On this marathon of motherhood, somedays I feel like I’m hitting the wall. According to “Runner’s World”, it’s called “bonking”. (Sounds like the perfect description of what I’d like to do to the ones who have taken me down the long road :) Here’s how they describe the athletic phenomenon.
Chiang Kai-shek is said to have received news of his army’s mutiny while still in his pajamas. Chances are you will be equally unprepared for the mutiny of your own body-in other words, for bonking. We’re not talking about the mere cramping of a calf, or the everyday slowing caused by lactic acid build-up, or the deep muscle pain sometimes caused by downhill running. Marathoners used to call bonking “hitting the wall,” but it’s actually a bodily form of sedition. In some form or another, it becomes a collapse of the entire system: body and form, brains and soul. * Consider the muscle-glycogen bonk, where the brain works fine but the legs up and quit. Then there’s the blood-glucose bonk, where the legs work fine but the brain up and quits. Let’s not forget the everything bonk, a sorry stewpot of dehydration, training errors, gastric problems, and nutrition gaffes. * And then there’s the little-purple-men bonk. “After about 20-K, I started to see little purple men running up and down the sides of these cliffs,” says Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., who wears hats as both a leading sports nutrition researcher and an endurance athlete. “I knew it was an hallucination, but I stopped in the middle of the race to look at them anyway,” he says. “It was kind of crazy.”
I swear I saw little purple men running across the floor just the other day as I engaged in a mind-numbing “discussion” with Teen Take-Out.
“You just baited your brother into touching your phone. You can’t blame him for the smudge he got on it.”
“NO I DIDN’T. HE GRABBED IT WITH THAT GROSS STUFF ON HIS FINGERS!”
“I was sitting right here and heard you.”
“I DID NOT ‘BAIT HIM'”
“Yes you did.”
“NO I Di-”
“You DID and I heard you. Stop arguing.”
“I”M GETTING YOU.” he muttered to Slow Walker, as if from two feet away I couldn’t hear him.
“Don’t talk to him that way!”
“YOU ARE ALWAYS ON THEIR SIDE!”
It went on for several minutes and ended with a lovely obliteration of the English language directed at me, “You are SO ANNOYER AND ANNOYER … AND I’M NOT WORKING THIS SUMMER!”
That’s when little purple men scurried across the floor.
I confiscated the phone, removed Slow Walker from the firing line, and left the room feeling sorry for the situation, desperately needing some mental nourishment to keep my feet on the ground.
This kind of dialogue is common for us these days. TTO was genuinely trying to engage his little brother. Slow Walker, as always, took it a little too far and in this case really did smear some grossness on TTO’s beloved phone. Their dialogue heated up to yelling status. Then referee mom steps in and slams the supposed “mature” one that should “know better”. It’s a dialogue that has existed for years. Not too long ago, the trio was my mom, brother and me. Same words, same tone, same outcome.
No matter, it saps every ounce of energy, leaving me “hitting the wall”, needing some major direction/encouragement. I left our house and headed out on my bike to a dinner we had scheduled weeks before. Due to work overload, Jon stayed back so I was on my own.
I knew one of the hosts, but other than that, I wasn’t sure I’d know a soul. The cerebral group (authors, educators, philosophers, physicians) gathers throughout the year to discuss relevant topics. I’m not sure why I was invited, but I welcomed the break. Tonight’s topic, forgiveness. The catalyst, an incredibly interesting film/documentary entitled, “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.”
Walking in the door, sweaty from my peddling trek, I searched the sea of strangers for my friend. I found her in the kitchen where she quickly swooped me to some old friends I hadn’t seen in years. We started to catch up.
“We just had our third graduate from college … only two more to go,” he reported.
“Please tell me I’m going to survive.” I beg him, still mentally anchored in the discourse I left at home.
“You will. I promise. …. Our oldest presented us with years of challenge. You would be amazed at the incredible adult he is today. Just last week we had lunch. Gone are the days of head-butting… You’ll get there.”
“I’m not sure I’ll survive in one piece,” I hopelessly add, giving into the pain of “bonking”.
“Let me ask you two questions,” he offered. “First, how’s he doing in school.”
“He’s being an idiot,” I sighed. “He sure hasn’t owned it yet … Who knows if he will.”
“Ok. How about friends? Are his friends nice kids? Is making good decisions on the social front?”
(Hmmmm. There might be hope here.) “Actually, yes. He has nice friends. He’s not a rebel-rouser or a super popular social butterfly. He’s basically a good kid.”
“You’re going to be just fine. You’re in for YEARS of frustration. But, keep your head down and keep going. Don’t let the stubborn push back discourage you too much. I promise there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Just those words were food to my soul. As I took my seat, the strangers next to me exchanged pleasantries and proceeded down the same road after learning the number and ages of our kids. Having five kids of their own (the youngest 22), they instinctively offered soothing words of encouragement without me saying a word, “You will make it. Don’t let this phase define your relationship with your kids.”
I guess on the mom marathon, this is what we need to push through “the wall”. They might not be carbs or a protein drink, but wise words of encouragement sure got me over a hill that night. I think the bike ride helped too … just to physically release some steam.
I hope I remember the next time I’m in the heat of the moment to seek out encouragement … not necessarily from those in the pit with me (other moms walking the same road can sometimes add fuel to instead of extinguishing the flames), but from the pool of graduates who have seen the light on the other side. In the same way that I can genuinely offer soothing words to the mother struggling through sleepless nights of a newborn baby, parents of grown teens can remind me to embrace the moment and move on through the pain.
So a good word and some exercise. Two types of nourishment to combat motherhood bonking. Feel free to remind me when, in the heat of the moment, I forget. Oh yeah, another HUGE component to conquering “the wall” … Forgiveness. (Of course, that had to be the topic of the evening!)
When I got home, I headed straight to TTO’s room. He was asleep, so I couldn’t get an answer to my words, “I’m sorry.” If he might have been moved to reciprocate, I’d never know. No matter, I had forgiven him, genuinely released any bitterness I was tempted to harbor.
On to the next hill.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
Wednesday, June 9th will be our first installment of “Ask the Iro
ning Board” … an opportunity to tap into the wisdom of those who have walked the road before us and have graciously agreed to serve as the MOAT’s sounding board of wisdom (see “Ironing Board” page above). Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) any questions you might have and we’ll send it their way. It can be anything from how they handled Drivers’ Ed to surviving teen tantrums to sibling conflict to dealing with bad attitudes to … ok the list could go on and on!