“You see, the what ifs are as boundless as the stars.”
~ Sally Gardner, 'Maggot Moon'
Queen of the castle...her castle
My younger daughter, Grace (age 7), has a hard time with transition; particularly, when it's something new. Unlike her sister, Rosie (age 9), little Grace would be more than willing to hang out with me, and only me, every single day. It's flattering, but let's face it, it's not healthy for either of us to spend that much time together. This summer, not surprisingly, Rosie went off to sleep-away camp for four weeks. Grace, being 7 and, well, being Grace, was very happy to stick close to home; skipping off to a local camp each day, but then settling back into her own bed at night. The best of both worlds, really. Tomorrow, I am headed off to Bend, OR for a few days of "grown up camp" with my Oiselle teammates. Much to her dismay, I am leaving Grace to hang out with my in-laws (bless them) while she attends a camp near their house on Cape Cod. Don't get me wrong, she adores her grandparents. But, the one-two punch of both going to camp solo along with mom and dad leaving her by herself for a week was almost too much for her to handle. Almost. As I tucked her in on Sunday night, the tears started to flow. I did my best to comfort her, but there wasn't much I could say to make the situation more digestible. She was scared, and she had every right to be. And, as hard as it was for me to see her in this state, I knew this would be good for her. She threw out every possible "worst case scenario" and I tried to throw back a realistic, but suppotive response to each one:
Grace: What if I don't know anyone on the bus?
Mom: You might not, Grace. But, that's okay. You'll know the counselors and they'll help you.
Grace: What if I don't know anyone in my group?
Mom: You'll make new friends.
Grace: What if there are no girls in my group?
Mom: Grace, come on. There are always girls at camp.
Grace: What if I don't know where to go?
Mom: Grace, no one is going to let you get lost. You will have plenty of help. I promise.
Grace: What if I can't do it, Mom?
Mom: It might be a little scary, Grace. But you can do it. You need to try and be brave here. It's hard, but I know you have it in you.
Grace: I don't know.
Mom: I do.
I laid with Grace until she fell asleep and then went to bed with my fingers and toes crossed. What I didn't tell her but thought about as I laid there is how many times I've struggled with my own "what ifs". As a kid, as a grown up, as a mom, as a runner, as a coach, as a wife, as a friend; I have faced and still face them daily and do what I can with what I have to take them on.
Somehow I managed to get through these:
What if I don't get into a good college?
What if I can't find a job?
What if I don't like what I'm doing?
And I'm still working on these:
What if I'm not making the right decisions as a parent?
What if I'm not able to help my high school runners improve?
What if I crash and burn during my next race?
Turns out, we are who we are because of the "what ifs". The strength we conjure up to tackle them builds our character and enables us to do what we do and do it well. And, if it doesn't work on the first shot, to try it again until we get it right. It's not easy to explain this to a 7 year old. But, I'm guessing she's going to feel it in her own way. And the strength that she gains from facing that first "what if" will undoubtedly help her take on the next one. And the next. And the next. Go get 'em, Grace.
Listen to this:
Walk This Way - Mø (Lido Remix)