I didn’t think time travel was possible until I was sitting at a track meet the other night. It was my daughter’s very first meet. I thought it would be my very first meet too.
I was told ahead of time that it would be a test of endurance — not for the student athletes, but for their parents. In anticipation of the four-hour event, I brought along my chair-in-a-bag, a football and a thermal tote full of snacks for my younger boys. I found the perfect spot in the sun to settle in and watch the action.
I wasn’t sitting there 10 minutes when I started having flashbacks.
All of a sudden, I was 13 years old again. I remembered being in awe of the amount of kids all in one place. And the cute boys from the other schools. And feeling so grown up because I had taken a bus with my team and had money for the concession stand in my drawstring bag.
The races didn’t go so well for my seventh grade self. I fell over the hurdles, nearly dropped the baton during the relays and almost took off a coach’s head with the discus. But I sure had fun in an anxious, on-the-brink-of-adulthood way.
This wasn’t my first track meet. It was just my first track meet as a parent. How could I have forgotten?
As I watched the girls giggle at the boys and the kids from various teams bravely congratulate each other, I thought about what else I felt at that age: stuck in time.
I couldn’t understand that my choices today would affect my tomorrow. Or that in another 10 years, the pimples and bad haircut and bruised knees wouldn’t matter.
I wanted to call over each girl individually and tell her she was beautiful and talented and smart. I wanted to assure her that even if she couldn’t see her own gifts yet, they were there. They would continue to quietly develop just below the surface until someday everyone would see her true inner exquisiteness.
I wanted to pull them all close, break through their mountain of insecurities and say, Do you want to know what really matters, what will continue to matter 30 years from now?
Do you want to know how to survive this awkward interval? How to truly win friends and influence people?
It’s so simple. Yet, I struggled with it mightily at that age and sometimes I still do.
I’m so glad my daughter joined the track team, because if she hadn’t, I never would have gotten to travel through time.
Perhaps I would have forgotten forever that the most important muscle to develop is the one that continually leads us to be kind.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.