This summer, I suffered an injury to my thigh muscle. I can still walk and jog slowly, but climbing is hard! It was silly, really – I’d missed a lot of my regular activity in July and in mid August went on a cycling trip I wasn’t ready for. As summer has turned to fall I’ve been trying to be careful with it… but truthfully I’m no good at resting. It’s my stair climbing muscle! My lifting things muscle! It’s useful and I want it to work.
Although “useful and working” is probably a bigger drive in my life than just this one muscle. There’s always more to do in the world, and having a family accelerated that – occupation, preoccupation, volunteer work, family, housework, social life: I don’t feel like I have the time to suffer a blow-out.
My eldest son, eleven years old, is now my height. His life ’til now has been growth spurts that challenge his sleep and leave him on edge, and he’s of a stocky build: the combination has left him feeling uncoordinated and physically unable compared to his peers. Perhaps worse, his little brother swings hand over hand on the monkey bars as easily as running. The close comparison aches.
This summer, my eldest decided to do something to feel stronger and more coordinated. Asking only a little help, he put together a sensible program to build his skills, and he’s been working a little bit every day doing strength and flexibility exercises. He’s moving very gently into his abilities, adding a few more push ups or crunches every week or so, moving very carefully through stretches. Every day, we’re seeing changes. Push ups a little lower. Stretches a little longer.
Two days ago, we went on a jog together, and for awhile I trailed behind him to help him tweak his form. He was surprised and happy to realize that he wasn’t as bad as his worst fears, (and a faster sprinter than his mother) – and a few small changes helped him feel substantially more comfortable.
He came home feeling like a superhero, grinning and glad and alive.
Now, I’ve never aspired to Supermom. The cape just doesn’t fit. Yet I find it really troubling when I feel like I can’t keep up. (Wait, when was the car due for a tune up?) When life piles up, I tend to push myself just a little harder, just a little farther – not to be a Supermom, surely, but just because that’s what parents do, right? That’s what we’re all doing?
Seeing my boy-becoming-a-man take these little steps and then revel in the joy of making them has made me rethink slow and steady. It’s clear that over this summer he’s taken the path of the tortoise, and I the path of the hare. But what that story doesn’t tell is how extraordinary each small step can feel when it is your journey, when it’s worth doing. When the tortoise doesn’t sneak a look over his shoulder at the sleeping hare, but just notices the strength in his arms, the sun in the sky, the deep cool breath of air. Every step feels important – not just the final step that others can see.
So this week’s challenge to myself – small steps only. Go gently, and enjoy the journey.