For a year and a half, I worked out in the room attached to our playroom. There is a sliding glass door that leads into a mostly glass room which looks out into the backyard. This also means anyone who is in the playroom can see me peddling away on the Peloton.
Over the last year that everyone has been home, there are days my husband would say, “take a ride,” and if you need exercise as I do, many times I took him up on that offer. As I would be peddling frantically, I would wave at my son as he passed by. But it was as if he looked through me, never seeing me there on the bike. It became “normal” for me to expect no reaction. It made sense. He isn’t like a typical four-year-old, after all.
My son has a rare genetic deletion called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. In his case, he may almost be five, but he functions cognitively at around one year. And even then, we struggle with the added diagnosis of Autism, so not seeing through the glass isn’t confusing to me.
But not today. Today was different. I finished my ride, taking off my shoes, walking to the door, and stop to hear my son squealing with joy. My brain registers that it must be the sight of someone else, anyone else, but then it happened, we made eye contact. He was looking directly at me. He was excited because he knew I was coming back in! My son saw me.
This might seem like something so small, but I got in that room all hot and sweaty and grabbed him for a huge hug, my heart swelling with love and my eyes filling with happy tears, saying, “He saw me through the glass, how huge,” to my husband, who was in the room with our son.
When I started on my quest to become stronger for my children after my son was born, I had no idea what that truly meant. I knew it meant pushups, a LOT of pushups. I knew it meant pushing myself to workout on the days I would rather lay around in my pajamas with the kids rolling around on the floor. I knew it meant waking up early or staying up late, missing watching a show I wanted to watch, or a phone call I should be having with a friend. But I was wrong.
Being strong isn’t just about the outside. It’s so much more. It is about being kind to others just as much as it is about being kind to yourself. I often find it’s harder to be kind to myself than it is a perfect stranger.
The reality is, I have good times where I am on that bike every time I think about it, and there are others it’s a struggle. Then before I know it, one day turns to two, turns to a week of broken promises that, “I will get on that bike today!” And you know what I learned? It takes strength at times, a lot more, to forgive myself for not fitting in a workout in my day.
Now, I get how this all sounds. But the reality is my son requires a lot of physical strength. Something that doesn’t come naturally to me. So it’s not just peddling in place, and it’s not just pushups or squats, but that stuff helps. Feeling strong on the outside can, at times, keep me stronger on the inside, and vice versa.
Am I the picture of perfect health? Absolutely not. Am I the perfect picture of fitness? That’s a no there as well. But did my son see me through the glass? Yes, he did. Did he know that I was peddling as hard as I could so I could be strong enough to lift him on my hip, pull him in and out of a car, bend to help him keep steady on his feet, and all the other physical things that come with caring for him daily? No, not at all. But he saw me, and for the first time, it felt like he was cheering me on, even though that was not the case at all.
So the next time you are doing something for the hundredth, maybe thousandth time, and you are saying to yourself, “Is this even worth it?” Consider that maybe it is. Muster that strength. Because I never imagined my son would see me through the glass. And although he might not to do it again and it may seem so simple, it truly is the simple things in life that can bring the biggest joys. And today, my son saw me through the glass and I won’t forget that feeling.