Before the rain settled in for a few days I knew I had to get out and run. After a day of.. well, you know, cancellations and missed calls, and coughing kids, I had to get out and run. So I invited my son Charlie to ride his bike alongside me. And he told me he would only go if we went to find "The Swing." I had no idea what he was talking about, but he had been there with my husband and kids and cousins not too long ago and he really wanted to go back. I imagined that the swing was pretty far away and I told him, "Look, Mommy can only run short places, not far away places." He answered me, "Mom it's really not far, I promise. You can do it." I felt like I was turning my training over to my 8 year old. I kept complaining, I really can't go that far, I really can't go that far... He kept reassuring me, It's not that far, It's not that far... but who can trust an 8 year old to understand distances, especially when one trip was in a car and now I'm going by foot? What seemed close to him could easily be miles and miles away. So I thought to myself, I can get him to go with me and tell him I'll go as far as I can and then, well, we'll see. He accepted my willingness.
Off we went, me in my headphones (I know that's really bad mothering...but I can't stand to listen to myself breathe when I run) and he in his little green bike helmet. I kept the volume low and he kept the conversation up, starting each sentence with, "Mom!" Now I'm standing right next to him and I've been listening to him and responding the whole time, but he feels the need as the youngest in the family to constantly refocus my attention on him. It's a really bad habit that we've gotten ourselves into, even when we're right next to each other. So he tells me the important things about his day: who lost a tooth in school, who is wearing a wolverine costume for the video they are making, what he is writing about, what he saw on Phineas and Ferb last summer, and each fact is preceded by "Mom." It's really pretty funny...
So we're going along no problem and I don't need to stop, which would have been really bad, and we get to a perfect spot to detour our way back home, when it starts drizzling. Now I'm a tough enough cookie, and I'm geared up for the weather, but I decide this might be my chance for a quick getaway. "Whaddya say, Charlie, should we head back?" Now he is still very focused on that swing. With a very dramatic roll of the eyes and an incredulous voice he says, "What, because of one drop of rain?" Well, I have a competitive seed somewhere in me and I can't bear to have my 8 year old looking down on my workout ethic, so I say, "Oh, no, I was just wondering if YOU were tired and afraid of the rain." Did I mention we'd only gone about a 1/2 mile?
So we ventured on in the slight drizzle, and we made it to the lake. This is where Charlie swears we'll find the swing. Now being the all-knowing mother, I realize that this park stretches for about two miles and that the only swings are another mile down the road. This is going to put us out for a bit. But he surprises me by saying, "No, mom, this way. They're not on that side." Now I'm the one trying not to roll my eyes, like you poor little child, someday you'll understand about geography and sometimes things look familiar when they are really not and it all kind of blends together and we think we're somewhere we're not. But again, I can't disappoint.
We get going at a good pace and I'm feeling really good and he's riding along and we're enjoying being near the river and I'm thinking well, soon enough we'll be at the point where we have to turn back and he'll listen because the rain is picking up. And then all of a sudden, he says, "Wait... wait...," and he's looking ...up. And I'm looking up too, and all I see is the enbankment and there are all these trees around and then I start to see some clearing in the brush. "There it is!" he shouts. The Swing. I don't know if I was more overcome that we made it there or that he was right all along. He had promised and I didn't believe him and here it was. We settled his bike and climbed up the hill to a knotted rope swing hanging from a high branch. The coolest thing was that it had been there forever and kids had obviously been climbing up here for years and had worn away the ground cover exposing all these roots that made this cool stairway up to the swing. The rope was hanging from a tall solid tree so that you would swing way out over the top of the hill and be literally 15 feet off the ground.
"The stick is gone," Charlie said, sadly hanging his head. Apparently they had hung on to a stick tied to the rope and then swung out. But it was still usable. Now it was my turn to encourage him. "Go ahead, you can hang on here." He shrugged his shoulders and went for it. When he swung back in for a landing in the roots and sand, there was a look of pure joy on his face.
"Okay, mom, your turn!" I hadn't thought that far ahead. I made it this far. He had his swing. Weren't we done? But at the same time, I thought, I made it this far, he had his swing, Isn't it my turn? So I took the rope from his hands and gathered my wits, (or dismissed my wits) and hung on for dear life. I think he saw the anxiety in my face so he coached me on how to pull up your feet when you come back in so that you don't tear up your knees on the hill. I got it. I hung on and then pushed off. I swung so high over the ground I couldn't believe. Thankfully there was no one around to hear me scream like a little kid. But I did. And I found joy. Surprisingly. All because of an 8 year old who knew a lot more than I did about how to handle a hard day. Have you gone swinging lately?