Like any other boy, I’d imagined powerlifting was a cheap, plain-vanilla sport in which a bulky, burly man used his massive bulk to snatch a bag full of bricks and toss it over a fence.
A few evenings ago, I found myself in a gym having a competition with a girl. This was news to me. Or rather, the other reason I wasn’t shocked to find out that the girl had turned into a muscular man was that I’d been doing just this thing for more than a decade — and I was a mom.
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The fact that the novelty had worn off is something I didn’t realize before my son was born, even as I hid the heaviest objects I could while he slept. And honestly, I never felt threatened by him. Now that he’s 1, I find myself hearing my son murmur to me when he hears wrestling or martial arts or some other competitive sport.
“Does it feel good to throw the ball?” he asks — actually, a lot of the time. “And this?”
That is when he makes a fist and tightens it. “What?” I said.
“The muscle-bound guy,” he said with a nod. “He didn’t do much.”
Yep, I admit it. The challenge was to introduce a toddler to athletics. Strap him onto a swing for 2 1/2 hours while I shot for a deadlift to set a personal record? I’m not sure I could do that.
Which is why I came back next weekend, ready to draw him in with a sport that was true to itself. On the wall, I’d hung a poster of a “strong” woman standing near a lift bar, clenching two heavy weights over her head.
I hoisted the top weight over my head — about 190 pounds — with about two dozen hands to get it balanced on the bar. He put his hands on my back and shook my shoulders in triumph. He pulled with gusto for a few seconds. Then he smiled and said, “You!” with a smirk.
OK, so the powerlifter stereotype is false. Those guys have their backs — and legs and shoulders and arms. And yet even the big biceps and hunched shoulders of the cream of the powerlifting crop aren’t enough to get my kid to play soccer.