Sunday, July 30, 2017

words across the water


This was the moment I decided "WE" were no longer going to do gymnastics.  We were done.  She was in (old) Level 4 (that would be level 3 now). I looked down over the floor at Beach and her thick glasses.  I looked at the spot in her fancy meet hair where her glasses had gotten hopelessly tangled right before floor.  I looked at the mats she needed to stand on to be tall enough to mount the beam.  I looked at those judges waiting to judge my tiny little daughter and my heart said, "F*&$ this!" 


And we did.  "WE" quit gymnastics.  Well, the "ME" part of "WE" did.  She kept going.  She kept working and winning and falling and getting back up.  She pushed through severs, and broken fingers, broken toes, and beam bites.  She worked out sick.  She worked out while others played. She competed scared. She competed injured. She competed strong. She woke up early and she stayed up late.  She set big goals and met them so she made more.

She rode in the backseat of cars and rented vans.  She boarded planes and airport shuttles.  She stayed in hotel rooms and Air B&B houses.  She ate food I never thought she would.  She saw places I would never have taken her.  She did big things and got judged for them.  Got up and did them again.


At gyms all across the country, gym moms are struggling with how to fit into this world.  Many treat it as a crowded bus. They are pushing coaches and gym owners aside. Trying to push their kids forward. They are talking in hushed tones about other people's children- trying to push them back. 

I would love to give them advice. I would love them to know there is plenty of room for all of us on this crazy bus. Unfortunately, it seems more often than not they have to figure it out for themselves.


They have to figure out how the seating around here really works. What level your child competes, what spot on the podium they stand, it doesn't have anything to do with how good a parent or person you are or aren't.

(I could even argue it says almost nothing about your child either, but that is another conversation entirely. One would also need to witness a true victory like Bronte's last floor routine, Maddie's first-ever cast to handstand on bars, Claire's bars at State 2017, Beach's one-footed dismount on bars due to an injury on floor, or Sophie's wreck off beam, remount to finish with blood dripping down her face at Pike's Peak, you would have to see these things to even begin to relate.)


You know what does reflect back on you as a parent and a person?  How you behave. What you say when you think no one is listening.  The messages you are sending your child about being part of a team, about sportsmanship, about hard work, about respect, and about being honest with themselves.

Did you know our head coach does not assign levels to the optional team? He doesn't have to, they know where they are in the program.  In the fall he has them tell him what level they will be competing.


There is a difference between being supportive of your child and pushing them. A difference between being proud of what they can do and being dishonest about it.


Pushing isn't just about the things you say to your child after practice it can be the pressure you put on her coaches to push or promote before your child is ready. It can be in the things you are saying about her teammates.   


I have a kid who more often than not has all the skills to compete the next level up. What she doesn't have is the temperament for it.  She is conservative.  Sometimes timid.  Thank dog her coaches recognize and respect it!


If you are a pusher of any type this is my caution to you. Your child is giving up trading a giant chunk of her childhood to work.


In the lower levels that work is mostly fun with a topping of scary.  As she moves up that ratio changes dramatically.  There are days when I have watched my child cry and cry and cry and remount the beam only to fall and fall and fall.  My child is working a triple series on beam: a front aerial-backhand spring "flick"-layout.  The only thing worse than seeing her not make it is seeing her make it because I know that is what she will compete this year.


If she was doing this for me, if she was working this hard, this long, for me- how would I justify that to myself?  What if she was to get hurt... I mean really hurt. What would a pusher parent tell themselves then? What do you say to the intake nurse? I know more than her coaches. She doesn't take enough turns.  She isn't working hard enough.  She needs to just do it. More privates are the answer. She better than Sally but her coaches don't see it. Another gym, another coach, another program will move her up faster. 


I don't agree with everything my child's coaches and the gym does but overall I know we are in the right program surrounded by the right people. There are a lot of messed up programs out there!  Teammates who have left for other gyms are returning. Each left for a different reason.  But they all returned for the same one: to put their child's needs first.


And in the end and in the beginning I'm not her coach I'm her parent. When SHE started gymnastics I already had a job.  I am her mom. HER doing gymnastics added a few items to my to-do list. Like getting her to the gym on time, fueled, hydrated, well-rested, and ready to go. My job is to make sure there are other things besides her sport in her life. My job is to protect and guide her as she follows her heart.  My job is to be a soft steady place for her to return to. 


My job is to cheer at meets and not spill my coffee while doing it. When she "wins" my job is to listen to her tell me all about as if I hadn't seen it for myself.  When she falls my job is to tell her how proud I am of her and how much I enjoy watching her compete. When she asks me if I am disappointed I can say, sometimes I am sad for you but I am NEVER disappointed. How hard you work at every practice and every meet makes me proud. 

I am proud of the things they don't give medals or awards for.  Like caring, and sharing, and being the best at helping teammates with mats. At working hard even when the head coach isn't looking.  At making friends with other girls from other gyms at meets. For being true to yourself.


I am really glad WE quit gymnastics.
 I was never any good at it anyway.


19 comments:

  1. What a great blog (said another gymnast mom). So well said, great perspective and valid points. And I love your daughters name: Beach ��

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    1. Thank you! And yes her name is Beach <3 She is a level 10 at GTC Utah.

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  2. Thank you for sharing! I am in tears because just last night I found myself fussing at my daughter for her mental block. Of course she wouldn’t have a block if she knew how to get around it! ����. I have to be reminded that I need to be, as you said, a soft spot for her to return to. This sport is so emotional, as well as, physical. ❤️

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  3. Thank you! I agree Ebony, this sport is deep. Mental blocks are so hard. It's like an injury that we as parents have zero tools to treat. They do pass. The advice our gym has given us is don't talk about it, don't ask about, give it no energy, and eventually your child will work it out (with her coaches support). Good luck! Let me know how it goes :)

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  4. Well said! You have captured so many of my thoughts and feelings. Our girls are beyond amazing. They are developing life skills that are vital to their survival.

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  5. Thank you for this read! I had an 11yr old level 9 who decided two years ago to walk away from the sport mostly due to injury and burnout to pursue another sport which has turned out to be the best decision ever. I also have a 11 yr old current level 7 who I have found myself constantly comparing her to her sister these last years. This is a good reminder to me to let her do her and she will be the best that she can be. So many times parents get wrapped up in the non important things. While my younger daughter has progressed differently, she’s still an amazing gymnast in her own right... and she’s still doing it so I should be thankful for that too! Parents really are the problem 99% of the time. This sport is hard enough with us getting in the way. And on a side note, my 13yr old recently returned to the sport in the Xcel program and absolutely loves how fun gymnastics is again! Couldn’t be happier.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. I am so happy you daughters are happy and having fun! Good luck to all of you this season.

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  6. Amazing blog. So much truth and honesty in this. I have 2 gummies (Lv 8 and 7) and it is def a tough rode to navigate. I tell myself daily I am only a passenger on this ride, not the pilot or Co-pilot. But we wouldn't have any other life....

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  7. Omg thankful for this. The pressure I put on my daughter to be better and work harder and you have to get stronger score more points smh and when she doesn't do as well as she would like she can't look at me because she feels I will be disappointed (which I would be and can't hide my face) I make her nervous and I feel bad but I'm competitive....smh...I really needed this rebuke and restorative message. My daughter started gymnastics "late" in age and it doesn't "look" like she will make it. She wants to go to the Olympics but I feel she says that to pacify me smh (the shame I'm feeling right now is real). Thank God for real open mom's like you all. Thank you again you relieve the pressure that I had.

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  8. You are welcome. Thanks for your story. You might like another one of my post https://10thwestirregulars.blogspot.com/2018/11/dear-parents-if-you-havent-already.html

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  9. As a gym mom, coach, and judge, I related to your blog on all three levels. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  10. So impact-full. So true. I can relate to all perspectives here. Never stop writing. More importantly never stop sharing it. Thank you thank you.

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  11. This was a fantastic read. Thank you!

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  12. I totally understand your shame. I have been there too. I have always “ joked” to her about training harder, taking more turns etc. But there is always some truth behind it. Sometimes I feel like she should have done better, though I don’t think I show it. I hurt just as bad as she does when she doesn’t get the skill or falls off. We are level 9 at 17 years old. Her last year of gym as she heads into grade 12. I want her to back off but she feels like she still has goals to achieve. While reading the blog I caught so many of her phrases that I do or have done and it makes my heart hurt.

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  13. It's hard because we as parents invest so much time and money to support them. When a very talent young lady on my daughter's team retired last year I asked her mother (a former college gymnast) what she would have done differently. She told me she would have let her daughter miss more gym for fun activities and family time. Sometimes the answer to train harder is train smarter. I believe rest and emotional refilling outside of gymnastics is key! Good luck to your daughter this season!

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