Friday, July 25, 2014

Running, hiking and raising young people who can think for themselves

After a few days in Breckenridge last week, it was back to our regular lives in Colorado Springs. The kids have less than one month left of their summer vacation, so we are trying to make the most of our time off.

I don't know if it was spending a couple of days living and breathing at 10,000 feet or if I am starting to really recover from chemotherapy, but I felt energetic the first few days of the week I started my running week with a 17 mile run on the Santa Fe trail. This is the farthest I have run since before I had surgery in November. It seems like a lot of hardcore trail runners around Colorado Springs like to make fun of the Santa Fe trail. They say it is not a "real trail". While it most certainly is true that it is more like a dirt road than a trail, the Santa Fe allowed me to continue running through chemotherapy. The soft surface was very forgiving when I developed wide spread pain. Also, my breathing was so labored that If I had tried to run hills through chemo, I would have been reduced to walking a whole lot more. While I love walking and hiking, I did not want to be a walker. I wanted to be a runner. The rail trail allowed me to continue to be a runner through treatment.

So, I set out to run whatever I had time for on Monday, and that ended up being 17 miles. I actually felt good and really ran the entire distance, which pleased me greatly. My legs felt good and I felt like turnover is improving. Getting out for a good steady state longer run just makes me feel good. I love to run long no matter if it is in the hills or a straight out and back. It is the experience of getting out and working hard over that extended period of time that makes me feel alive, strong and healthy.

On Tuesday, I went on a hike with my daughters. We did Section 16. I have run Section 16 more times than I can count, but it was fun to bring my kids out and see the beauty through their eyes. They seem to enjoy hiking and I hope we can enjoy many more ventures in the woods together in years to come.

The blue Colorado sky never gets old!

Tuesday night, Steve and I went down to Jack Quinn's and ran the 5K together. On Wednesday and Thursday I ran at the Garden of the Gods. I ran an 8 mile loop with Tracey on Wednesday and was still feeling pretty good. There was minimal walking involved and Tracey, who wore her garmin, said we were running faster than we had been previously at the Garden. By Wednesday afternoon, I was starting to feel my energy level dropping off. My run at the Garden with Debby on Thursday was as fun and therapeutic as always, but my legs were feeling like lead and my breathing felt too labored.

My husband and I set off for Cheyenne Canon early Friday morning. Our goal for the day was to go as far as we could knowing that I had to come home by late morning to take one of the girls to a doctor's appointment. We parked at Stratton Open Space and then ran up the road to the Columbine Trail. We had done this same run two weeks ago, covering 15 miles. This time around, it was much warmer and I was carrying 100 oz of water. The climbing on the Columbine trail is never easy because I am very slow to warm up, but this week it felt much more difficult than it had two weeks ago. Considering how much I have bumped up the difficulty of my runs over the past couple of weeks, I am not entirely surprised that I was working harder. My ability to climb seemed to improve as the morning went on and we ended up finishing 17 hilly miles. The good news is that the downhill felt much less punishing than it did two weeks ago. That is progress and I will happily accept it.

This was a good week of running. I am happy with the increase in mileage and the fact that I have been able to start adding hills and harder efforts back into the mix. My goal is to continue to push the envelope enough so that my fitness improves but not so much that I get injured. I would be devastated to have run all through chemotherapy and then derail my comeback by doing something idiotic and getting hurt.

In non-running news, my time and conversations with my kids have got me thinking a whole lot about my parenting style. Maybe it is because I had zero experience taking care of younger kids prior to have my own, but I have developed my own somewhat unorthodox parenting style. I believe in talking to kids about everything and repeating those conversations often. I believe in bringing humor to even the worst of circumstances. My kids often comment that they bet none of their friends have the dinner conversations that we have. Even though this may or may not be a compliment, I am proud of the fact that we enjoy some rather "unique" conversations.

I have always thought of my children (and all children) as inherently intelligent beings who need to be guided rather than directed. It always makes me sad when people make comments about teenagers "being stupid", as if that is the automatic default setting for teenagers. I believe teenagers will do foolish things, of course, because they are biologically wired to take risks and chances as they grow towards independence. This does not mean that they are "stupid", or that they are incapable of making smart, informed and intelligent decisions. Young people do need guidance, and they need people to encourage them to think about things much greater than themselves, and that their actions have consequences on both themselves and others.

I do not believe that it is possible to control another human being. I am not interested in controlling anyone, including my children. Parents often think they have control over their children, but dealing with a colicky baby or one full on temper tantrum from a three year old should convince us otherwise. We have control over how we respond to their behavior, but we do not have control over their thought processes or over what they ultimately choose to do. I communicate my own expectations to my daughters and try to help them navigate their lives as they grow up. If we set up the expectation that our kids will behave intelligently, then hopefully they will rise to the occasion. This does not mean that they will not make mistakes along the way. Of course, kids need to know what their parents' expectations are, but I never assume that just because I establish a rule that it will automatically be followed. I remember having a conversation with Riley when she was in 8th grade where I told her that SHE would choose how much freedom she had growing up. If she was making wise choices, there would be few restrictions on what she was allowed to do. If she made poor decisions, then she would spend her adolescence at home reflecting upon her choices. So far I have had to set few limitations upon my 16 year year old because she has set the bar of expectations high for herself.

Maybe I have just been lucky so far. My kids are not grown yet and I know things can change in an instant (plus Peyton is only 11 so she could really give me a run for my money). I would like to think that allowing them to have a voice, to make independent decisions, and to have viewpoints that may differ from my own encourages them to really think about who it is that they want to become and what is truly important to them. I want my kids to develop their own opinions and determine their own value system. I do not want them to become little mirror images of myself. While my daughters definitely know what my beliefs, values and standards are, they also know that I expect them to develop their own as they move from childhood to adulthood. Debate and discussion are a healthy way to encourage and challenge all of us to think more deeply, and I try to encourage respectful critical thinking in our home. I love the young people with whom I share my life and I thoroughly enjoy the times we spend talking and exchanging ideas. Hearing their opinions and seeing them grow up into their own is my favorite part of being a parent. 

Obviously, having cancer has brought forth a lot of soul searching and reflecting upon what kind of parent I have been over the years. November 18th changed all of our lives instantly. We will live with a sense of uncertainty about the future for a while. I hope that the knowledge, guidance and lessons I have tried to provide to my children will stay with them no matter what happens in the future. My wish is that they will remember the respect we gave one another, even when we did not agree. I hope that they will always remember how I encouraged them to show respect for themselves and for others. I hope they always remember that I love them for who they are and that their opinions truly mattered to me. I want them to remember that they have to answer to themselves at the end of the day. They will know in their own hearts whether they did the right thing, and that is what matters most. I hope that they remember my telling them to go out in the world and be good human beings. We cannot fix the big problems of the world on our own, but if they each do their small part, the world will be a better place. They are already well on their way towards making that happen.

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