I survived the Ragnar race this weekend. I survived a hill that I thought might benefit from a set of stairs. I survived it all on three hours sleep and many hours of togetherness with very smelly runners trapped in my van. I survived running lonely roads in the black of night and lots of small talk and the four-hour drive home on very weary legs. I had more fun than I thought possible, and I added another medal to my growing collection of bizarre running paraphernalia. This medal has a functional bottle opener. Because, let’s be honest, it just makes good sense to have one at the ready once you cross the finish line.
There aren’t too many things in the life of a stay at home mom that make one feel accomplished. You no longer receive validation in the form of good grades from your favorite professor, or a paycheck at the end of the month, or a glowing report from, well, anyone. Your words fall mostly on deaf ears, or at the very least hostile ones, and when you tick one task off your list, another one of equally mediocre importance takes its place. Your people consume your evening’s work in less than fifteen minutes, and the return you see for all of your daily efforts doesn’t come until many years later, when your children have children of their own and they suddenly realize you’re part saint. At least you hope they do.
Fourteen years into this parenting gig, I admit to you that this is part of the reason I run. The sense of accomplishment, the setting of a goal and reaching it, the camaraderie, and the verbal affirmation of people cheering on the sidelines. They see the sweat and the shaking limbs–they know how hard I’ve run.
The heavy lifting of parenting–of loving in the face of rebellion, of praying without ceasing, of holding vigil for your child’s heart–these are the races we run without the cheering crowds and handmade signs. These are the ones that leave us sweating and shaky limbed, utterly exhausted from the effort, only to hear a roaring silence at the end of the day. I remind myself on the hard days that these treasures I gather, this holding of hearts and uttering of well-worn prayers, they are impenetrable. They cannot be destroyed by moth and rust. Thieves can’t break in and steal them. And then I cry and fling myself onto the bed in a fit of melodrama befitting my eight year old. When I stop crying I tell myself, someday, I will see the reward. I hope a small portion of it this side of Heaven.