This morning the two older boys and I went for a run. They wanted to bring their “fast shoes,” so they could run fast – hard to debate the logic here – along with their scooters, so they could scoot faster, and they would find it handy to have the stroller-with-kickboard trailing behind in the event they got winded.
I was happy to oblige, because there is no occasion on which I feel more virtuous, more commendable as a citizen of this fine planet, than when I am running with my kids. People look at me and smile broadly, as if I were rescuing a puppy in the path of an oncoming ice cream truck, and sometimes nod approvingly as I narrate the ride for my princely little trouble makers. I am, after all, doing no fewer than three virtuous things, by my count:
1) I am spending quality time with my kids,
2) I am giving my wife some time off,
3) and I am enduring quite visible discomfort in order to get exercise.
It’s like a symphony of virtue. Meanwhile, as I lope along furiously (I am not a terribly accomplished runner), my recumbent little offspring, who likes “wind in his hair,” is invariably saying, “Faster, Daddy, pass that guy, why aren’t you going faster?” The answer apparent to all but the little oligarch in the stroller, is that I am not going faster because I am pushing 50 pounds of boy and stroller. This is yet another benefit of running with kids: It diminishes the shame of being passed by women twice my age and half my height.
All of the warm gazes, like a sea of pivoting sunflowers, are foreign to me. It reminds me of the kind of looks my wife used to get when she was pregnant for the first time, parading around like a vessel of the future of humanity. Men, before having children, do not generally experience these kind of gazes. We are generally part of the problem. When passing female pedestrians, I have learned to cross the street so as not to scare them. State troopers have always given me tickets, not warnings.
This is one of the great benefits of becoming a dad, now that I think of it. It renders you a conspicuous good guy. Though the jogging-with-kid-in-stroller moment may be the apotheosis of my experience of perceived fatherly virtue, I generally feel like an honorable, tax paying citizen most of the time these days. Like I am the guy the police are paid to protect, rather than the one presumed to have a busted tail light or worse. I do, in fact, help people get high things off the shelves in grocery stores, but I have always done that. What’s new is that I now, apparently, look like that guy. It’s disorienting, but I think I will get used to it.