When I had my daughter, I remember asking myself, “how will I do this?”  I had already had two boys, and I was happy to be adding some estrogen to the house.  She arrived amid much medical drama, but she was so calm.  I can’t remember how her cry sounded.  She just sat. Not docile, not shy, just observant.

She didn’t say much or babble or make noise just to hear herself. She just sat and watched us from behind her pacifier.  Her eyes were intense, cheeks inflated, body way past plump, and her hair, sparse.

Read also: When My Black Girl Wants to Wear Her Hair "Down"

I saw having a girl as ballet lessons, Sunday dresses, and doing hair – for real this time – not just the corn rows that I did for my boys, but real styles with beads and bows and super straight parts.  She didn’t give me much to work with as far as hair goes, but I soon realized that it wasn’t what was on her head that I should be concerned about, but what was going on inside of it.

She took her sweet time doing physical things like rolling over, crawling, and walking.  The pediatrician asked me if she was rolling over. I told her I didn’t know.  She looked at me like I was insane.  It was a look that wouldn’t leave her face when she asked me what my li’l bit did when I put her down on the floor. I told her flatly, “I don’t do that. Nobody does.”

I don’t remember her creeping on her belly or crawling, but even before she mastered locomotion, she had plenty to say. She was clear, concise, and meant every word she said. She loved purses, fancy dresses, and fancy shoes, and frilly socks, and I carefully laid out her outfits nightly. One day she toddled into the room, holding on to the wall to help her balance, waited for everyone to realize she was there, and announced, “I’m Faaableeeush.” She paused to give us a moment to agree. We did. 

“I tell them that the most important aspect is to be yourself and have confidence in yourself.” ~ Wilma Rudolph

I didn’t want her to run track. I wanted her to do what her physique said that she would be good at. I wanted her to use the gifts that I thought God gave her, and I would encourage those.  God gave her so many gifts that I didn’t think about connecting to sports.  She is a fighter, determined, and focused. She’s never been to steady on her feet, but she reminds me of Wilma Rudolph, one of my favorite runners of all time.

She never shied away from anything. At three she got a fortune in a cookie that said, “practice makes perfect.” She still has it. She believes it.  Her dad and I are former athletes, so we could just look at her and see anything but a basketball player, soccer player, tennis player, or runner.  She would be a dancer or a rhythmic gymnast. She was soft and flexible, and if there was a definition of “running like a girl,” she was it.

Read also: Back to School Shopping with my li'l bit

She’s 10 now and has decided to run track.  She says it is “strictly social” but she jogs around the house to practice (presumably to make perfect) and is always pleased with herself when she sees that she’s gotten a little bit faster on the track. 

“The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” ~ Wilma Rudolph

When it was time to sign her up for track, I was nervous. For the first time, I was all for participation medals. What if she came in last? What if she fell? How would she feel? What would I tell her? Would it be my fault for telling her she could do it?

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose.” ~ Wilma Rudolph 

We packed away the ballet and jazz shoes, and I took her out to buy running shoes and spikes.  Her dad is usually in charge of all the sports shopping, but she wanted me to take her so I did. My idea of what having a girl child would be was nothing like the girl child I was. My li’l bit was more like me than I thought. I was no longer the former athlete watching her baby girl struggle under the weight of a Dora the Explorer tennis racket or lamenting her lack of skills on the monkey bars. My baby girl was fighting her way out of the box that I put her in, and making me watch and participate.  She was all business -going through the selection of shoes looking for style and comfort. I was so proud, and her little feet hadn’t even touched the track yet. I was on board – like I had a choice.

“My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.” ~ Wilma Rudolph

I figured that whatever I told her, she’d believe it. She’d live by it.  I told her that her goal was to get better at every practice. Be faster at the next practice than she was before. Have fun. Make friends. Do her best and that, in and of itself, would be great.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s all a matter of discipline.” ~ Wilma Rudolph

She believed me.

“Mommy! I beat a BOY in practice today! I also beat a girl, but she is my friend and I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m still not that fast, but I don’t care what anyone says, participation medals totally count!”

Related: "Gym Boots" and Gender Equality: 19 Writing Prompts to Inspire and Enlighten Your Daughters and Sons

I haven’t seen her run yet because of my schedule, but from what I understand, she’s not breaking any records just yet.  It is the strangest thing. I am so excited for her. She’s doing something that she’s not necessarily “built for,” but she is out there. As competitive as I am, I never thought that I’d be the parent cheering her heart out for my kid in last place. I just never put my kids in an activity where they could be last – probably as much for them as for me.  I never understood those moms and dads who came out week after week hauling chairs and coolers to watch their kid sit on the bench.

Well, now I’m that mom. I can’t wait for her first track meet. She’s going to go out there and do her best, and I’ll be cheering her on like she’s leading the pack… and who knows – she just might be.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” ~ Wilma Rudolph