Come with me back to a high school track meet. It happened two weeks ago. I sat in the stands watching my teenage daughter and hundreds of other high-schoolers, all vying for their own personal records, hoping to beat out all the other competitors. Unlike the athletes, I, however, had a completely opposing mantra for myself. “Let it go, Alice.” “Let it go.” The Sunday before, my track-star daughter, my husband, and I had a heart-to-heart. Come to find out, I have always put undue pressure on the poor girl in all areas of her life, but especially when it comes to sports and grades. Yeah, I’m not proud. What can I say? She’s my firstborn? That doesn’t really cut it. You’ll be relieved to know that I am working on it. I have specific goals, one of which is not being result-obsessed.
So, my daughter had just run her 100m. Unlike her past track experiences, she’s not typically in the Top 3 this year. She’s running at the middle of the pack. Thus the mantra. “Let it go, Alice.” I was pep-talking myself, “This is about your daughter, not about you. Abigail is having fun. Abigail is getting exercise. Just because you want her to be in first place, it doesn’t mean that is where she needs to be. Be happy. Love your girl. Let it go.”
Then an amazing thing happened.
It was the boy’s mile. The mile takes forever. As my thoughts were repeating in circles, I haphazardly watched the male athletes going round and around. I watched while I wrestled with my only baby boy and started imagining his future. I wondered to myself if I could master being a better mother by the time he takes to the track. I hoped I would never put too much pressure on him, too. I questioned whether or not he will even be an athlete and silently wished I will be able to embrace whatever it is he decides to love, even if he only loves it with mediocrity.
The race was over….or so I thought. My mind moved on. Then, right in front of me, I saw some super energetic young man rally his whole school to their feet. He hooted, hollered, jumped, cajoled, begged, and demanded full participation. I silently hoped, “Oh, I don’t wish that for Max. Please let him be an athlete, instead of a cheerleader.” Stay with me. My mind was abruptly changed.
It so happened that there was one runner left. He was way behind the pack. He belonged to this crazy make-shift athlete turned cheerleader’s school. This runner was a runt. He was slow. He was in last place. Yet. Yet, as he slowly made his way to the finish line in front of the crowd, his school was cheering for him like he was an Olympic gold medalist. All because of the efforts of his crazy encouraging teammate (that he hadn’t even seen rally the crowd) his stride quickened. His chin lifted up in pride. There was a wide smile on his face. The finish of this race is one he will never forget. Neither will I.
I hid my face in shame for being such a proud person. And because I was bawling my eyes out. I whispered to Max, “You don’t have to be an athlete, but please be a make-shift cheerleader wherever you go.”
Then I ran over to tell Abigail that she did awesome in that 100m.
The following Sunday, while I was driving to church, this song came on the radio. It took me hours to find it but it was worth every search effort.
It’s not about how fast we get there, it’s about who’s waiting for us in the end.