Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Common Stuff: Taking a Walk?

What with the Mother’s Day dishes behind us (Whew! That was a tiring walk to the trash can!), it’s time to reflect on What A Mother Is. Since I was caring for the sick on that special day, I enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on the matter:

Karen, as I mentioned earlier, talked about what a mother does. Barbara referred to motherhood not as a job, but as a calling.

And Amy and Mary both quoted Elisabeth Elliot’s masterpiece “On Profanity and Motherhood.” I’ve been pondering this line for a couple of days now:

“It is the common stuff of this world which, because of the Word’s having been ‘made flesh,’ is shot through with meaning, with charity, with the glory of God.”

Common stuff.
Like...taking a walk?

When I first started, I selfishly thought I was just trying to get in shape. Realize, I haven’t been in shape for any length of time, having been pregnant or nursing (and for me that means bedrested) for the better part of the last twelve years.

So when my 12-year-old daughter agreed to exercise with me last fall, I thought, “Finally! Someone to hold me accountable!” Exercise classes were out of the question, timewise. So we tried exercise videos. Too much trouble, too many rug burns, too many interruptions. Too many little ones attacking unsuspecting Mom while flat on her back doing the Pilates “hundred.”

Besides, who looks good in a leotard? We were miserably and frustratingly inconsistent.

Then one day, we watched our Vietnamese neighbors take off for a walk, as they have done every night after dinner for the four years we’ve lived here. Every night. Rain or shine, cold or hot. Sometimes in flip-flops, sometimes in walking shoes. Just around the neighborhood – fifteen, twenty minutes. Not power walking, just a stroll in their normal clothes. Always two or three at a time.

Since the lack of proper exercise attire obviously hadn't held our neighbors back, we were out of excuses. We decided consistency must be at least as good as sporadic intensity. So we started.

Nowadays, most every night (that isn't taken up with sports), we walk. Whoever can come, comes. Whoever can’t keep up, gets a ride in the stroller. At first it was me, dragging kids away from their evening free time to come along. After all, we’re not really doing anything “fun.” But now, most nights it’s the kids, bringing me my shoes and corralling the little ones. Sometimes we all go, but more often than not, it’s only three or four of us, walking, talking, laughing, with a little jostling, shoving and racing thrown in. Just hanging out.

Am I getting in better shape? Pshaw! Let’s just say I highly doubt this is going to be a bikini year for me. It’s hard to get your heart rate up when you’re watching the four-year-old pick pick a dandelion for the two-year-old (waiting patiently at least five minutes while she tries to blow it, one allergen at a time). Or when you stop to talk with a neighbor you haven't seen in a while.

But something better is happening, almost palpably so. It’s what keeps me walking, more than the stubborn cellulite that desperately needs a nightly pummeling.

My kids are talking to me.

Last night my daughter, a good twenty minutes into the walk, said matter-of-factly, “Oh, I cried at school today.” (Notice, she didn't even begin the sentence with the word "like." Progress!) She continued with a pitiful story of typical sixth-grade-girl cattiness and jealousy. We hugged and cried a bit together. Then I asked her when was she was planning on telling me all this? Her reply: “Well, I can’t just, like, walk in the door and say, ‘I cried at school today.’”

But she knew – later we would be going on a walk. Then, we would talk (I'll overlook the "likes" for this!).

Our preschoolers and our eight-year-old, who are home all day with me, see something special about our walks. It’s a time when Mom is not just the mom, telling them what to do and when. I’m listening, without the distractions of phone, computer or, mostly, Mom’s never-ending work. When they are through fighting about who gets to sit in the front of the stroller, who can run faster, or why can't we go to the park, they talk. And I listen.

Even our son, who is usually a couple of blocks ahead on his bike, swings in and says, “Hey, what are y’all talking about?” He is getting in on the “good stuff” of our mostly-girl talk, if only at a distance.

There are some (okay, most) nights I hesitatingly (well,not that hesitatingly) leave a not-quite-cleaned-up kitchen and stacks of unfolded laundry in order to get the walk in before dark (at least it's clean). There are lots of books and blogs I'd like to get caught up reading. I admit I get frustrated by the lack of “good exercise” our leisurely walks are giving us.

But maybe, as Elisabeth Elliot says, there is a “mystery…[a] dimension of glory” in setting aside my own agenda -- even my agenda of getting in shape or that of having “my” work done -- and “offering it up to God with praise.”

I’ll just keep on walking, then.

Each evening I’m getting a tiny peek into the hearts of my children. I can’t think of anything much more glorious for a mom than that.

Walking, Walk, , Family


Code Yellow Mom said...

My three-year-old told his Sunday School teacher a couple weeks ago that his favorite thig to do with me was go for a walk. That made me realize that it is a time to set aside my agenda and just enjoy being with them, walking beside them. That's what family is about. So I am going to keep walking, too.

Of course, he also told his teacher that the thing I love to do most is wash dishes. Oh, how a child's mind works: spend a lot of time doing it = you love it. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Kris said...

Joe and I started walking a couple of weeks ago (since I am pregnant that is about the only thing I can do). We have also enjoyed our time of talking and sharing. More people should spend time walking and talking versus watching TV in silence.