I enjoy challenging myself and striving for my personal best. But there is no podium, no PR, no finish line that compares with the feeling of joyful pride that sometimes overcomes me as a parent.
My daughter took to the start line of her very first cyclocross race today. She was amazing. I can only imagine where my skills would be today if I had started at 12 years old. Her race was terrific, but not her biggest accomplishment of the day. Her biggest victory was making it to the starting line.
She’s a natural athlete. She’s confident in her abilities. I’ve held my breath more than a few times when she’s practiced a new dive or sailed away on her windsurfer. But like her mom, she wrestles with anxiety and race anxiety that can make participation feel unpleasant and sometimes impossible.
We brought her to the course the day before the race, so she could pre-ride it and get familiar with the course and the terrain. She did great. She was all smiles as long as we were moving, She loves cycling. But when we stopped moving, her head filled with questions about how many racers there would be, how many people would be there, and what if she couldn’t do it – what if, what if, what if. So we agreed to play it by ear and decide on race day.
I was warming up for my race when she plunked onto the folding chair in front of me – eyes to the ground. She was in full churn. It’s so hard to see her struggle with this. She wanted to do it. She was scared. She couldn’t even name everything she was scared of. I knew in my heart that she could do this and how happy she’d be. And I also knew that “telling her” wouldn’t lessen her fears. This was her struggle. I just kept her close and listened until she settled herself, again. When I hopped back onto the trainer to finish my warm up, I realized that I was feeling anxious, too. I whispered to her. She smiled slightly.
When I finished my race, the cub juniors were assembling for their start. There she was. Quiet, pensive, and mustering all of her 12 year old bravery. She rolled up to the line on the outside where her dad and I kept her company. “Your race, your pace. Your day, your way.” were my last words before they took off down the gravel start.
Each time she came back into view and was still doing okay, we felt relief and exhilaration! She looked great; all the kids did. Once she crossed that start line her forward motion never stopped. Like it is for many of us, starting was the hardest, scariest part of the thing. And she started. Finishing wasn’t her ultimate challenge today, starting was. And she did it! She beat out all her doubts and did what she so wanted to do.
I cheered her across the finish line and listened to the race announcer call her name. Then I bound across the parking lot and like Tigger, I bounced right onto her and scooped her into my arms. I was so proud of her! She did it! She quieted her fears enough to start. The physical feat of racing her bike around the grassy course was nothing in comparison. She did it!
I know how hard this is.
Many of us do.
And she did it!
Thank you to Katie Busick for capturing Hannah’s face at the start line and to Kristin Brandt for capturing the moments.