Driving to our daughter’s lacrosse game last night, my husband and I talked about the striking improvements of her varsity team, and how fun it is for her to be a starter on a winning team for her senior year.
She is living her high school dream.
Sitting in the stands surrounded by other cheering parents, we proudly watched her storm down the field expertly managing the ball. We stood, cheered and whistled as she flew toward the goal.
Then she collapsed.
“Get up!” I silently commanded.
She always gets up.
“Get up!” I muttered nervously.
The refs blew the whistle, the stadium fell eerily silent.
All our red skirted girls stopped playing and knelt. The blue skirted team followed their lead. Sports trainers rushed out to the field, and I saw her grab her knee and wince in pain. Then came the tears.
“No tears,” I prayed. Tears are not good.
As an aspiring sports medicine major, I imagined her using her newly acquired technical vocabulary to explain what happened.
I wanted to sprint down the bleachers, through the gate, and on the field, but I knew better.
Senior student athletes do not want their neurotic mothers doting over them in front of their coaches, friends, teammates, and a stadium full of spectators.
Finally, the trainers helped her stand. She put her arms around their shoulders, and with their help, she hobbled to the sideline.
I stayed planted in the bleachers wondering whether I could calmly approach her for a status report, as the trainers gently unfolded her on the bench.
My husband sat stoically beside me with no urgent need to move.
I couldn’t hush the nagging maternal voice nudging me to run to her. Finally, I coolly stood up and walked as calmly as possible down to the fence behind her.
One of the trainers came over and said he thought she tore her ACL. I knew how quickly she translated that to “I’m out for the rest of the season.”
Then I understood the tears. They were tears of disappointment, not pain.
She looked back at me, and said, “Mom, don’t worry. I think I just panicked because I heard a pop and I knew that was bad. I’m really okay.”
When we got home, I helped her out of the car, into the house, and up the stairs to her room.
I cleared a path in her bedroom, scooping up all the shoes, backpacks, t-shirts, sweatpants and half-empty water bottles along the way.
“Can I get you something to eat?” I asked, wishing I could tuck her in bed, read her a bedtime story and chat until her eyes became droopy.
“No, but can you bring up my duffel bag and cell phone.”
I walked downstairs feeling the weight of her sadness but at the same time feeling a little guilty because it felt so good to be needed.
There is a delicate kind of dance between mothers and daughters that starts the minute they’re born, and we’re always trying to keep up with the changing rhythms and foot patterns.
I metaphorically spin her out on to the dance floor, and wait as discreetly as possible on the sidelines, hoping she’ll gracefully swing back soon. The older she gets, the longer she lingers out on the dance floor without me.
When she glances my way, I listen carefully to the music, notice her rhythm and body language, and when I feel like we’re swaying in sync again, I move in closer, reach out my hand and hope for her to reach back. Then, we dance. I drink in her familiar scent and the softness of her skin. And, for a moment, she is my baby girl again, and I savor it because I know it will vanish all too soon.
Mothering is tricky business. There is no science, no handbook, and no app that tells moms when to swoop in and when to stand back. We just do the best we can moment to moment, and stand like wall flowers in the dance hall, waiting for our turn to dance with the belle of the ball, even if it comes in the form of a torn ACL, a shattered LAX season, and a bucket of tears.