3 cheers for the freshman who could

I realized something I hadn't noticed when I had cheered myself hoarse.

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"I can come to your meet," I cheerfully inform my daughter as she shoves her running shoes in her bag. "You don't have to ...."

"No, it all worked out," I say. "The weather's great. My meeting was cancelled."

"Well, you don't have to bother," she mumbles at her knee brace.

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I turn, sensing a pattern here. "Don't you want me to come?"

I don't wear my goofy sweat pants outside the house. I don't tell embarrassing stories about her. And I remember that there is to be absolutely no physical contact between us in public. Why can't I come?

My crushed expression makes my daughter reconsider. "OK, you can come." I feel my smile returning. "Just don't cheer."

Why can't I cheer?

"It makes me nervous," she explains, sensing my unanswered question.

"Cheering?"

"You cheering. Come, but just don't yell." She walks out the door leaving me to consider this new revelation.

"OK, no cheering," I promise.

Don't cheer? I've been cheering for 14 years - from first steps to kindergarten graduation to dance recitals to science fairs to middle school track meets. I am her biggest fan.

I arrive at the meet already self-conscious. The teams take off down the track to shouts of encouragement from everyone - except me. As the kids disappear into the woods for the "country" part of the run, I feel the questioning eyes of the other parents on me.

One of the moms strolls over. She's come to get the story: laryngitis, vow of silence, mother-daughter argument?

"She won't let me," I confess. "It makes her nervous."

She shrugs her shoulders. "Teenagers - they're all weird."

Staring at the empty track, I reflect on my daughter's first try at sports. She joined the team to make a few friends before starting high school. After all, how hard could running be?

So, when most of her friends were enjoying their last few opportunities to sleep late, my daughter was at practice. Six miles a day, six days a week. How hard could running be? Hard!

As the runners began to hit the finish line, I worried. My daughter usually finishes last, or close to it. What if all her teammates leave? What if nobody cheers? Or if they boo? I begin debating: Would it be worse to break my promise or have her cross the finish line to silence?

Then, suddenly, she chugs into view - the little freshman who could. And in my silence I realize something I hadn't noticed at all the meets where I cheered myself hoarse. I heard cheers of fans who could never run three miles. Cheers of teammates who had lived through all the time trials, downpours, and setbacks with her. Cheers of coaches who had her pegged as a dropout and were happy to be proven wrong.

I may be my daughter's biggest fan, but I am not her only one.

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