Dear reader, several days a week I walk with Caroline to school and on those mornings we go early to participate in an exercise program sponsored by the PE department. It consists of running around a field and keeping track of one's laps, ostensibly to collect an award at the end of the year.
It's fun, it's invigorating, it's a great moment to share with my daughter. Although lately, and don't ask me how, it's also gotten competitive.
It all started when we ran past this one kid and accidentally startled him. "Oh, sorry, dear!," I said. Ten seconds later, he streaked past us with the retort, "Uh no, I think I'm the one who's sorry."
Seriously, it was all I could do to laugh like a harmless suburban mom and let him go unscathed.
And then I got sick of this other kid who kept passing us with a crazy burst of speed and stopping just twenty feet ahead. What is that? Some kind of challenge? An insult? What?
And then a sweet little boy from our old neighborhood started taunting me. And now it has escalated to the point where I'll be out on the field, trying to be all zen and maternal, and someone will exclaim: Mrs. Tollipop is here! Hey, Mrs. Tollipop! I bet you can't beat me!
For the most part I try to ignore it. For the most part I try to be all forty-something with an exaggerated good nature, taking the high road, smiling like a benign, mature adult.
But let me tell you this: sometimes you can round forty-something down to a very small number. Sometimes it's the low road that needs a bushwhacking. Sometimes the situation calls for maturity, sometimes that is too bad. Sometimes your daughter needs you to run with her, and sometimes she needs to see her mother rain down the apocalypse on the playground.
And when that moment comes, I am telling you: those boys have better laced their shoes on tight.
Because I am going full throttle. I am laying it all out. The soundtrack to Chariots of Fire envelops me like a cocoon and my lungs prepare themselves for spontaneous combustion. The PE teacher is only a speck on the horizon but I can tell he is dropping his clipboard, watching in horror, and the kids along the sidelines are cheering like Roman centurions, hungry for blood.
Let the record reflect: today was a proud day for suburban moms everywhere. Today might have messed with the psyche of more than a few tender aged schoolboys.
Is it poor form for an adult to beat a child in competition? I am inclined to think so. But they don't call it the thrill of victory for nothing, dear reader. Still, there's thrills and then there's cheap thrills, and running faster than a pack of nine-year-olds probably isn't the classiest accomplishment of my career.
I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel good. But I also feel bad that it felt good.
Let the record reflect: Regardless of my personal misgivings, regardless of how this moment may fare in the annals of history, for Caroline there is no question. It was a clear and conclusive, banner day.
p.s. With reference to the title of this post: yes, I did cut my hair the other day during a ten minute window between music lessons wherein I dashed into the house, caught sight of myself in the mirror and said, "I can't take this one second longer!"
And my entire family has been repairing the damage ever since.
I am not generally known for being dramatic, but in one rash moment I can eclipse years' worth of antics dealt by even the most highstrung among us.