For starters, my running skills pretty much rival my parenting skills – I SUCK! I’ve known for years that I can barely walk to the refrigerator without getting shin splints, and for some strange reason I have the cardiovascular system of a two-pack a day smoker. In addition, my frustration with seeking out the correct technique (yes, I am that bad that I need to be taught how to land my feet) sadly reminds me of my early days with J.R. The amount of advice I received regarding how to deal with him became overwhelming, and the absolute hardest part involved trying to figure out which race to join. OT? PT? Speech? Behavior? Wait, all of the above you say? Terrific. Suck suck suck.
Seeing as I am still pretty shell shocked from having to embark on this journey with J.R., I’ve been slow to take ANY advice- even from people I see every day, including but not limited to a personal trainer and three marathon runners. How dumb am I? Maybe I’m just not ready to “out” myself (again), so to speak. You know, let the whole wide world know that I am a failure at yet another venture. Hell I am still reeling from having to say the word autism out loud for the first time (um, three years ago) … now this? It’s bad enough that I feel like I walk around with a scarlet A on my shirt (for autism, not adultery Tim!)…now I have to don one on my running shorts? I promise I am good at LOTS of things, so why can’t I be good at the things that are important to me?
It doesn’t help that with J.R.’s school 5K coming up, my amazing friends who normally wouldn’t walk to the mailbox if their lives depended on it are actually semi-TRAINING. My dear friend Lisa says to me the other day, “Oh yeah, I tried that running thing you were talking about and I went out and did like 2 ½ miles; is that good? I really want to do this for J.R.” I didn’t know whether to hug her or kick her in the shins. To add insult to injury she probably ran in flip-flops. Drunk. Urrrgggghhhh!!!!!
Failing at the process of learning to run, and watching everyone else around me pick it up with ZERO effort evokes more metaphors relating to my life with J.R. than I can even count. Even on the rare occasion when I find myself in a zone, feeling like I can run for miles and miles (or at least until the end of the Boogie Nights soundtrack), I wake up the very next day in excruciating pain. I ice. I stretch. I heat. I cry. Ultimately I just limp. Again, much like parenting J.R., I often reach high highs only to soon face low lows- with no cure in sight and semi-visible wounds.
And all the pricey running gear in the world (that makes me look like Rainbow Brite anyway) can’t disguise my situation. Nor can J.R.’s beautiful face and toothy grin mask the issues with which he struggles every second of the day. Many are initially fooled by J.R.’s looks into thinking he is “normal,” but the ruse doesn’t last long.
Speaking of abnormal, if you see me on the road running in my leg COMPRESSION SLEEVES that come up to my knees (at least they are a cute shade of purple) don’t laugh (or beep). You’ll scare me and I’ll pee myself. Really!
As a mother of a child with autism I have learned that no matter how hard it is to keep your head high, and in my case find that runner’s high, I MUST Keep on Truckin’. I know you, pain- deep, emotionally debilitating pain. You and I became acquainted the day of J.R.’s diagnosis and I am surviving, remember? For this reason I say shinsplints, I’m about to give you a run for your money.
I finally asked for help from the experts last week. Am I getting conflicting advice? Sure. I don’t know whether to buy new shoes, download different music, or get a full shin amputation any more than I knew whether to send J.R. to x,y, or z school. That’s okay though. NOTHING can compare to the feeling of nailing it, whether it happens while running or parenting. Knowing this, I don’t see myself giving up in either arena any time soon.
And I have been to that oh I’ve SO got this! place. Exhibit A: J.R. plays hide-and-seek with his little brother- unimaginable just six months ago. It’s a demented hide-and-seek, I’ll admit. J.R. counts (fast; ha ha ha, clever!) and runs to the spot his brother told him he’d be hiding. J.R. screams “BOO!” upon “discovering” Jack. They then proceed to hysterically laugh, wrestling each other in the grass for five minutes straight. These are the moments I live through the “pain” for- the ones that keep me from becoming a runaway, pardon the pun of course.