How I Accidentally Walked Thirteen Miles Pushing A Stroller

I always get pretty cranky when I’m shopping. I just don’t like it. I don’t like spending money, I don’t like not knowing exactly what needs to be purchased when I step into the store, I don’t like the fact that shopping with a toddler is kind of like going to the DMV with a rabid wolverine tucked under your arm. It bugs me, and Nik and I shop in completely different ways. By that I mean, Nik shops and I walk into a store and scowl at everything. So I was in a bad mood and Nik was stressed and nervous because it was getting late and she still hadn’t found the perfect pair of marathon-walking pants so we started quarreling and didn’t stop until long after Callie had gone to sleep and the clock was saying ridiculous things like, “Hey, Nikki, you have four hours until you’re supposed to trek 13.1 miles and you aren’t asleep yet, and in fact you’re still arguing about whether or not it is perfectly reasonable to spend $13 on a tarp to keep the neighborhood cats from pooping in your daughter’s sandbox!” Our clock is pretty much a punk.

We had sort of kind of smoothed it over at some obscene hour and we were all kind of under rested and tense but we got to the park on time. Nik had her cool little number bib on and her time-marker strip laced into her shoe and her new (admittedly very fetching) marathon-walking pants. Callie was blearily rubbing her eyes while I looked on proudly. Then the announcer guy got everyone started and Nik took off. We watched the crowd disappear and hung out for a few extra minutes before I told Callie, “Okay! Let’s go get some breakfast and then we can go find a spot down the path to watch Mommy go by and cheer her on!”

To which Callie replied, “No!”

I laughed and walked out to the parking lot. She’s two, so her answer to most things is, “No!” It’s actually cute the way this is such a default setting for her that you can ask her something where the answer is clearly yes, like “Hey Callie, do you want to eat candy for dinner?” And she’ll say, “No—um, yes!” So I didn’t think much of it. Until I got to the car.

“Okay, up you go!” I said, trying to get Callie out of her stroller and into the car seat.

“No! No drive! No car! No!”

I tried to reason with her. “Well you can’t stay in your stroller all day!”

“No drive! No leave Mama!”

I kind of understood her concern, since her mother had just wandered away with a crowd of strangers, but it’s not like she’s so attached that she has some kind of crippling separation anxiety, so I tried to explain again the concept of a marathon, of Mommy doing something important for herself and to raise money for the American Heart Association. And I tried to reiterate the idea of breakfast, which was really where my heart was at  in the initial plan. She was steadfast, and she broke down in tears.

True, saying a toddler broke down in tears when she didn’t get her way isn’t exactly headline news. But amid her blubbering, snotty, red-faced and mostly incomprehensible fit, I caught the notion that she felt she would be abandoning her mother if we left. It didn’t matter how much I tried to explain that we were actually going to go ahead in the route so we could do the opposite of abandonment and could in fact cheer for her and encourage her to keep going, she was steadfast.

Now, I outweigh my daughter by some hundred and (murfle murble) pounds, so I could have forced the issue then and there, plunking her down in her car seat, trying to block out the wailing protestations and gone and gotten breakfast. This was my first inclination. But I try to be reasonable with her, try to encourage her to feel like she’s a part of the decision making process so she can take pride in her choices and we can all live together a little more harmoniously. So, looking for opportunities like that, I made a terrible miscalculation. I said, “Honey, our only option is to go try to find a spot to see her pass by, or try to catch up with her.”

Sometimes it’s freaky how a child who will ask, “What you say?” as if she is a foreign exchange student who has memorized but a single phrase in an English dictionary when you tell her to clean her room or get into bed or brush her teeth, will suddenly have a very comprehensive grasp of diction and implication when it serves her purposes. “Yes,” she said enthusiastically, “catch up with Mama!”

I laughed, because that was absurd. Nik had been gone for well over thirty minutes at this point and I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Plus, Callie was in her umbrella stroller which I had already had to fight to push across a three-foot stretch of recently mowed grass. “Anyway,” I said, “we’d have to get in the car just to go home and get the stuff we need to try and catch up with her.” A couple of things should be pointed out here. It had been discussed previously, the possibility of me doing the half-marathon in an unofficial capacity. I didn’t really want to bother registering or fundraising. Wait. That sounds bad. It’s not that I didn’t want to raise money for a good cause. But Nik and I have been together for so long that we don’t really have social circles that don’t overlap. So if I had to try to raise a certain amount of money on top of what Nik was raising, we’d be double dipping into our same friends and family. The point is, this wasn’t something I needed to check off my bucket list, but it was possible I could support Nik in a direct way by going along with her. In the end we had decided not to because Nik had plan A which was to walk with a person she met through a friend who was also in the half-marathon and she had plan B which was to enjoy her carefully crafted playlist as she went head down and got into the zone for the whole course. Besides, we didn’t find anyone to watch Callie and we weren’t sure how she’d do for hours in her stroller.

So the idea of me going on the walk itself wasn’t fully out of the question, it was just that it didn’t make sense at the time.

And then I saw my gym bag.

It’s significant to note that my gym bag is never in the car. As in, this was probably the first time it had been in there since I brought the bag home from the store (Target, natch). It is also worth noting that it was improbable that not only was the bag there, and fully packed, but the workout clothes inside were unused. The bag was there because Nik had picked me up from work the day before and the items were still laundered and usable because I had brought the bag to work intending to go to the gym but hadn’t made it due to some work crisis or another. And by work crisis I mean that when I got to work Friday morning I threw the bag on my desk and walked upstairs to the rest room and took a nap.

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