On a recent morning, Little Boy and I were out for a run when he started to get fussy. This wasn’t a huge surprise; his relationship with the running stroller can be described as grudging tolerance at best. It was also a particularly windy day – I don’t know how much that affected him, but it was certainly making the run harder on me.
My first response to a disgruntled Little Boy is to stop, pop my head around the sun shade, reassure him of my presence, check that he’s comfortably positioned with sunglasses still on, do a quick sniff test, and then give him a kiss and resume running. If the grump level continues to rise, I’ll unstrap him from the stroller for a hug; at that point, it’s time to turn around (if I haven’t already) and head for home.
The path we run on is a popular spot for joggers, walkers, and bicyclists of all ages, so we pass and get passed by numerous people on a typical day. When I’m pushing a baby who has decided to be, as my husband calls him, Mr. Fuss E. Pants, I become extremely self-conscious. What are these various people thinking of me? What kind of judgment must they be passing on my mothering skills?
What a selfish mother. Can’t she see that her baby’s upset? How can she keep running like that?
Logically, this anxiety has no basis. No one has ever actually said such things in my hearing, nor even given me an obvious dirty look. I know that Little Boy will be fine; our runs by design avoid mealtime and naptime, and the need for a diaper change would be unmistakable. After a certain point, the best strategy for taking care of him is to get back home – and the fastest way to do that is to keep running.
My husband has no such worry in this situation. He automatically assumes that any observers are sympathetic (oh, poor Daddy instead of oh, poor baby).
So why am I so concerned? I wish I could more easily let it go. This type of anxiety is almost always unproductive, and it permeates other parts of my life as well. If I could just say to myself, “I’m going to submit this paper and deal with what the referee says when it comes,” I might be closer to graduating than I am now.