“You can’t run like that,” says Mum at once.
“Yes I can.”
“No you can’t. Don’t you have any athletic shorts?”
Frank’s look of disdain is so terrible, I give a snort.
“What’s wrong with athletic shorts?” says Mum defensively. “That’s the trouble with you young people. You’re closed-minded. You’re prejudiced.”
You young people. Three words which signal that a Mumrant is coming. I look at her from the sitting room doorway and sure enough, the other signs are building. Her eyes are full of thoughts…she clearly has things to say…she’s breathing fast…
“You know, Frank, you only get one body!” She turns on him. “You have to treasure it! You have to take care of it! And what worries me is you seem to have no idea about health, no idea about fitness—all you want to eat is junk…”
“We’ll have robotic body-part replacements by the time we’re your age,” says Frank, unmoved. “So.”
“Do you know how many people your age have diabetes?” Mum continues. “Do you know how many teens these days are obese? And don’t even get me started on heart problems.”
“OK, I won’t get you started on heart problems,” says Frank mildly, which seems to enrage her.
“And you know what it is? It’s all the fault of these evil screens. Some children your age can’t even get up off the couch!”
“How many?” retorts Frank.
“What?” Mum looks at him, puzzled.
“How many children my age can’t even get up off the couch? Because that sounds like BS to me. Did you read it in the Daily Mail?”
Mum glares at him. “A significant number.”
“Like, three. Because they broke their leg.”
I can’t help giggling, and Mum shoots me a glare too.
“You can mock me all you like,” she says to Frank. “But I take my responsibility as a parent seriously. I will not let you become a couch potato. I will not let your arteries harden. I will not let you become a statistic. So come on. We’re running. We’ll start with a warm-up. Follow me.”
She starts marching, pumping her arms at the same time. I recognize the moves from her Davina exercise DVD. After a moment Frank joins in, waving his arms around and rolling his eyes comically. I have to ball a fist into my mouth to stop laughing.
“Engage your core,” Mum says to Frank. “You should do Pilates. Have you heard of an exercise called ‘the plank’?”
“Give me a break,” mutters Frank.
As they’re bending over to stretch their hamstrings, Felix comes bouncing into the hall.
“Yoga!” he shouts in his joyous way. “I can do yoga. I can do yoga VERY FAST.”
He lies on his back and kicks his legs in the air.
“Brilliant yoga,” I tell him. “That’s very fast yoga.”
“And STRONG yoga.” Felix looks at me seriously. “I am the strongest yoga.”
“You are the strongest yoga,” I agree.
“All right.” Mum lifts her head. “So, Frank, we’ll take it easy today, just a nice little run…”
“What about press-ups?” Frank interrupts. “Shouldn’t we do some press-ups before we leave?”
“Press-ups?” Mum’s face falls for an instant.
I’ve seen Mum doing press-ups along with Davina’s DVD. It’s not a pretty sight. She curses and sweats and gives up after about five. “Well…yes.” She regains her composure. “Good idea, Frank. We could do a couple of press-ups.”
“How about thirty?”
“Thirty?” Mum looks ashen.
“I’ll start,” says Frank, and drops to the floor. Before I know it, he’s pumping his arms, lowering his face to the ground, and rising up rhythmically. He’s really good. I mean, really good.
Mum is staring at him as though he’s turned into an elephant.
“Aren’t you going to join in?” says Frank, barely pausing.
“Right,” says Mum, getting onto her hands and knees. She does a couple of press-ups, then stops.
“Can’t you keep up?” says Frank, panting. “Twenty-three…twenty-four…”
Mum does a few more press-ups, then stops, puffing. She’s really not enjoying this.
“Frank, where did you learn to do those?” she says as Frank finishes. She sounds almost cross, like he’s fooled her.
“School,” he says succinctly. “PE.” He sits back on his knees and gives her a malicious little smile. “I can run too. I’m in the cross-country team.”