My daughter’s face perfectly encapsulates my day, my motherhood, my career. Straining to run through the burning sun of a late summer day, pushing the limits of what she’s run before, and wishing for a closer finish line.
Disgruntlement at a too-hard, too-narrow concrete runway, making it nearly impossible, impassable.
Fear that her time will be worse than before, that the heat will beat her, that the world will beat her.
A sliver of hope for that final push, that final lap, that is just around the corner yet feels like twenty thousand steps too far.
In the background, teens cheer. “You got this!” “Just one more mile!” “Keep it up!”
Parents chase the runners, crossing the park’s midsection while they wrap their legs around its exterior shaded walkways. Parents trying to get the next best vantage point to capture that pic, that glimpse of angst that is in every athlete’s face.
Coaches stand on the sidelines, their own cheers tight with passion, with expectation and longing. “Lift your legs!” “Raise up those arms!” “Just like at practice!”
Her expression, their words, the globally-warmed, never-ending sun, beat down on the tumble of meetings that began and ended my day. The constant admonishments from my administration. The constantly shifting expectations and placement of people in power at my school district. The constant lack of a curriculum for the students who need it most and don’t have the right words, the right expression, to beg for that finish line. The constant task of preparing three hours of sometimes-failing lesson plans I must place in front of my Newcomers.
The rush–my god, the rush. Three weeks back, adding item number one thousand and seventy-three to our Google family calendar, Bruce rearranging his ever-strict hours to be able to make this meet, the shuffle of only-two cars, three girls in three activities with varying times, my after-work meeting, my cycle down the bike path, my fifteen-minute window to cross a park three times to gather this glimpse, my Torchy’s Tacos stop, bike locked and unlocked, bathroom locked and unlocked but only with a code, taco bag ripped on the rush up the elevator, only to find a buffet of snacks waiting in the final meeting room. My race to beat the moon home because it would never be light enough, our car in the shop for nearly six weeks, and I don’t even have time to fix the chain on my bike, let alone buy a decent headlamp.
All of this is in my daughter’s face. All the angst, the cheers, the backtalk, the doubts.
And just like her, I am racing to the finish line. It is never close enough, but both of us, somehow, have made it today. We have made one more race, one more step, towards what we hope will be better on the other side.