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Running downhill, fast

Really, Dad? Yes, life, and kids, move at a quick pace


Another Father's Day and another school year finishing. Maybe it's parents' affliction, but we seem to mark our own age, our own progress in life, not by our own aging and development but that of our kids — and my kid is running downhill, fast.

She's wrapping up first grade, learned a ton this year, in class and at recess, where kids study their true interest: being more like older kids. For mine, it's manifested in talking like a teenager-in-waiting. A sarcastic "Really, Dad?" is at the ready any time I may do something uncool or unsmart ... so I hear it often.

We live on the side of a butte, so if we're outside and moving, we're either going uphill or downhill.

Since she was an infant, my little girl and I would go on hikes on and around the butte. Initially, I'd carry her in a baby pack, mainly to get our old lab some exercise. But as soon as she could, the little girl was toddling about with the dog and me.

And soon she was running. For any preschooler, running on uneven dirt roads/paths strewn with rocks meant head-first tumbles. Sure, I'd tell her to not run so fast, to be careful, but 4-year-olds running downhill don't listen to anything but the wind. She'd fall and cry like, well, like kids cry — with power and conviction.

Monday evening I had one of those "progress of life" days. She's now 7. We were again hiking the dirt road on the southwest side of our butte. Our old lab has been gone for 18 months and we have a new lab, now 9-months old. She's all legs and sleekness, and she flies around the sagebrush like a black bullet. The dog runs laps around us, checking in with fly-by slobber to the leg every few moments, while the girl and I walk along, holding hands.

We walk uphill to the water tower, our high spot. Then it's time to head for home — down that downhill dirt road.

My immediate thoughts are four or five hard tumbles on that stretch of high desert heaven. She thinks only of the present. She takes off sprinting, in her little T-shirt, purple skort and pink flip flops.

"C'mon!" she yells back at me, without turning around, puffs of dirt in her wake.

"No falling," I yell, as if my words could have bearing on the situation.

"I know what I'm doing," she calls back.

The dog, with all the spastic energy lab pups possess, stops her wanderings somewhere between the girl and me. The dog looks confused, starring up at me: Why are you way back there while little girl is way down there, she seems to ask.

The girl keeps sprinting down the hill in her flip-flops, calling out the dog's name, daring the pup to give chase. The dog likes her, in the way competitive sisters like each other, but at this point in each of their lives, the dog is NOT taking orders from the little girl.

I don't catch up to the kid for about a quarter mile.

"What took you so long? Why didn't you run?"

"I can't run in flip-flops."

"Really, Dad?" There it is. She thinks my flip-flops excuse is just code for lazy, and is only partly right.

We hold hands walking down the asphalt road to our house. I hope that we'll be able to take walks in the country together for years, and I fantasize that she'll soon want to get some Nikes and run those roads with me and dog. But, I'm sure any day now, tomorrow or three of four years down the road, that it will just be me and that dog out here, and my daughter will only wear Nikes if they match her shirt.

She asked what I want for Father's Day. I tell her what I really wanted was to take her to see the movie "How to Train Your Dragon 2."

"Really, Dad?" she says, in a wonderful, excited tone, one absolutely free of sarcasm.

"Really," I say back, just as the dog slips by and slaps my leg with slobber.

Tony Ahern is the publisher of the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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