This morning Ingrid and I were messing around in our front yard while my indefatigable mother, in town for several days’ visit during A’s three-week work trip, divided hostas and dug weeds and transplanted painted daisies. First we played with rocks, and then we pulled some weeds, and then Ingrid decided to run.
She is reliably awkward at going down steps, so I was fairly sure she wouldn’t dart off the curb and into the street, which is pretty sleepy, trafficwise, anyway. But she took off in a fairly determined way down the sidewalk, as quick as her funny little flailing-arm toddler run would take her. I waddle-jogged after her in the 85-degree heat. She clearly thought it was a hilarious game. Stop, turn around, let sweaty, pregnant Mama get about 15 feet away, then tear off at top speed again.
I occasionally yelled “Stop!” and “Red light!” as convincingly as I could. And she’d stop, turn around, and go again. Laughing. Blatant, gleeful disregard for Mama’s authority, right? The Mean, Yelling Mama approach, which I’ve so far avoided, started to seem like a realistic option. I imagined myself taking the form of a mom I overheard at the grocery store last week, clearly at the end of her rope, growling, Get your butt over here or! Or! Else!
I caught up with her just before the end of the block and let her see the fullness of my grumpiness with the situation for several seconds. You need to stay close to the house where Mama can see you. I picked her up, and she flailed and cried in protest for a few seconds. Then I pointed out a squirrel climbing a chain link fence, which we watched together, and I carried her back to the house, thinking about solutions.
I set her down just where our walkway crosses the sidewalk and said, Let’s run together. Let’s find where the stopping spots are. We ran about 20 feet up the block. Here. See this grass growing up through the sidewalk? This is where you stop when you run this way. Then we ran about the same distance the other direction. See these steps? The neighbor’s steps? This is where you stop when you go this direction. We ran it together three times, me all sweaty and really not running but shuffling. I gradually let her take the lead. Where do we stop? Where’s the stopping spot? Oh, there it is! You found it!
And then I let her go on her own again. She stopped right at the stopping spot every time, turned around, grinned at me and clapped her hands, and then ran right back toward me, arms everywhere.
Boy, I said to her as we sat on the steps brushing the dirt off our feet before heading inside for lunch. I’m sure glad we found those stopping spots. Now you know where to stop when you go for a run. And, for a change, I felt like a pro.