7 year old: “Score is 4-4, first one to 5”
Me: “Oh thank God”
7 year old: “Actually, you need to win by two points”
Me: “What?! You can’t change the rules now”
7 year old: “First to 10!”
Me: “No, please! Make it stop, I can’t take anymore”
7 year old: “OK OK, winner is the first to score three more goals”
Me: “Do own goals count?”
I had my first kid at 28, that was pretty early for my peer group. My wife and I had been together for 7 years by that stage and we absolutely felt excited about this next adventure together.
I was personally happy to be starting the parenting thing fairly young. I looked forward to being a hands on Dad. Young, fit and versatile, ready to roll around on the floor for hours or chase a football (preferably oval shaped!) around the garden all afternoon. Family bike rides and hikes would be the staple of our weekends and I’d never be the Dad who needed a rest or to go easy on his knees.
When my wife got pregnant in 2012 I was in a fairly decent place with regards to fitness. Olympic fever helped me get those extra miles in. I knew that soon I’d be facing sleepless nights and the constant presence of a 20lb weight on one hip or the other. I had to prepare myself as best as possible.
When my son arrived, the sleepless nights followed suit and the motivation to get an evening run in diminished.
Lunchtimes at work were more likely to be spent sleeping in my car than lifting weights in the gym.
But that phase passed. He slept through, eventually! Routines returned to normal and, while the appeal of an evening run never returned, the afternoon gym sessions did.
I planked, my son sat on my back.
I bicep curled, he held onto my arms.
I carried him on my shoulders and rolled around on the floor with him.
I happily chased around the local soft play without constantly looking at the clock.
My knees didn’t hurt, I was 30. Life as a young fit father was going well.
Then number two arrived. It was 2016.
I didn’t have capacity for build up this time. Soon there wasn’t space in the evenings for anything other than lifting two kids in and out of the bathtub.
Shared Parental Leave didn’t help at all! Now I was solely responsible for both kids and the household admin. My dreams of plonking them in a crèche at the local gym immediately turned to laughable fantasy. I was too spent in the evenings to do the dishes let alone do some squats.
I was only off for 3 months but I have absolutely piled on some “baby weight”. I have drifted dangerously into the outer limits of Dad Bod territory.
At 28 carrying 20lb on my shoulders for an hour a night was no problem!
At 33 playing 1 hour of one-on-one park football with a friend’s 7 year old is the toughest fitness challenge I’ve put myself through!
At the time I most require my lung capacity and muscle tone is the time I’m way too busy parenting to work on them?
What sort of cruel evolutionary irony is this?!
I mean I suppose if I hadn’t maintained some fitness at the beginning I might not have attracted a mate and not had this issue.
However that seems like the typically male evolutionary response. Work hard, Show off, attract mate, procreate, give up on all motivation for anything!
I read a Reddit question recently asking “If exercise is so good for us, why do we not feel motivated before we commit to doing it”
The top response cited Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner as an analogy:
“You ever wonder what Wile E. Coyote would do the day after he catches Road Runner?
He has spent decades, his whole existence, building elaborate traps and now the reason for doing it is gone. You think he might build traps (or design them) for old times sake?
That is you. We won the evolution game. For our whole existence food was scarce, physical exertion was common and burned precious calories (and was to be avoided wherever possible). Our evolutionary success came from using our brains to figure out how to be lazy and build a pipeline to a river instead of carrying buckets of water back and forth all day.
And now, we have caught and eaten the road runner. We can eat anything we want whenever we want. We can spend days laying on the couch watching TV. We are masters of our world…
And so we do… But it turns out it isn’t good for us.
Turn out we weren’t supposed to win, we were supposed to always keep struggling for the unattainable.”
I can’t be the only one who views his fitness like a constant struggle for the unattainable? In my case the attainable isn’t abs of steel (although that seems like a pipedream too), its being able to give my children 100% between 6am and 6pm and then still have capacity for anything other than a cold beer afterwards!
Truly we parents are Wile E Coyote and our children the Roadrunner.
Not only are we never going to catch them but we are destined for a lifetime of being outsmarted by them!
I guess I can sleep easy knowing we aren’t supposed to win. (Ha…sleep?? Pah!)