What happened when I let my daughter cross the finish line alone

Charlotte, crossing the finish line. (Mark Naymik)

In the slide show of the first 5K my daughter and I ran together, parents radiate happiness as they cross the finish line with their kids. One mom high-fives her little boy. A dad lets his son cross a few steps before him. Another dad extends his arms while lifting his face to the sky, as if to give thanks for the race’s end while his small son wipes away tears.

It’s three minutes and 42 seconds into the slide show before I see my own 9-year-old daughter, Charlotte, crossing the finish line alone.

I know it’s important that kids do some things by themselves, but I didn’t realize crossing a finish line should be one of them until I see that picture of Charlotte, mid-stride with her ponytail flying, beaming under the inflated arch.

We began the race together, a few rows behind the crush of older elementary school kids who had ditched their parents for their friends — and for the opportunity to put their toes against the starting line. Once the race started and the crowd around us dispersed enough so we could run, I felt Charlotte pull past me in her first few strides. I had to quicken my pace to keep up with her. Before the first mile marker, however, she was breathing hard and had to stop.

“It’s okay,” I told her. “You can walk.”

“I don’t want to walk!”

After a few steps, she starting running again. Before the second mile marker, she was crying,…

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