img_2073

She’s tall now, you know? My oldest daughter. She’s stretching up physically, and out mentally and emotionally. She’s taking in the world and making her own conclusions. Growing up is an indescribable process. She’s so beautiful.

It was a cold morning and we stood on the football field with a thousand other runners, getting ready to run a 5k I had most definitely not been training for. Beside me, my daughter Lucy was having a friend spray-paint her hair with pink and purple hairspray.

They gathered our group for a photo. The girls all showed their muscles and shouted, “Girl power!” Actually, we all shouted it. One of the moms looked at me sympathetically and smiled.

“Is that strange for you to say?” she asked, laughing, clearly expecting me to say yes.

“Not at all,” I said, smiling. “I have three, strong girls.”

* * * * *

We followed the crowd around and got into our starting group. We waited. We counted down from ten to one, and the entire crowd shifted as the run began, the way a caterpillar pulls itself together and then lays flat. We had to walk for a minute or two until the crowd thinned. And then we ran.

We talked about running and her upcoming birthday and how her year is going. But mostly for those 34 minutes we ran beside each other without saying a word, just one step in front of the other, up hills and down, around bends, passing people and being passed. This is life, I think, the many wordless moments, the being together.

But there’s something from this run I won’t soon forget, and that’s why I wanted to write this. We came to an especially long hill and began the upward trek. I knew Lucy wanted to complete the race without walking – it was kind of her unofficial goal. But a hill is a hill, and sometimes our goals fall apart when they encounter these present, difficult realities.

“You’re doing awesome,” I said to Lu as we slowly jogged up the hill. And this is what I won’t soon forget. She turned and looked at me, and she said five simple words.

“You’re doing awesome, too, Dad.”

How can five tiny words almost undo you on a Saturday morning in the cold, the sun climbing over the hills? How can five tiny words shoot into the sky and cover your entire life, like the glow of firework? Because that’s how I felt. I felt like she wasn’t just talking about the hill – she was talking about me as a Dad. She was talking about me at my very best, and even me at my sometimes-shouting worst. She was talking about me when I am too demanding and me when I am just what she needs me to be.

I know she didn’t mean it to be so all-encompassing, those five little words. but that’s how I heard it.

“You’re doing awesome, too, Dad.”