Yesterday Lucia said she wanted to go running. She and I go running a few times a month, usually when she instigates it. It was a leisurely Sunday and we ran down to Seward Park, her young, lithe, little body next to my older, clunkier one.
As we ran, we chatted. It was nice. There's something about talking while running that feels easier, freer. "Mom," Lucia said, "I want to run more regularly so I can be the top scorer on the Beep test at school." The Beep test is a test in gym that measures stamina and speed. "I'm already one of the top scorers for girls, but I want to beat the boys," Lucia chattered on as she galloped along next to me.
Had we not been running, I might have taken this opportunity to make some kind of a lesson out of this statement. You don't need to compete. You're perfect just the way you are. It's not about winning. But I didn't. I thought to myself, "Why not?" Why not try to beat the boys? If this ten-year-old child wants to train her body to run faster and longer, who am I to tame that dream?
Later on the way to meet some friends at a pumpkin patch, I asked Lucia what she thought she'd do when she grew up. As usual, her immediate reply was, "I don't know." I pushed a little bit, "If you had to say one thing, right now, no choice, what would it be? No right, no wrong...." She thought and thought and thought. "A soccer player," she said.
Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I think about how often I want to jump into Lucia's brain and direct her, to steer her in a direction I wish I had been steered in my own childhood.
When Lucia said she wanted to be a soccer player, I had to glue my tongue to the roof of my mouth to hold in the words in my brain "I thought you wanted to be a surgeon?!" Being a parent is a constant exercise in letting go of expectations and making room for surprises. Last month Lucia did want to be a surgeon, and this month, right now, in this moment in time, she wants to be a soccer player. And she wants to kick ass on the Beep Test.
We do it with our children and we do it with ourselves- impose limits, expectations, think in terms of decades instead of days or hours. I am grateful for the little jog on the lake with Lucia, a moment in time that reminds me to appreciate the moments and live in the present.