I believe in role models.  As the oldest of four girls, the notion of role-modeling has been emblazoned on me since I was, well – since forever.  I’ve tried to live up to the expectations that were put out there and, along the way, I cultivated expectations of my own.  I am certain my sisters would tell you that I was bossy, demanding and unreasonable – at times, I’m sure I was.  But I also know that I made certain choices because I had six eyes watching me, and from time to time, I tried to do the “right” thing by them.

I followed the rules (most of the time).

I tried to live honestly and to express gratitude (I still do).

I made the best decisions I could and always put forth my best effort (which didn’t always make me popular or get me far but it felt good).

Now, I am not only one of the sisters, I am raising sisters.  Hence, I am working on how to effectively teach, model and create ways to impress upon my girls how to treat one another, their friends, and themselves.  It can be a bit daunting in this fast-paced age of gadgetry and instantaneous gratification.

Enter: Girls on the Run, a three-month program that uses running and phenomenal curriculum to impart life lessons on girls between the 3rd and 5th grades.

At present, I only have one daughter old enough for the program, but, two daughters in the wings.  My thoughts?

1) Runner mama that I am LOVES the idea.  My daughter trains to run a 5K?  Are you kidding?  She wants to run because she is with their friends?  Sign us up NOW.  Any opportunity that allows my daughter an opportunity to think about life and to reflect on her influence on others can only benefit our family.  And, the real appeal is that I don’t have to be the nag – someone else – the coach – gets to do that.

2) Teacher mama (you may remember – that “job” I had a lifetime ago?) LOVES the idea.  A curriculum?  An opportunity to discuss and evaluate “real” life issues with your peers?  An environment that promotes self-development and self-awareness is hard to come by, so again I say, sign us up NOW.  Oh, and,  there’s a curriculum that incorporates training for a 5K you say?  Well then. . . can I coach?

It could have been a recipe for disaster.

Yet, it wasn’t.

I felt so lucky to walk into practice each week with these young girls who wanted to be there.  They wanted to do their best.  They wanted to talk, share and understand things.  They wanted to befriend one another.  They wanted to run. They wanted to learn something more so that they could be something better.  

They were shy.  They were boisterous.  They were loving.  They were determined. They were hungry.  They were scared. They were individuals and elementary cliques that overcame their differences and became a team.

They talked.  They questioned.  They disagreed.  They cheered.  They hugged.  They sang. They laughed.

My oldest daughter was busy running.  I was busy coaching.  And most of the time my two youngest daughters weren’t there for practice.  But, from time to time, they were.  And they watched.  I was focused on the team.  I never noticed that each one of these girls was being watched by four little eyes so near and dear to me.

So, at the season’s end I shouldn’t have been surprised when my little ones wanted to be at the race.  I shouldn’t have been surprised by their desire to sign t-shirts and warm-up with the team.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that they wanted to run. Without me.

I should have recognized that the team had set an example for them.  In many ways, the girls on the team had become a sibling extension of sorts.

Everything I want my daughters to be for one another is exactly what the team had become:

They were supportive and encouraging.  They recognized one another’s differences and they pushed them aside to find their similarities.  They were honest with one another.  They were gracious and kind.  They applauded one another’s accomplishments and encouraged one another to do more.  They discovered that it can be rewarding to run alone; but still waited for one another at the finish line. They fell down and picked each other up.  They inspired.

And two wannabes, not yet old enough to be on the team but old enough to know, watched them and aspired to be like them.  Two little wannabes ran harder than I knew they could, harder than they knew they could.  They ran because voices were cheering them on, calling their names, encouraging them.  They ran because a group of peers had shown them that anything was possible.  They ran because 16 girls had modeled for them kindness, acceptance and belief in oneself.

All of our daughters should be so fortunate as to find and train with Girls on the Run Our daughters are role models and we need to provide them opportunities to not only achieve their full potential but to impact our society in a healthy, positive manner.

The wannabes?  They ran because their sister ran.

The mother in me wonders: was it because of her, for her, a longing to be with her?

The sister in me knows: it doesn’t matter.  They tested their limits.  They triumphed in their own way.  Because of or in spite of?  Who cares.

They aren’t wannabes.

They just are.

Photo by Stephanie Foehl

Girls on the Run® is a 501(c)3 positive youth development program with branches in major cities across the United States. Girls on the Run seeks to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls.  Click here to learn more about this program and how it can impact the life of a girl you love.


3 Responses to “wannabes”

  1. YAY! So cool to know that you’re involved with Girls on the Run. I first heard about the group a long time ago when my friend was involved in it. I’m a novice runner (can I still use that adjective after six years of running?) and I love what a mentally (and physically) positive experience it is. I have two little boys and can’t wait to run with them when they’re older.

  2. Sue – I’m so glad that you had the same type of experience. Thanks so much for your tutorial.

  3. Hear, hear! My Twin A and I ran our GOTR race on Saturday. Unforgettable.

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