My daughter and I eventually decided to end her gymnatics career.It started when she was two years old and begged incessantly to go to the park, swing, jump, dance, hop, climb, run, skip and otherwise exhaust her parents. Clearly, this energy needed a focus. So what's a first-time mom to do? My solution was to find an organized class that would provide both an outlet for all her energy, a chance for socialization (for mom and daughter), and maybe even give her a chance to develop some skills along the way. And so our 12 year love affair with gymnastics began.
The Mom-and-Me gymnastics program was perfect. Twice a week we walked (well, I walked and she ran) down the street to the old gymnasium. For 45 blissful minutes mom and daughter learned simple stretches, how to tumble, skip and climb a rope, and best of all it was in a padded environment! No scrapes or cuts to kiss away.
As the years progressed the "Mom" part of the program moved to the sidelines and the "me" part really took off. I watched in amazement as she truly began to look like a gymnast. She could cartwheel, tumble, swing on the bars and balance on the beam. Her little pink leotard clad body seemed to relax and focus when in the gym, and it became the highlight of her day. She pushed herself for more and more, practicing at home, at the park, for any audience she could find.
At five years old, we took the step towards a more competitive team. Training twice a week in a brand new gym, she was beside herself with happiness. The energy level, still high, began to focus on learning and perfecting routines. She grew out of cartwheels and progressed to round offs, running and skipping transferred to powerful vaults, and swinging on the bars now involved going full circle, around and around and around.
Gymnastics competition started in third grade, and training grew at a fevered pitch. Two days became three, three became four, and all vacations found her in the gym nearly the entire day. Weekends meant driving to meets all over California and birthday parties were skipped. Paychecks went to tuition, leotards, grips, gear bags, meet fees and hotels. She developed her own social network, and so did the parents. Bumps and bruises were commonplace, but her spirit pushed her for more and more and more.
Competition Gets Serious
Then seventh grade set in. For the first time I was nervous. She was on the college scholarship track, and having success at meets. Her body had not grown much, as is common for gymnasts, but the rigors of school definitely had. Nightly trainings consumed all after school and early evening time, pushing homework and studying to late night. Her social group was her gym group, all girls with determination and focus. I knew she was either sleeping, training or at school, and didn't worry about her straying off track.
Tears started flowing after training, slowly at first, partly out of exhaustion and partly out of frustration. We decided that as long as she could "handle it" we'd keep going. I began to sense the end was near, but hated to see her quit something that had become her identity. Blisters and sprains became commonplace, yet her determination pushed her for more.
The summer before freshman year of high school, we began talking about her college goals. To our utter surprise, gymnastics was not in her plans. Dealing with coaches who insisted that she increase her training to five days a week piled on the pressure. Just fourteen, she struggled with what was "the right thing" to do. I knew it wasn't for me to decide, that it had to come from her to make it work.
After 12 years of training, a few teary talks with coaches and some hard conversations, her love affair with gymnastics ended. Neither of us were sure it was the "right thing" to do, but something inside of her pushed her for more -- more time, more experiences, more opportunities. It was time for her to quit the competitive sport she had loved. As I watched her leave the gym that last night, I knew she had really grown up and grown away from gymnastics.
Content by Jennifer Wolfe.