My Google Photo memories are full of xc photos in the autumn. Grace ran starting in 6th grade and varsity starting in 8th. I have a lot of photographs and I miss watching cross-country meets. I maintain it is one of the purest of the sports. I always loved that it was also one in which you cannot buy an advantage. Unlike so many other sports, there are precious few clubs for middle and high schoolers. Being from privilege doesn’t help you at all. You lace up. And you go. All you have is your mettle, your commitment, your legs, and your heart.
It’s also a sport full of metaphors. I wrote about these metaphors over the years: how to handle the races that don’t go according to plan, the importance of who you run with and pace yourself by, managing the anxiety before a race and learning that the worst part is the minutes before the gun goes off, and the grit required to just keep going, no matter what.
And cross-country also offers my favorite parenting metaphor: you start out up close. You cheer from right beside your child as they take off. You watch closely. Then they go into the woods and you lose sight of them. And you keep cheering. You trust they’ll emerge from the woods. And you’re still there, cheering, watching, waiting.
I don’t know a better analogy for parenting a teenager, I really don’t.
Google reminded me of this photo today, and I feel nostalgic for the running days. And grateful that I was there for so many of them.