hot days. finally summer.  i live on an island with beaches that get touted in ads around the world.  we ran a campaign in the 80’s that sold PEI as “the warmest waters north of Florida.”

i remember a local comedian quipping, c’mon. don’t shit me here. i took geography. the warmest waters north of Florida are about a mile past the Florida border, people.

he had clearly sampled the testicle-shrivelling waters of our heralded beaches in the month of June.

so rather than take the kids out to eat sand and freeze their tootsies in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, i figure they could eat sand just as well at the park.  i like the park. it is not so crowded, requires less sunscreen, and does not involve either a long car ride or the indignity of me sporting a a bathing suit.

Dave has been in England. he came home to find there’d been a cancellation on the vasectomy waiting list and i’d booked him in for only 28 hours after his arrival home. that‘ll teach him to travel. but in the meantime and until he and his bag of frozen peas can get comfortably off the couch, my mother, bless her, has been coming around at the end of the days when she can, helping to get the kids bathed and to bed.  she came along on our late-day park journey, the four of us galumphing down frost-humped sidewalks with a plastic tricycle.

the baby was tired. both kids were sick the whole time Dave was away.

until Oscar had surgery last December to have tubes put in his ears, every cold he got had a tendency to turn nasty. he’d fill up, cough for a day or two, and then end up in the ER not breathing properly, no matter how carefully we applied the preventative puffers and avoided dairy and followed the asthma clinic’s recommendations. but since the tubes? golden. he gets a cold, he coughs, wakes up at godforsaken hours miserable and whatnot, but…no ER. the asthma clinic actually released him in April, saying that very likely he does not actually have asthma, as his attacks only ever came when otherwise sick.

at the park, Posey and i stopped to chat to another mother & baby pair, and to look at some leaves on a tree, and to wipe her nose call down armageddon on all & sundry. Posey does not like having her nose wiped.

i looked over in the midst of her howling and noticed O having a bit of a fit of his own with my mom. odd, as the two of them are tight and he is generally at his shining #1 grandson best with her, the pleaser in him rewarded by her proverb-loving approach to the world. but they were at the swings, which has never been his favourite park activity, and he was also in a baby swing, which he generally eschews now even when he consents to swinging.  with Daddy away, however, he’d been playing “baby” all week. i figured perhaps i’d wander over.

as i got closer, i heard him.

but Nannie, but Nannie… great gulping tears here, and the plaintive confusion of a frustrated child who’s hit a wall he doesn’t understand.  but Nannie…i just want to RUN.

this park is a relatively spartan space, and as a result has a long expanse of green that Oscar loves to run free-form through, his little legs pumping, growing tinier and tinier as he beetles away from me until i can see him for how small he still really is.  he knows that he is only allowed to run through a particular space in the park, far from the cars, and he’s a pretty good kid. he has never transgressed those boundaries.

but when he’d run over to Nannie at the swing set, she’d heard him breathing heavily. and had decided that the thirty feet he’d covered were plenty, and he might have an asthma attack – though he has never once so much as threatened anything resembling a classic asthma attack brought on by exertion – and plopped him, unwilling, into the baby swing.  she was exhorting him in the urgent voice she uses when she’s anxious to “just slow down, be calm.”

your body needs you to be still, she said, while he wailed.

i looked at the two of them and made a judgement call, one that was perhaps as unfair as i’ve ever been.  i sided with the three-year-old.

i thrust the baby at my mother and released Oscar from the swing. he ran off, sounding for all the world like a kid with a slight cold.  i maneuvered the baby into the swing instead, and stood pushing her gently, shaking, trying valiantly but probably unsuccessfully to sound like a grownup.

Mom, he’s okay running, i think.

i only have a single memory of my mother ever running. i was still quite small, so she could not have been yet thirty. we ran through a park one day, just a shortish run to get to some play destination whose shape eludes me now. it is my shock i remember. my mother could RUN! faster than ME!

she is not an unfit person…she works on her feet, she walks, she is a bustler by nature. but outside that one vague childhood recollection, i have never once seen my mother actively exercise.  rather, she cautions against excess, dogmatically distrusts anything that involves sweat or physical discipline.  i grew up believing that the moment something hurt at all…even just a twinge, a slight catch in my breath, i should stop.  beyond that limit was some amorphous fear, some bogeyman of unseemly danger.

my body needed to be still.

so i was. and grew into a lazy arse who’s had to spend a disproportionate period of what ought to be my comfortable middle age learning to push myself.  not necessarily in terms of regular exercise…i still struggle to find the will for that, given how i was encouraged to dismiss it utterly from the earliest of ages. but rather just to function – to continue, as one must, to care for the kids even when one is sick, to push through the strain of sore arms to keep digging in the garden, to trudge on with the baby growing heavier in her sling by the minute. i have learned in my thirties that my body is far stronger than i ever gave it credit for. and that knowledge has been a powerful, beautiful thing, allowing me to learn to trust said body – just a little – for the first time in my life.

i am, if truth be told, happy about Oscar’s relatively cautious nature, and scared shitless of the fearlessness Josephine exhibits even at nine months old.  i want my children to care for themselves and their bodies, of course. i do fear them getting hurt, and i want them to know how to be calm and still when calm and still are called for.

but.  i also want them to know the free feeling of running until they can’t run any more, the confidence that comes from finding some of their own physical limits and learning to trust that their bodies, mostly, can do more than they think. learning to trust that their bodies heal. learning to trust that their bodies are their own, and not just disconnected shells which must be treated according to externalized rules.

i do not want them to think the body should always be easy and quiet. perhaps i should get off my duff and take them to the beach.