We arrived at Yarraville Gardens and I helped my son out of his plastic seat, popped him on the ground to stand, and held the back of his t-shirt as he struggled to pull away. His head was pushed forward with his eyes on the horizon. I could see steam come out of his nose as he scraped the ground with his Volley. He was ready to run.
My kid was born ready. The birth was so quick, he popped out and said, ‘Yo dudes. If you can just give me one hour to sort this entering-the-world shit out, I will be ready to go. What have you got planned?’
I said, ‘rest.’
He stuck his middle finger up at me and blew a raspberry.
So here I am, 17 months later, gripping my son’s tee as he revs up for his run like a bull to a red flag. My two-speed kid, who naps and runs and is too time-poor to fit in any activity outside these two categories, has the energy of an Olympian. I mean, this kid wore out his pre-walkers before he could walk.
My time with my son is spent at the pool, climbing park equipment, at the beach (because the ‘sandpit’ there is more interesting), at the oval, at the farm, on the swings (he pushes me), on the bike/trike/supertrike/motorbike, or just running alongside the dog chasing after his tail.
I don’t think I have ever been this fit in my life. It’s extraordinary how much of my local suburb I know now off by heart. I have got to know this little town, albeit at a toddler’s pace, like the back of my hand.
Yesterday it took 45 minutes to walk the five minutes it normally takes to walk from home to the village. The only reason was that there were so many holes along the way –my son LOVES holes – otherwise, I reckon the kid could run to the village in three minutes without a puff: the fence holes, the holes in the ground, the holes in the dirt, the letterbox holes and the hole in the end of his sneaker. These are all great obsessions that can distract an athlete in training.
We now ride the bike a lot. So, when we got to the oval, my son knew exactly what he was there for: Baby, he was born to run.
I counted down from three and let go of his t-shirt and he shot off like a bullet. He ran so far I had to run after him. Then he saw me running and ran the other way, even further. And he kept running and I got a stitch. I stopped to catch a breath and he turned around, and then ran even further – as far as the cricket cages – then stopped.
I waved to him and started jogging over to him. Then I realised what he was about to do. It was so obvious and I wasn’t fast enough to stop him.
He squeezed between the two locked cricket cage gates and ran into the cage. I caught up to the gates and there was no way I was going to squeeze through unless I had a pair of wire cutters handy. I put my arm through the gap and tried to reach him. He ran further towards the back of the cage. I called out his name and he repeated it, thinking that was hilarious.
A dog walker stopped by and asked if I needed help. We shook keys together, got the dog to wag its tail, sang ‘Old Macdonald’ and other nostalgic tunes to encourage interaction and he just played in the corner laughing at us.
A jogger came by to see what the fuss was about. He had one of those lanyard things and he shook that about and did a funny dance in his bike shorts (which was quite creepy). Alfie turned his back and played with the fake grass in the corner.
Two more dog walkers with four dogs, a female jogger (who instantly caught the attention of the male jogger) a couple of teenagers and a small soccer team joined the cricket gate posse. There was singing, dancing, shaking of numerous items, calling out, clapping… you name it, we all did it.
Then Alfie started getting upset. Who were all these people? He started stressing and came towards me at the gate wanting to escape the cage, but not knowing how. The joggers had become engrossed in their own (hot) conversation and were leaving the scene, soccer practice had started, so the mini players went off to play, and the teenagers went to be cool somewhere else, leaving just the dog walkers and me and my scared little son.
Then Alfie saw it: his favourite thing in the world, a hole. He squeezed between the gates and ran towards the dog who was digging with its bum facing towards my son. I grabbed Alfie just in time, before he stuck his finger in unknown territory.
We said thank you to the dog walkers and waved goodbye to our new park pals and got back on the bicycle. We were both tired and didn’t say much on the ride home.
Riding through the village, we saw the two joggers having a wine together, their knees touching while they had a little giggle. Alfie and I high-fived each other, I winked at the couple and we peddled home.