Of all the things that amaze me about parenting, nothing is quite so awe-inspiring as watching your child do something you had no idea they were capable of doing. Watching my daughter run fills me with admiration and undeserved pride — I did nothing to make her so fast and so willing to just keep going, and yet my heart fills up so proud and huge I can hardly contain it. How did this tiny little girl get so strong, so determined, and so self-assured? It comes from her, all of it. Especially the speed.
In her new school, all the kids run cross-country every week as part of P.E. She’s been coming home and reporting her times, and she’s done really well and improved just about every week. In October they had a school cross-country meet and she came in 10th out of about 100 girls in her grade and the grade above.
She’s done so well at school that she was invited to run with the school team in the district meet last week. She didn’t tell Matt and I at first, because she actually didn’t want to run in the meet. She doesn’t even really like running. She’s just good at it. When she finally did tell us, we insisted, obviously, that she run. She knew we would. Reluctantly, she emailed the teacher back and said she could participate in the meet.
“I’m so mad at you for making me do this,” she told me.
“I know,” I said.
Despite her opposition to the whole thing, she ran really, really well and came in 10th again, qualifying to move up to the next level and run in the county meet next month. Her face at the finish line when they handed her the paper saying she’d made it to the next round was a comical mixture of pride and distress. She really would not have been sad if she hadn’t made the cut-off, but she couldn’t help feeling proud that she had.
Now that she has made it, even though she sort of dreads actually doing it, she wants to do well. She’s little, but she’s strong. She’s willing to push herself even when it’s uncomfortable. She feels terrible during the actual event, she says — she doesn’t know how to breathe properly and her legs get so tired — but she pushes through the pain. She may not love the actual running, but she does like the winning.
Matt and I talked about whether we’re doing the right thing by basically forcing her to run in the meets. She may end up resenting that we make her keep going. Maybe it will backfire and she won’t want to run at all anymore. I hope not.
Instead we’re hoping that by making her do something she doesn’t really want to do but she is good at, she’ll learn some important lessons.
She’s getting better every time, proving to herself that hard work pays off. She’s figuring out a lot about her own strength and ability. She’s representing her school at something she’s good at, and having her talents reflect back on a place she really loves. She’s learning that she CAN do hard things, even when she doesn’t want to.
As always with this parenting gig, it’s a bit of a guessing game. We’re doing what we think is best, and hoping that in the end she’ll appreciate it. And we’re standing on the sidelines cheering loudly as she runs by.