Barbara Wood: Letter to my daughter, after her last race


By Barbara Wood, from her 'Dispatches from the home front' column.

To my dear daughter,

A few weeks ago your dad and I went to Gilroy to see you run the last race of your high school career. You told us you didn't understand why we wanted to watch. "I'm just going to come in last," you said.

But what you don't understand, my feisty, beautiful, independent girl, is that we love to watch you even when you don't win. We want to be there, in the stands, cheering you on, even when you do come in last.

There have been many moments in your life when we have watched you and nearly burst with pride at your accomplishments: when your project went all the way to the state science fair; when the pig you raised was reserve grand champion at the county fair; when you broke away from a defender and, red hair streaming like molten fire, raced down the soccer field and scored a goal; when, in the league championship, you came from behind in the last 100 yards of a mile race and passed three girls.

But there were the other times we watched you with just as much pride: as a baby, sleeping, one of the most beautiful things we'd ever seen. On stage, in the eighth-grade operetta, where even though you didn't get the role you'd wanted, the director gave you half a dozen smaller ones, and, to us, you were the best thing on the stage.

All those times your team didn't win the soccer game, when your pig wasn't the best, when you didn't win the race, when someone else got the honors, you were still a winner to us.

Yes, it was a thrill to watch you up on that stage graduating from high school as one of the valedictorians. But it was also a thrill to watch you drive off to school, alone, the day after you got your driver's license; to see you fill out your voter's registration card when you turned 18; to watch you head through security at the airport on your way to Africa to spend the summer teaching children in Malawi how to avoid AIDS and malaria.

What matters to us, Brenna, isn't if you win or lose, but the fact that you have compassion in your heart, inner strength, independence, the courage to question authority, and the guts to run a race, even when you believe you will come in last.

You probably don't want to hear this, but I am more proud of you for being a vegetarian and for your dreadlocks than I am of you for being admitted to Berkeley, and New York University, and Tufts, and five other universities.

You have a big heart, and it is in the right place, and that is what matters.

I have never been more proud of you than when you ended your graduation speech by saying: "I know this world will never be lacking in social injustice for me to fight against."

You may not win that race -- but what matters is that you run it.

All my love,


Barbara Wood is a freelance writer, photographer and gardener from Woodside. Her column runs the third week of the month.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 23, 2009 at 9:26 am

Thank you for a heartfelt piece. It moved me!

Like this comment
Posted by Miriam Russell
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 26, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Thank you, Barbara,for the wonderful letter to your daughter.

I have enjoyed reading your columns for many years. This is another one of your genuine, expressive articles. Your columns explode with imagery and humanity.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Cobey
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 26, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Well put, Barbara. You raised her right, and she's off to make the world a better place -- on her own terms.

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Posted by Joan Abrams
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 27, 2009 at 6:29 am

That is a beautiful piece. Get yourself and your daughter a copy of the picture book by Mem Fox entitled Koala Lou That little book is the most poignant expression of these feelings that I have ever seen.

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