I ran my first 5K run on Saturday. I ran as a running buddy to my eight-year-old daughter, Ava; her first race also. For the past 12 weeks, Ava and her classmates prepared for this event through a program called Girls On The Run (GOTR). If you’re not familiar, GOTR is a national, non-profit program designed to ”encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development” in these young women through running. Noble goals, well executed.
Saturday’s 5K run was the culmination of the girls’ many months of training; the big finish of this esteem-building program. And big it was: thousands of young girls and their running buddies gathered at the lakefront in Chicago for our city’s race. Every girl ran with a buddy; moms, dads, nannies, teachers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters and more all weathered the sweltering heat and showed their support, love and encouragement for these courageous, dedicated young women. What an amazing group of people. So much energy. So much joy, spirit and power in one football-field-sized spot. And damn it was hot.
I’d like to tell you what a fabulous time I had, running, laughing and celebrating this accomplishment with my daughter. I’d like to tell you how much I enjoyed running, skipping and sashaying the course, my heart filled with emotions. I’d like to tell you I felt all the warm, wonderful feelings I anticipated feeling upon completing this long-awaited event with my beloved child. Unfortunately, I found out too late that I had expectations of which I wasn’t even aware. Expectations that derailed my joy, at least for a few hours. Damn those expectations. (And damn my need to make everything about me!)
I’d been awaiting this moment for the past several years, ever since I first heard about the Girls On the Run program. I was pumped and ready; eager to meet Ava’s needs and be the best running buddy ever! We would laugh! We would cheer! We would bond!
Moments before the race began, Ava decided she really wanted to run the race with her good friend, N. I felt a twinge of disappointment, but reminded myself this day was about Ava and eagerly agreed to her plan.
As we ran, Ava and N. skipped hand-in-hand; N.’s mom and I matching their pace. My twinges increased.
Ava and N. giggled and poured cups of water on each other’s heads at the rest stops; N.’s mom and I watching with beaming smiles on our faces. More twinges.
Ava and N. supported each other, encouraged each other and cheered each other on. My twinges became full-blown contractions.
The reality of my changing role in my daughter’s life hit me head on and took my breath away (of course, my breathing situation could have been due to my lack of physical fitness, but that doesn’t make as good of a story!).
My daughter is growing up. Many of the things I’ve wished for her, hoped for her, tried to model for her, she’s finding and enjoying. She has her own friends, desires, plans and expectations. My primary job is to support her and celebrate her, every step of the way. And she gets to set at least some of the terms of our connection. It’s humbling to realize everything doesn’t revolve around my needs: for connection, for bonding, for affirmation that I’m important in her life. Thankfully, Ava doesn’t try to take care of my feelings or take responsibility for my needs.
Of course, she still needs me desperately. And she’s building her own life. One in which I will have varying moments of being the center and more and more moments of being on the sidelines cheering her on. More lessons for me. This time in letting go. Does anyone know of a national, non-profit program for that?
I’m participating in Pour Your Heart Out with Things I Can’t Say!