I sat on the side of the field, crocheting and doing the mommy-scan, making sure I had occasional eyes on Hannah and Julia up on the playground while still keeping tabs on Lucy during her PE class. Eighteen or so little people ran up and down the field, chasing a soccer ball and each other. Lucy was right in the thick of it, and she seemed to be doing fine. That is, until I saw her face and realized that she was crying hysterically.
I froze mid-stitch, unsure of what to do. Do I swoop in and rescue her? Is she hurt? Do I let her figure this out on her own? And seriously, what could possibly be THAT BAD about running around playing bunch ball? Why the hysterics? I have a horror of being "that" mom; you know, the helicopter mom who won't let her kid fall down or fail at anything. And yet, I didn't want to just let her cry - it's her first time doing anything like this, and I wanted it to be a positive, fun experience for her, not something she discusses with her therapist as an adult. And so it went, this wild oscillation of thoughts and feelings as I watched my five-year-old with tears running down her face. I brought her a water bottle and knelt there on the field, patting her back and lamely encouraging her to keep trying. It was the best I could think up on short notice. I truly have no idea what I'm doing.
This is brand-new, uncharted territory for me, and let me tell you, it was rather uncomfortable to be the mom of the emotional shipwreck in a sea of seemingly well-adjusted kiddos. I could feel eyes on me like gnats, and I tried to ignore them and focus on the little girl in front of me.
I found out later (when the storm had subsided) that Lucy was crying because running was so hard for her. She was hot and winded, and she didn't like that sensation, hence the tears. Andrew and I talked about it that evening, and decided to start making more of a point of playing with the girls after dinner each evening, just running around, kicking the ball, being active, having fun. No pressure, just fun.
I try to run in the mornings before Andrew leaves for work, but that's for my own sanity, not in order to be a shining example to my children. The girls don't see me run (no one would see me run if I had my druthers), although when I get back they are sometimes plastered to the front window like those little suction cup cats, just waiting for me. The soccer incident made me realize that I need to involve the girls in the physical part of my life. Lucy needs to see me exerting myself. She needs to see that it's okay to get sweaty, to use her body. She needs to see that it's fun to run around - I want her to know that I don't run in the morning so that I will be thin (thankfully, she doesn't even know what that means yet), or strong, or even fit. I do it because I enjoy it. She needs to see me out of breath and laughing. I don't even care if she plays soccer past this month's class, but ten years from now, I want her to love using her body. Ten years from now, I want her to be right next to me, out of breath and laughing.