my eldest son is learning to read french. the little chapter books he brings home are cute but they are also redundant little stories with simple words and a simple plot. despite it being inspiring to witness him grow, the stories themselves are not inspiring in content. recently though, a new book he brought home really struck me, the words resonating with me when i read it to him aloud.
“je suis ici”, it read.
i am here.
for the last three years i’ve often apologized for my lack of shine. on maternity leave in particular, this girl didn’t really glow. back at work the year after leave, i also didn’t feel too inspired. “i’m a shadow of my former self”, i’ve told many. “i hardly recognize myself”, i’ve confessed. when asked how i was, the answer was often: “i’m fine, thanks”. a redundant little story with simple words and a simple plot.
perhaps it shouldn’t have been so hard, but it was for me. having a second child knocked me down some.
ironically, he has also been the one who’s helped me envision a new and energized vision of myself.
you see, i started jogging again soon after he was born and when he was old enough he came with me, pushed ahead in the stroller. i never thought of what that might have been like from his perspective, or if he’d ever conceived of me as the engine propelling him forward.
as he got older when we’d be driving, he’d see a woman jogging from his window and he started to point at her and smile, particularly if she had a stroller. later, as his “language” matured, he would point at her and then at me, and sign “same” with his chubby fingers. i had stopped running by then.
later yet, he would tell me that all the female runners he saw were “a mommy”. whether she had children with her or not he saw runners as mothers, and like me.
i still didn’t see myself that way. as a runner, i mean. parked at red lights i would see these women run by, children pushed in front of them, like all mothers do, and i would watch them wistfully. i would envy them. i thought they looked so strong and so beautiful and so alive, and i would lust to look so lean and so energized and so free. this was not how i felt.
this past fall, i started to train with some women from my neighborhood and soon after, with them near by, i ran my first race in years. fully talking by that time, my littlest man would always wish me goodbye as i left to meet them. he would tell me to “have fun mom-mom”. i did have fun. running regularly again, those endorphins found their way through everyday- i was having fun more often, regardless of what stress i was under from school or work and whether i was running at that moment, or not. the energy had found me.
with running returning as a staple in my life, everything felt more meaningful. school stress wasn’t resented, i saw it as me finally engaging in one of my largest personal dreams. work demands were more tolerable and in perspective. home time was infused with connection. despite multiple outside commitments, i was more present emotionally for them. i started to see things, them, more clearly.
my husband brought both boys to the race, all of them there for support. the run was largely through a forested park though and i was not in view for most of the time they were there, scoping to see if they could catch a glimpse. i was hopeful to see them too. i was proud of me and i wanted them to see me run that way, with my head up, shoulders back and intention forward. no luck. i ran by supporters and smiled in thanks at their cheers but my boys were not visible.
and, then, the coolest thing. from 50 meters or more away, i became visible to them.
i heard my eldest first. they were up a hill to the side of the track and he must have seen my profile. regardless, he recognized me. he knew that woman who was running to be his mother and i heard him name me. “there she is! it’s mom!”. i turned to the sound of his call and saw him smile as he ran down the grass to the road, using his little voice as loud as he could to offer me praise. i laughed to see his toddler brother clumsily following, hooting and hollering as he bounced and stumbled on his way down.
hearing my smallest man name me, stuttering his attempts to be heard over my eldest, carried me to the finish. his encouragement, rough and unpolished, was what i needed to hear: “you are running mommy, i see you! daddy! i seen mom-mom! there she is”.
in that moment, i saw myself as they might have and i liked that woman. i was in motion and i was sweaty, trying, inspired and alive. it was a cold morning, so fresh, and the sting of the air and of realizing that i felt happy with myself were both divine.
not long ago, i took my body out again. my last semester at school had called for more time than running allowed and, admittedly, it had been awhile. my legs felt heavy, my breath was tight, and my ability was certainly restricted. i did not feel charged like i had at the race, nor proud. i ran cursing myself instead, angry and disappointed for letting go of the grasp i’d achieved on fitness. i ran with the sun at my back, watching my shadow lumbering in pain wondering if the forward motion was enough for me to resemble who i had been that day.
and then, my little love woke up from his stroller sleep and peered over the edge of his ride. “there’s momma”, he said, pointing at my shadow. “there you are mom-mom, i see you in your shadow”.
again, his perception helped me reframe my own: i am no longer forgotten. he sees me, they see me, and i am starting to see me too.
my big guy’s book progresses some. ” je suis ici avec toi”, it concludes.
i am here with you.
a redundant little story. simple words, simple plot. simply everything.