During the heat of the summer, we moved our morning exercise indoors. Instead of shooting baskets or riding bikes, the kids jumped on the jogging trampoline or ran obstacle courses. Usually, I led the festivities, coming up with games and challenges for them.
One morning, however, they decided to put their own routine together. While one of them jumped on the jogging trampoline in the living room, the other sprinted through the house: living room, dining room, kitchen, and back to the trampoline. As soon as the sprinter returned, they switched places so the jumper became the runner. The second time around, the runner ran an additional loop, going two times before returning to the trampoline.
They did the whole thing ten times, ending a round where each of them ran the loop ten times. For those who don’t like math, that’s a total of 55 times around the loop for each kid.
I was impressed, to say the least, but happy to sit and watch.
This morning, however, things took a difficult turn.
“Daddy, daddy,” my oldest said, “run with me!”
His younger brother is in the hospital, so he and I were alone in the house. “How about some basketball?” I asked.
“No! This is your chance. Come on!”
My chance. No good way to turn that down. I took a deep breath. “Okay, kiddo.”
I started on the trampoline, jumping and spinning while he ran the loop. He finished really quickly, and it was my turn. The run went pretty well, and we settled into the routine.
Now that I was taking part, I understood the appeal of what they’d put together. It wasn’t the running around ridiculously sharp corners, or the bouncing into walls. The key was the communication, the momentary interactions as one of us the runner ran past the sprinter.
Sometimes there would be a wave or smile. Other times, words were shouted, words like “six” or “that’s not bouncing” or “Boo!” Once, there was even a “great run!”
In the middle of round eight, the doorbell rang. I stepped off the trampoline to go answer, and the big guy joined me. It was a neighbor, delivering a gift for my youngest. She was immediately apologetic for interrupting.
“No problem,” I panted, “just doing our morning exercise.” I waved vaguely towards the trampoline.
We chatted for a bit, and then she left.
“Okay Daddy,” my son said. “Just two more left!”
“What? But we -” I stopped myself as alarm bells sounded deep in the back of my brain. Had I really been about to wimp out on the fun just because I was a little winded? At what point had I turned into that guy?
“Let’s do eight over again,” I said. “We didn’t really finish.”
He smiled and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Yep.”