I’m not one to push the wee ones into sports or activities they don’t enjoy. Mister Man found tae kwon do and loves it – he’s determined that he’ll be a black belt one day. They both enjoy their Scouting, and we’ll see how long they stick with it. We tried t-ball and soccer, but they weren’t for us for a lot of reasons, so we didn’t continue them. Little Miss found gymnastics and fell in love.
And so we continued gymnastics for her. She’s my monkey, constantly climbing and running and tumbling. She is strong, and it’s amazing to me what she can do without even realizing that it isn’t normal. Whenever we go to an open gym for fun, she climbs up the metal pole – ten feet straight up, with nothing to hold onto but the pole.
Needless to say, her gymnastics teachers recognized this and invited her to join the preteam. I was a little taken aback because I had no idea how these things worked. Before we signed her up, I talked to friends who had kids on various gymnastics teams (I had no idea I knew so many) about the experiences and what they liked and didn’t like. I talked to the gym about their program – how many hours do they practice and what do they do? What are the expectations of the girls? What if this isn’t for her?
I was amazed by how many gyms have the girls practicing 20 plus hours a week within a couple years of joining the team. The last thing I want is to burn her out – either her body or her mind. We actually ended up switching gyms to join a different team where the hours were fewer but a little more intense when they were there. It was also a gym where the parents told me their girls learned new skills, unlike the one where we were currently. And most importantly, they were very hands on to ensure that the girls were doing the skills properly so that they lessened the chance of injury.
Little Miss was thrilled to be a part of the team and go to gymnastics more often. She learned more in the first month than she had in the previous year at our old gym, and she loved it. And then… she moved up to the next level. She’s seven years old and in second grade, so I’m happy that she isn’t competing – yet – and still at “just” six hours a week (which compared to the football and baseball schedules around us is actually nothing, sadly).
She came to me a couple weeks after starting the new level of gymnastics and told me she wanted to quit. I looked at her in surprise and shock, since this had been what she wanted to do and she had loved it. Before responding to her query, I asked her why. I wanted her to tell me why she wanted to quit. If she had decided she didn’t like gymnastics anymore or there was a problem with the gym or the coach or something, I wanted to know about it.
Mommy, they make me work. It’s too hard.
Oh. Well. This comes from the girl who has never had to work at anything in her life because it all comes easy to her – athletics, academics, friends, you name it. And now they’re challenging her. I looked at her square in the eye and told her to suck it up, though not in so many words.
Sweetie, life is hard. Anything that’s worth doing is hard, and learning to work hard to succeed is important. You are not quitting gymnastics or anything else simply because it’s “hard” now.
She looked at me, and I think she almost cried.
At that moment, I wasn’t sure if I was a really good parent or a really, really bad parent, but I stuck to my guns. I watched her at gymnastics and made sure we still did fun things she enjoyed with it like the open gyms. I watched her grow in skill, and I saw her ripped arms – more than mine ever have been or probably ever will be. I listened to her complain from time to time that she didn’t want to go to gymnastics but then love it when she was there and tell me all about what she had learned when she got home.
And I think I made the right decision for her. If she decided she truly didn’t like gymnastics anymore, no problem. I want both the wee ones doing some sort of sport, and we can find another one. If she was in a place where the coaches were tearing her down and not being productive, we can address that. If she weren’t learning anything and was frustrated by that, we can fix that, too. But wanting to quit simply because something’s hard? That’s a life lesson I want to teach her – don’t do it. You’ll regret it.
So when we went to an open gym last weekend, she pulled me with her. Mommy! Come watch what I learned how to do. This is so cool! And I watched, amazed at my little monkey.
I’m still not sure that what I did was 100% right, and we may not have her advance to the next level next year where she’ll compete and increase her hours at gymnastics. But I feel a little better about it. What would you have done?