Tag Archives: raising boys

Run now.

Here is a sentence a 16-year-old will never believe: “we slow down as we age.” I know that because I have one. The disbelief probably stems from a teenager’s simple inability to even conceive of a future so far ahead. They live in the present, as they probably should.

Yet, precisely because teenagers cannot, and do not, particularly focus on a too-distant future, I hope to share with them a piece of advice I wish I had been given myself when I was a young girl growing up:

Run now. So that when you’re older, you can slow down to a brisk walk. 

I am not old. Yet. But what is for sure is that I am not young either. Let’s just say that I probably have less to go with the same health benefits I have been the grateful recipient of so far.

When I was young, I hated running. I was the slowest, the most breathless, and the least graceful. I used to hate getting sweaty, dirty and I certainly hated pushing beyond what was absolutely necessary to achieve the minimum required results. I had other talents and aptitudes but neither I, nor my parents, saw the need to develop them any further. VCRs and game consoles were a new thing then and there were plenty of movies to watch and games to be played.

Also, I couldn’t see the point of running or exercise in general. I was brought up believing that exercise was for the sole purpose of losing weight a.k.a. suffering. Why suffer? There was a good movie on the new VCR and a bag of chips to be enjoyed. Where was I going to get to by running anyway? 

Here is the question I didn’t, and should’ve asked: where was I getting to sitting on the couch? 

Now I know.

In my 20s I really wanted to be a runner (I still do). I loved the idea of it, the rosy cheeks, the runner’s high, and of course, eating what I wanted. I dabbled with running. I was slow, I was breathless and as soon as I reached the goal of running for 30 straight minutes I would stop. Going further was absolutely out of the question. Too much hard work. There were drinks to be enjoyed and TV series to watch.

Idem in my 30s—except that now I had the perfect excuse(s). I could go out for a run but the children might go hungry. (They didn’t.) Also, I needed my daily glass of wine to get me through the boredom of young motherhood. 

When I was 40 I decided I to run a marathon. All the running manuals said to get mileage under my feet first, to stop the alcohol and to watch what I ate. But I had no time and energy for all that. I had three kids at home, I was trying to get a writing career off the ground and I had something to prove: that I was, and will be a runner. During the race, I pushed really hard. I pushed so hard for over 5 hours that I decided this was way beyond how long anyone should push for. The marathon was my one and only. I stopped running for years after that.

Today I want to run but the most I seem to manage in my Zone 2 training is a brisk walk. But if I am at a brisk walk now, what of the future? How slow will I get?

Now I wonder what would have been had I pushed through my slog when I was a little girl. If I just had it in me to run through the shame of being the slowest, the least graceful. I wonder where I would have been if I had the tenacity to push beyond the 30 minutes of sweat, if I could only stick with the tiredness, embrace the suffering for just a little longer. Just one more day. Just a minute more every day. 

I most probably would have still been the slowest, the most breathless, the least graceful. But I would still be running. And then maybe when I’m older, I could slow down to a brisk walk.

Open letter to my three boys

Notwithstanding that you are a miracle from heaven and that there is nothing in this world I care about more than your health and safety and happiness, notwithstanding that I would rather die than see any of you in misery, I feel it is nevertheless necessary that I share with you these few tips that should make for smoother relations in the years to come.

Tip #1

You will not ask the same question twice. Ever. Listen to the answer the first time.

Tip #2

“But why Mom?” is now officially banned lexicon.

Tip #3

You will not, ever, complain about the food on the table. You may choose to eat it or to leave it, but you will not complain about it. You will not play with it either.

Tip #4

You will finish your homework, it is a favor to yourselves, not to me.

Tip #5

“In a sec” will, from now on, be replaced by “yes sure.” Preferably “yes ma’am.”

Tip #6

I have a face and it can make expressions, so please address all talk to me and not to your screen. It doesn’t love you as much as I do.

Tip #7

Trips abroad are a luxury and not a given. So is eating out.

Tip #8

Yes you will have to work, save up, and buy your own car.

Tip #9

You will stop using my plugs, wires, pens and everything else that belongs to me. Should you need something urgently, you will ask me. More importantly, you will put it back.

Tip #10

You will learn to rely on yourselves and take care of your own affairs so you can become able, confident, young men.

For the night is dark and full of terrors.

Tip #11

I will tend to your issue as soon as I possibly can. I am ignoring you only because I am trying to focus on something else right now.

Tip #12

I am able to carry two conversations, talk and listen to two people at the same time, but I choose not to.

Tip #13

You will go after what you want, you will not wait for it to come to you.

Tip #14

The answer to “Why Mom?” is “Because.” The answer to “But why Mom?” is still “Because.” But anyway if you go back to tip no.2 you will see that “but why mom?” is banned anyway.

With love,


P.S. No I will not be writing a similar letter to the dog because the dog cannot read!

Of boys and noise

When I was a young girl, I used to be partially deaf in one ear. I didn’t know that of course, but everyone else did.

My siblings knew because they would whisper to me when I wasn’t looking and see how long it took to get my attention. Finally, my mother, having given up on my siblings’ rudimentary way of testing, confirmed the diagnosis in a dim and humid doctor’s clinic. I was ten years old.

My mother at the time, bless her, had no idea that I would eventually end up living with four boys and that being partially deaf in one ear may actually be a good thing.

Because living with boys as anyone will tell you, is noisy. Doors don’t close, they bang. They don’t unlock, they’re wrenched open. Conversations are not had, they’re shouted across rooms and corridors. My boys are teenagers now, so they’re quite hormonal and so there’s a lot of shouting and screaming going on.

Then there are the musical instruments of course. The piano, played only with the foot constantly to the pedal, and the bass. And the drums. The drums played without the silencing pads.

And the music that stays on long after the premises have been vacated. Music is always in the background.

Boys also like to watch noisy things: a football match with all the cacophony of the stadium, action movies with long car chases and noisy exhausts, war movies. All with the volume pitched high.

And then there’s Big Boy Number One, of course. My husband loves to watch replays of football matches he’s already seen a couple of times already. If his favored team had actually won, I get treated to replays and commentary on television, tablet, phone…Location doesn’t matter either: bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, living room…it all works. This doesn’t bother me, I have to admit, except when I’m trying to read or I’m concentrating on something else, happily and quietly in my bed, in which case the commentary becomes quite a distraction.

Especially if it’s in German.

(Neither my husband nor I speak or understand German.)

And here’s an observation I made the other day. Boys don’t notice when a sound is too high, only when it’s too low. My eldest son recently joined the school choir and we were, naturally, invited to watch his first concert. It was really great to go and watch his lips move.

“How did you like it?” he asked me hopefully at the end.

“I liked it a lot though I would have liked it even more if I had heard you,” I replied, “your father was complaining that he couldn’t hear you at all! You sing louder than that when you sing alone at home,” I tried, wanting to offer one positive-sounding comment at least.

“Yes well, we were asked to keep it soft and melodious,” he explained.

“Well maybe that’s the problem,” I said. “Next time keep it loud…and try singing in German.”