I only went and bloody cried after Tills ran her 20th Huddersfield Junior Parkrun, this morning. Me? A melodramatic mother? A sycophantic, sentimental fool? Yep… but I couldn’t help it. I saw an almost exact replica of myself from over three decades ago. It’s like looking in a mirror at my younger self.
She’s just like me: She’s exactly like I was. She worries about not being ‘good enough’ or ‘fast enough’, or even – just – ‘enough’. She’s only five years old for God’s sake, but she feels the same anxiety and fear of somehow falling short that gripped me, and wouldn’t let me go.
I can tell she’s apprehensive about the run first thing in the morning, when she says to me with a genuine look of concern on her face,
‘But what if I can’t run two laps today, Mummy?’
I think back to my own, insecure childhood self, and I remember how I felt. I say to her,
‘Don’t worry about that, Tills. All that you ever need to do is to try. Just being brave enough to try is more than good enough.’ Her slightly furrowed brow relaxes a little, but she isn’t fully convinced.
She stands on the start line holding my hand, surrounded by the other kids, Lycra Mums and Competitive Dads. She goes quiet.
Then we’re off.
We’re still holding hands and she runs. Her little pink trainers launch her forwards, and her face looks focused on the task in hand: two laps of the park – 2km in total. We approach the first hill, and I can hear her breathing heavily.
‘I’m thirsty, Mummy. My throat is dry,’ she gasps. I glance down to her – I’m trying to read the signs: she looks like she might cry. I pull out a water bottle from my overly-stuffed ruck sack, and she stops for a second to take a sip. I say to her,
‘It’s OK, Tills. Just go again in your own time, and slow it down a bit if you need to.’
She starts running again, her legs like mini pistons firing their way around the park. She’s concentrating hard. She settles down and finds her five-year-old rhythm again. And then she says, partly to me – but mostly to herself,
‘I can do this, Mummy. I can do this.’ And my heart soars with pride.
‘Yes, Tills. You CAN do this, sweetheart, you really CAN do this.’
I’m still holding her hand. Her legs are still pistoning forwards, her face is still focused, and her heavy breathing tells me she is working as hard as her little body will let her.
‘Nearly there, Tills! It’s the last corner now – last time seeing Hi-Five Man. Keep going, you’re almost there!’
She gives Hi-Five Man the last generous slap on his palm, and then she lets go of my hand. Both her arms are pumping now as she reaches the finish line.
We cross the line, and I’m overcome with an entire chemistry set of emotions. She doesn’t understand what she’s just demonstrated about herself and her own little character. I know only too well. She’s just proven to herself that she really CAN tackle her fears: she really CAN do two laps; she really IS brave enough to stand on the start line; she really IS fast enough, and she really IS… enough.
She doesn’t know why I’m so emotional.
‘Stop crying, Mum!’ she says, like an embarassed teenager.
‘I’m sorry, Tills. I can’t help it! I’m just so proud of you today.’
We get back to the car.
‘So, did you enjoy Parkrun today then, Tills? You did ACE!’ I try to stop myself from sounding overly sycophantic.
‘Yeah. I loved it!’ she says, pushing windswept hair out of her eyes, her pink cheeks glowing, ‘and I got a PB too!’
I remember when I was her age, and how my own self-absorbed anxiety felt. I thank God she’s already learning how to tackle it.
You see, there’s more to this running lark than would meet the eye…
So thank you, Parkrun, for helping my daughter to see that she is, complete with her own mini human imperfections… enough.