The older my teenager gets, the more convinced I am that she is not my daughter. Case in point: She runs cross-country. I run errands, and on some occasions, my mouth. I am in no way interested in running or jogging, nor have I ever been. I am an athlete, don't get me wrong. Or at least I used to be. But I always engaged in a fun sport. Softball, football, tennis, bowling. That kind of thing. Running along the road in the hot sun, feet pounding on the unforgiving concrete, wishing instead that I was inside my air-conditioned house sitting on the couch watching "Oprah," is not my idea of a good time.
But it's how my teenager likes to spend her free time. She's on her high school's cross-country team and it's paid off nicely for her, too. She is in the best shape of her life, physically. And after a grueling meet this week, I can proudly say that she is in fine mental condition, too.
It was 102 degrees that day, and surely, I thought, they would cancel the meet. I mean, it's just cruel to make young kids run 3.5 miles in blistering temps like that . . . isn't it?? Shouldn't we be taking them out for ice cream, instead? I'm a whimp, it turns out, because the meet started right on time, as scheduled, and no other parents except me seemed fazed by it.
After the first mile, my teenager looked in good form. By mile No. 2, I was getting worried. Her face was very red and she was dripping in sweat. And I have to say, that if this is what she called recreation, it did not look like she was having much fun at all. On her last lap, she limped by me with tears in her eyes. My mothering instincts wanted to rescue her, to pull her out of the race and go get a double-scoop of Rocky Road. But then, those same instincts told me that something important was happening here.
Character was being built.
My tough little bunny fought off her genetic impulse to stop running and she finished the race. Afterward, she cried her eyes out and confided in me that she thought about quitting a zillion times during the race, that she even hatched an elaborate scheme as she was running to fall down and fake an injury, that's how miserable she was. And she was even seeing black spots at one point. But she pushed on.
She berated herself for finishing in the back of the pack, but I kept telling her, "Honey, what's important is that you finished! You didn't give up!"
Not only do I love my teenager to the moon and back. But after witnessing the strength of her character that day and her determination not to fail, I have the utmost respect and admiration for her.
Happy, happy trails to her.