The other day I had another adventure in parenting.
Oh get your compression panties out of a bunch! This one is (remotely) about triathlon. Duathlon. Whatever. On Tuesday, I had a run-bike-run brick. Usually for workouts that involve a fuel plan, I call in the babysitter. Unfortunately, the babysitter was sick. Chris took the morning workout slot and I work in the city when he comes home from work. I only had the day.
Now, most of my days with Max have a routine. He wakes up, he eats, he poops, within one hour he goes back to bed for an hour. After that, he wakes up, eats, poops. See a pattern here? He then stays awake for about 3 hours. If I time it right, he will eat again and then take an afternoon nap of up to 3 hours before waking up to eat, poop, eat, take a bath and go to bed.
Sometimes he spends 16 hours of the day sleeping. It sounds like a lot. But when it’s combined with your sleep, your day, your meals, your work, your life, it turns out to never feel like enough at the right time. He goes to bed at 6:30 pm. I don’t. He wakes up at 6:30 am. I wish I didn’t. And all of this sleep rests on the delicate balance that I time it exactly right with other things. Things being: the FedEx guy doesn’t ring the doorbell. The dog doesn’t bark. I don’t accidentally drop a fork. Any good sleep requires a lot of quiet. During that time I don’t leave the kitchen table. Not even if I have to pee.
That is a small price to pay for alone time. Trust me.
In order to arrive at that afternoon nap absolutely exhausted and needing to sleep for – oh, say, 3 hours – I knew I needed to wear Max out. So, soon after second breakfast, we left the house for Lil’ Monkey Business.
Lil’ Monkey Business has to be the brainchild of some parent who lived through winter with a few squirrely kids climbing all over the house while screaming for no good reason at all. Which is usually the only reason kids scream. It’s an indoor playground of sorts, with climbing structures, slides, rope swings, a moon jump. You pay 5 bucks to get in, your kid plays, they are happy, you are happy.
But here’s where it gets brilliant: it’s a coffee shop. This is where Chuck E. Cheese gets it very wrong. The last thing I want to do is go to some crazy kid crack house where you have to continually feed machines tokens, eat lousy pizza and watch a bunch of life-sized scary as shit puppets sing bad songs. That might be fun for the kids, but its absolute hell for parents. At Monkey Business, there are no puppets, no tokens, no skeeball machines. There is coffee. Good coffee. We’re talking Seattle’s Best.
The front half of it looks like a totally normal this used to be my adult life coffee shop with tables, a barista, free WiFi. Yet a few yards away it’s complete pandemonium with kids running everywhere. I watched a few moms come in, unleash their kids into the play area then sit down themselves at the table with hot coffee and their laptop. I thought one thing:
This is stay at home/work at home Mommy Shangri-La.
Being our first time there, I was a little skeptical that Max would enjoy it. But then I took a lot around and noticed a separate baby area with about a dozen new things Max could put in him mouth. Perfect. Here’s my 5 bucks. And I’d like a medium decaf Americano. We’re in.
Max busied himself crawling and “building immunity” (mouthing everything within reach). Meanwhile, I look around; moms, my people, standing around with other moms. Moms with babies attached to themselves in harnesses, hanging off their arms, dangling at what looks like near death but every mom knows you can hold your kid like this for hours. Without dropping them. Some moms are playing with their kids, some are just talking to other moms. Others are sitting on benches drinking coffee and looking at their iPhones.
The half-walls surrounding the play area like a miniature prison wall were a graveyard of I’ll be back coffee cups. This is the only way you drink coffee as a mom. I’ll be back, coffee. You’ll be cold, but I’LL BE BACK.
I feel a strange sense of belonging, though I know no one. I realize I’m not alone. I’m not the only one wearing black yoga pants and a half zip top. I’m not the only one who finds my kid incredibly interesting yet at times I want to zone out into the adult land of my iPhone. I’m not the only one who considers going out for coffee an acceptable outing for the day.
We spend well over an hour there. Max gets whiny about 30 minutes into it but I tell him we’re going all the way. Pushing it to the limit. Tap into that genetically killer endurance, kid. I’m going to wear you out until you can’t help but fall asleep for 3 hours. So for the next 30 minutes, I put him in a plastic car and push him around until he either vomits or gets exhausted from the stimulation.
Max, "building immunity"
Back at home, it is time. Bottle and then sleep. For me, it’s two bottles for a run-bike-run. Then, by what had to be divine intervention combined with impeccable timing on my part, he falls right asleep. A moment later, I’m on the treadmill.
There have been times like this I’ve timed everything right only to have Max wake up – for no reason at all – during a set of intervals. I used to keep the swing by my bike for days like that, days where I’d bring him downstairs so he could see me and then sing to keep him happy while grinding out hard intervals. That’s not easy to do but it’s got to build lung capacity. There were days I got off the bike so many times I wondered what was the point. So I convinced myself it was like riding outside on a route with a lot of stoplights. I’ve ran at tempo pace while making funny noises, turned the swing to face the television to see if he too would be entertained by Keeping up with the Kardashians (answer: no) and done so many silly things to juggle my workouts and Max that I realized I have to be either totally committed or crazy to keep doing this. And then I realize what most people call crazy, I just call commitment these days. People say – how do you have the time. I say – if you want to do something badly enough, you find time. No matter what happens during the day, we always find a way. If you want it to get done – it will.
By some miracle, I finished the entire workout without a peep. I go upstairs and eat lunch. Not a peep. I take a shower, open the door – nothing. Blow dry my hair. Not a word. I even put on make up. Crickets. And then it occurs to me –
I should check to see if he’s breathing.
He is. And still sleeping. For over 3 hours. Work can wait. I take a rest. I think this is called “recovering”? Where you can eat, shower, and sit down after a workout without having to throw a Power Bar recovery bar and half the packet of Recovery e21* into your mouth before rushing to feed someone who is hanging by the threads of starvation if they have to wait one second longer.
Or at least that’s how the tears make it sound.
Eventually, he wakes up and starts chit chatting to himself. I go in there and the best part is that no matter what sort of ugliness I’ve done during his nap – big watts, tempo descends - I go into his room and it’s totally peaceful. He’s always thrilled to see me with a huge smile on his face. I see that smile and its instant relaxation. That is what I call recovery.
The next day, I had a hard run to do. Lucky for me, Chris came home at lunchtime. He gave me a 30 minute warning to get ready because the minute he walked in the door, I needed to be ready to bolt out to start my first interval. I may have warmed up doing crazy laps in the house. While waiting, I put on everything for running including my Fuel Belt. As I fed Max, I thought to myself – it’s totally normal to feed your baby while wearing a Fuel Belt, right?
No sooner did I finish my run than Chris went right back to work and I spent the next few hours in my run clothes (some days I just stew in my own squalor) while being mom. There was no post-workout ice bath, nap, recovery smoothie. I put a scoop of whey protein into a glass of water and shot it down. I would have much rather taken a shot of tequila straight up. For many reasons (taste, pain management, to make the rest of the day that much more exciting). But I haven’t read any research supporting the use of post workout tequila. Yet.
I should be my own test subject.
The day was over when Max went to bed but an important part of my day had just begun. I do a lot of work between the hours of 7 and 10 pm. I’d love to stay up later but by 6:30 am, it happens all over again. Some call it life, I call it a daily adventure in parenting. It’s certainly not the hardest job in the world (I mean, I’m not fishing for crabs in Alaska, that’s tough shit) and I only have one child so all of this is relative (the woman next to me at story time with the 5 kids said the kid in her lap doesn’t nap – EVER). But it feels like a solid adventure that bumps up against my threshold from time to time.
Like any good training!
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