennis I probably heard swear words in at least five different languages. Too bad I was not paying closer attention.
Anyway, in the summer my brother and I would hang out with friends, go to the neighborhood pool, keeping close to home. When it came time for Dad to meet up with his buddies for some tennis, he had a few choices. He could not play, (unthinkable), find a sitter (also unthinkable, he’s too cheap), or take my brother and I along. So, you guessed it. We spent many a summer afternoon tagging along with Dad while he played tennis. They usually played on courts that were built into a hill, with a huge, tall cement wall on one side. Dad would instruct us to take our own racquets and ball, hit the ball against the wall and stay out-of-the-way of the grown-ups.
Why am I writing about this?
As noted in many of my posts and a category on this very blog, I am a runner. I am also a mother of three school age kids that are on summer break. Temporarily gone are the days when I could do my midday run alone while they attend school. What’s a running momma to do? I need to run for reasons such as stress relief, stay healthy, eat ice cream, you know the rest. I also want to run a fall race, so to stop training after a successful spring marathon was unthinkable. This is when I recalled those summers of my childhood and hitting a tennis ball against a cement wall.
I told the kids to get on their bikes. I explained that since they are not quite old enough to be left home alone, even if it’s for a half hour so I can get in a quick run, they are going to have to come with me. Knowing that I get rather crabby when not able to exercise regularly, they agreed. Also, I was pretty clear in that they had no choice in the matter. If my father is reading this post, this is time when he throws up his hands and says two things to my mom. First, “It really was not a big deal to take them to the tennis courts.” And, “Why am I always right?”
Our first ride/run was a little bumpy. They were nervous about the trail onto which I was leading them, the hills we were encountering and how far we were going to stray from home. It seemed that I was constantly reassuring them throughout the first part of the ride/run that I knew exactly where we were and would not take them farther than they could handle. The first was absolutely true but the latter entered gray area, seeing this was our first try at this. About half way into the ride/run, they pointed like a pack of hounds seeking a fox. “PARK!” They asked if they could stop and play for a bit at this new, glorious neighborhood playground we encountered. I agreed, but only for a few minutes.
Turning up the trail and heading for home, we came upon a couple of cyclists. “Start them young!” one shouted. I nodded. When we got home there were icey-pops and watermelon for everyone. It was a nice little run for me, they got to be outside and the kids have a new appreciation for the freedom their bikes provide. All asked if we could do it again tomorrow. Win!
So, what have we learned? Yes, my dad is right sometimes and did my brother and I a favor by taking us to the tennis courts each and every day during the summers of our youth. Yes, you can be a mom with three kids home for the summer and still keep some resemblance to your fitness routine. Finally, children like to be outside and enjoy exercise, especially when you, their parent, do it with them. It also helps if there is a little bribery in the form of cool snacks upon the return home.