Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Growing and Changing and Utterly Fantastic

Juliana came home on the first day of school with a big yellow post-it note stuck to the top of the usual stack of papers that accompany the initial day back after summer break. It read: "SIGN UP FOR CROSS COUNTRY!"

At first I wasn't sure if it was some kind of joke. I mean, she pretty much spent the entire summer bed, on her bed playing Nintendo DS games, or talking about how she couldn't wait to go back to bed again. She participated in Girls on the Run a couple of years ago when I coached a team, but she never really expressed a lot of excitement for it. And I was totally fine with it. The last thing I want to be is the kind of mom who pushes my kids to do things they don't really want to do just because it's something I'm good at myself. But there it was scrawled in front of me plain as day. I guess I was signing her up for cross country. Let's go.

After the first couple of practices of her bursting in the door, face sweaty, big smile on her face and shouting "I FEEL AWESOME!" I finally asked her what made her change her mind about running. She replied something like this, "Well... I wanted to join a sport so I could be healthy and also... I need courage."

Basically she chose the thing she was scared of because she wanted to conquer it.

When I told Jason I was so proud of her for taking this approach and that I was relieved that it had nothing to do with the fact that I run a bajillion miles every week he said, "Of course it has nothing to do with you. She has her own world." Which sounds kind of jerky at first but really: IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT ME.

Whoa. My kid has her own motivation and fears and goals that don't have anything to do with me at all.

This may sound strange but one of the things I'm constantly surprised by with parenting is how my children continue to evolve as their own personalities. I mean, when you have a baby or a toddler so much of them is wrapped up in what you do and how you interact with them. They are completley dependent on you and emulate you all day long. Gradually over time these same little people that learned everything they know about the word by watching your every step start to formulate their own ideas about things and although in reality it's a slow process there are times when it feels completely sudden like you're being punched in the face. I find myself thinking things like:

What do you mean you came up with that opinion all on your own?

When did you become such a snarky/smart/astute observer of the world?


How did you become so awesome?

Taking it back to cross country. Juli is not a fast runner. At each meet so far she has been finishing somewhere a little after the middle of the pack. What is though is committed. And each time she crosses a finish line she does so with a little skip in her step and a WOO HOO! She runs with one of her best friends and they both complete the race with big smiles on their faces. It's fantastic.

Last week I was volunteering at a meet, directing the kids on the course at about the halfway point. I saw Juliana's usual running buddy come up the hill by herself and I was confused by the fact that they had separated. I wondered if Juli was feeling ok or if she had hurt herself. After a few minutes though I see her coming up the hill with another girl I didn't know who looked like she was struggling a bit. Jules was talking to her and saying "Almost there! You can do it!" as I snapped their photo:

Immediately after this, the cross country coach came up to me and gushed, "I'm so proud of Juliana. She's usually farther up in the pack but she stayed back to help T_____ so she wouldn't be alone."

I nodded my head and tried to form words in response.

I don't remember a time or place where I specifically taught her to do something like this but here she was being completely thoughtful and supportive and incredible for no reason other than she thought it was the right thing to do. The fact that things like this come out of my own kid- I don't even have the words to describe it.  When everyone had finished she went up to every member of her team to congratulate them, and give them a high five or a hug. There was a boy who was upset that he had missed a medal and she said, "So what? You did amazing! I got 127th place and I feel great!"

How did she become so awesome?


  1. That's awesome. What a great kid.

  2. I will say from experience, more often than not it is worth it to hang back and help someone else. It's selfless and wonderful and bonding and makes running worth it for me. There are so many other important things out there beside goals and PRs and "me, me, me." Way to go, Mini Gessner.

  3. Winning a race is a cool thing, but being the kind of person who finds her happiness in outcomes like that will set her up for a lifetime of awesome. Congratulations!

  4. I am surprised by so many things my kids do lately, my jaw is permanently on the floor.

  5. Um, she became so awesome in (large) part because she has two awesome parents as examples. You might not have "taught" her these things, but you model them in everyday life. They are really great kids. :-)