Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Fine Line Between Running and Speed-Walking

This week, my family is taking a road trip across the country. Yesterday we spent the day in the National Museum of the Air Force. As I walked through the museum doors, it occurred to me that because I have only boys, my vacations are now spent visiting tourist attractions that appeal to the testosterone-pumped half of the population: military fortresses, aircraft carriers, warships, battlefields, and sports arenas. I must admit I don't quite share the same enthusiasm for these sites as the rest of my family, but I do my best to keep up.

The boys were bubbling with excitement as they walked into the first hangar filled with military planes from WWII. The greeter collecting admission tickets took one look at our family and froze. An expression of panic crossed her face as she counted the number of boys ready to burst ahead into the museum. 

"Please make sure your children do not run, climb on the displays, or touch the aircraft," she scolded us preemptively. She reminded me of a strict librarian, except that this was not a sanctuary for quiet readers but an airplane hangar displaying bombers and fighter jets. I wasn't sure why such severity was necessary, but I nodded politely and tightened my grip on my 3-year old, who was already trying desperately to wriggle free and dash toward a Warhawk.  

"Did you hear that?" I gathered my boys, warning them sternly. "I trust you not to cross the ropes and climb on the planes. So we have one rule today: no running in the museum, okay?" 

Well, you can guess how difficult it was for the boys not to run in an enormous hangar filled with all manner of military aircraft. Every few minutes, I had to remind the boys to slow down.  

"I'm not running," my 3-year old informed me, rather proud of himself. "I'm speed-walking." He headed toward an attack helicopter, shuffling his feet as fast as he could while keeping his arms straight and pinned to his hips. 

"You said no running," my oldest son added, following his brother's brisk pace, "which means we can trot. And jog. And skip." 

"Skipping is for girls," my 6-year old interjected. 

"You know what I meant by no running," I replied. Sometimes I can't help but feel proud of the boys when they make semantic distinctions on their own. The lawyer in me thinks they are already practicing the basics of statutory interpretation. The parent in me, however, knows I have to do the grownup thing and enforce the rule.

Just as I was about to launch into a lecture about keeping the letter of the law versus obeying the spirit of the law, I spotted my husband. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him sprinting toward a stealth bomber in the next hangar. 

"You've got to see this one!" he exclaimed. "Come on, boys!" 

And with that, the chain of command changed and the boys took off, running at full speed toward their dad. 

I was left standing, holding the baby in my arms.  Not yet a year old, my youngest was content to stay behind with me for now.  I looked into his gentle eyes and smiled.  I know it's only a matter of time before he takes his first steps, and then he too will run, or maybe speed-walk, ahead to wherever his boyish interests lead him.

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