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Running with toddlers: Tantrums Get Results

I’ve discovered a new joy. Running with toddlers. 

My nephew Caleb has just turned two years old. He’s an adorable little terror. Here’s a delightful primer: He’s happy and bouncy and loves tummy tickles and watching funny cat videos whilst sitting on my knee.

He has also discovered, like so many other toddlers, that Tantrums Get Results. Deny him something he craves and he’ll instantly wail his head off, bawl, screech, tears and snot will stream down his face, he’ll stamp and rage and wail. 

But the instant he attains that something? It’s like a light switch. The  aforementioned behaviour will disappear in an instant. He’ll be all smiles once more, beaming through his tears and snot like a jolly slimy rainbow. Clean him up and you’d never know he’d not been eternally cherubic.

Twenty seconds later, he’ll tire of whatever it was, abandon it, latch onto the next shiny-shiny-thing, then begin the snot-cycle anew. Repeat forever. Wherever he ventures, he leaves a striped, alternating trail of snot and delight.

So when his mum, Jenni, suggested I might like to take Caleb out on one of my daily runs, I was more than just a little perturbed. She quickly explained that I wouldn’t be piggybacking him or anything, or that he’d be piggybacking me, but rather, he’d go in his pushchair and I’d push that.

What the hell, I thought, it’d be an adventure, why not. Apparently he loves nearby walks. A few hazards though. I’d written in about how loads of the nearby streets don’t actually have pavements: apparently the locals wish to preserve the “rural character” of their neighbourhoods. Makes being a pedestrian a tad tricky. It could be worse: the roads do in fact have verges, mostly of gravel, whereas I learned the hard way that loads of smaller California towns don’t even have verges. There might be seven millimetres between the road asphalt proper and cliffs or forest or other walker-hostile voids. I spent a night in a speck called Gualala, and my morning run involved rattling around inside it like an atom inside a smaller atom.

Same here? Maybe. Tables are turned somewhat by the State of California ruling that whenever a car hits a pedestrian, legally, it’s always the driver’s fault. It’s rare but not unheard of for inner-city San Francisco residents to throw themselves in front of cars for a nice juicy payout, and therefore local cars seem to give me a wider berth than in New Zealand, with the exception of humongous window-tinted pickup trucks. They just roar past everyone without deviating, which non-douchebag locals assure me is due to their drivers being complete douchebag.

Even just running on my own, therefore, seems a venture throbbing with excitement and danger. Running whilst pushing a two-year-old? Sheer folly.

But Caleb’s mum Jenni assured me things honestly weren’t that bad. Sure, the occasion asshole may blight an otherwise beautiful experience, but for the most part it’s rad, man. So one morning Caleb and I braved the window-tinted douchebags and the payday-seeking doomsday pedestrians and popped out the door.

It was indeed rad! The thing about most pushchairs is that, unlike prams, they face forwards, which honestly seems fair enough: if I were a baby I’d desire a view of my forward journey and not my handler’s ugly mug. But it means I can’t keep tabs on Caleb’s mood. If he’s in a seriously crap mood he’ll see to it you’ll never have eardrums again, but it’d be nice to apply a lighter touch than that. Every few minutes I’d stop and pull over and peer into his face.

“You want to go home?” I’d ask. “Or onward?”

“Dah! Dah!” he’d exclaim, nodding furiously. “Dah!”

“You’ll need to be a teensy bit more specific than ‘dah’, young man,” I’d chide him. “Back home?”

Head-shake and frown and silence.

“Forward, then?”

“Dah!” He’d damn near break his own neck trying to nod. “Dah! Dah!”

Onwards confirmed. It’s a seriously beautiful bit of the Bay Area, this Redwood City place. Aptly named: colossal redwoods tower everywhere. You seriously need the shade, for summer temperatures get Venus-level hot. Road tar melts. Lead melts. Soviet space probes crash-land hourly. It makes light dapple the roads amid delightfully cool shade. Caleb loved it.

Every five minutes or so I’d stop again and receive a hectic flurry of “Dah! Dah! Dah!”s for my troubles. Turns out Caleb is a total speed freak. I didn’t quite get him up to Back to the Future speeds and/or time-jump to 1955, but that can’t have been far off.

Few douchebags; few payday pedestrians; little snot; few Results-Tantrums; things went well! After continuing another 30-40 minutes, I returned Caleb to his home, leaving twin trails of sweat and “Dah! Dah! Dah!”s. Then it took me another ten minutes to actually pry him from the pushchair’s embrace, for it possesses the most convoluted and octopussy seat belt system I’d ever encountered (as in like an octopus, not the Bond movie), but that’s another story.