Sitting on the sidelines, I have long been jealous of my husband. He coached our son in baseball and football, sports into which they both poured their high school energies. Our 16-year-old daughter is now in training for preseason soccer and I am finally sharing a sport – running – with my child. Since she will be off to college in two years, and we will have an empty nest, I am savoring these mother-daughter moments.
Several times a week we drive to our high school track. After a little jogging and stretching, we sip from water bottles, our warm up now complete. I fumble with the earphones on my iPod while she races off, motivated by twin goals of a sub-seven minute mile and a spot on the varsity team. Waddling down the track, I admire my daughter’s athleticism and discipline. I can’t imagine what superhero capabilities the teenagers who compete at the Olympics are born with and perfect through their years of hard training.
The track is built around a football field and at times I can watch her running across from me, 100 yards of green space separating us. I follow her as she rounds a curve and disappears from my line of sight. She sometimes gives me a half wave as she speeds by. After she passes, I notice the rhythmic way her braided pony tail fans her back.
I go with her not only to get some exercise myself but also to act as guardian since it’s summertime and the track is usually deserted. While I never feared for my six-foot tall son when he worked out alone, I am reluctant to send her off, solo. Truth be told, I am a little reluctant to send her off at all. She is the baby of the family and when she leaves for college, my husband and I will remain at home in a house that will be so very quiet.
For now, I am in training with her as a runner. That is the official reason for our trips to the high school. My secret, unofficial reason is that I am training myself to accept how very grown up she is. We share the track and occasionally run alongside each other but I am neither pushing nor pulling her as I might have when she was a little girl, shy about joining the town soccer program. We are running our own, very independent, yet connected races. The training is good.