I am a clock-watcher. A planner to the core, I spend a great deal of my time each day planning out my day, and the days to come. In fact, in addition to my iPhone calendar, I use a good ol’ fashioned paper calendar, too, with each week broken down into hour-by-hour scheduling so that I can determine, the Friday before, what projects I will be working on each hour for every day the following week.
Even on weekends, I am always looking ahead: “What’s next? We have two hours until we have to be at X’s birthday party, what should we be doing right now?” I’m always wondering what we will have for dinner tonight, or tomorrow night, and plugging in convenient tasks to fill the free moments, so that, at some point, all the things on my to-do list in my head will be done and THEN, finally, I can relax.
The problem is, needless to say, that this never happens. The more things I get done, the more I think, “Wait, NOW I can add THIS to the list, because I had some time open up!” Relaxing becomes an unfulfilled dream, and in fact I’m not sure I’d even be able to enjoy it if it happened.
Lately, something that has been on my to-do list is getting in 10,000 steps per day. I got a Fitbit for my birthday and, while I have always been pretty good about taking daily walks, I was never concerned with hitting a certain number of steps each day. Now, I will pace in circles around the kitchen island to make up that last 1,000 steps each night.
Hitting my walking goal is now an item on my checklist. (As if I needed one.)
I was talking about my daily early-morning walks the other night with my husband, and my daughter piped up: “Can I walk with you tomorrow, Mommy?”
I confess, my first thought was, “Bummer. There goes my hour of me time and listening to my audiobook.” I know: Bad mommy, bad mommy.
But yes, I was also excited that we could share in this sunrise ritual together, and that she would be fired up about a walk. I was always saying I wanted to fit in more time with my daughter, and now I had the opportunity to “walk the walk” and have that! I flashed back to her infancy, when I would push her on three- or four-mile walks in the stroller, and thought that finally I might be reaching the point where a walk with my daughter could mean exercise again, and not simply a slow meander on the way to a playground, where I’ll be sitting my butt on a park bench.
“Okay, if you want to walk, that’s fine, but you know it means getting up early, right? It’ll still be dark a little bit,” I told her.
“Yeah!” she said, even more excited.
“Okay, but it also will be VERY cold!”
“Okay, I’ll wear my scarf and my gloves and my new hat!”
“It’s a long walk, okay?
So at 6:30 the next morning, she hopped excitedly out of bed at my gentle call, dressed quickly into the special walking clothes she’d picked out the night before, and strolled with me into the early morning.
The sky was still somewhat dark, and she was astonished to see middle-schoolers at the bus stop outside. She was fascinated by the many, many cars (really too many—it’s a huge pet peeve of mine) idling and “warming up” in their driveways, spitting out visible, stinky exhaust into the cold air.
I grew excited that she was enjoying it, but after the first block or two on the two-plus-mile route, her brisk pace slowed down. She began stopping to pick up rocks she thought were pretty. She wanted to walk and balance along narrow rock walls and yard-edge pavers, or climb the occasional big boulder. I found that I was walking backward, calling, “Come on, keep up with me!” frequently.
She began whining, “I’m tired. My feet hurt.”
Now I was irritated and so was she. She was keeping me from my brisk walk, my precious steps. We would not have time to do the whole route I had planned. Why did she have to pick up so many damn rocks (which she made me put in my own pockets!)? We had to get home! Have breakfast! Get ready for school!
I had a heated internal conversation with myself about the value of “being present,” that ever-elusive thing parents and grandparents love to caution us about: “Be present! Enjoy this moment, it’s precious!” I know it is, but HOW do you “be present”? HOW do you shut off the inner monologue that’s saying, “OHMYGOD this is boring, can we move on to the next thing?” How do you savor those moments in a way that doesn’t involve awkwardly thinking to yourself, “See? Isn’t this moment great? I’m present, see, I’m present!” and wondering if you’ve really enjoyed it enough, sucked enough of the marrow out of it?
Here my daughter was, just five years old and wanting to share this morning time with me, have a mommy-daughter moment, and I was being a pill about it.
So I resolved to let it go. So what if I didn’t get my steps that day? I’d call the day a wash. I was sure she wouldn’t want to do it again the next day, so I might as well enjoy the novelty, revel in it even. I let her show me discarded toys in people’s yards, shiny rocks, pretty door paint colors like purple and light blue, and the ridiculously out-of-date pumpkin still sitting on someone’s doorstep in January that we marveled over—all things I would have looked right past during my normal walk. We played hop-scotch on the sidewalk, did a funny-walk contest, and, when I turned backward to see what had stopped her again, I saw the sunrise just as it was illuminating the snow-covered mountains in a gorgeously rosy pink. I wouldn’t have seen that if I hadn’t turned around and stopped moving for a minute.
When we arrived home, cheeks pink and jaws numb from cold, my daughter excitedly shouted to her daddy, “I walked two miles, Daddy!” and asked for hot chocolate for breakfast. It was a good day, and she boasted about that walk to her teacher that morning, too.
She hasn’t come on a morning walk with me since, but you know what? I wish she would, so she could show me some more things I’ve never seen before.