Saturday, January 19, 2013

Begin again Gym

I've been procrastinating this post for some time.  Parenting is challenging, especially when we have to choose a path our kids most likely don't appreciate in the now.  After 2+ years at the gymnastic club we were attending, we decided Miss Monkey needed to venture out into other activities rather than becoming hyper focused, therefore leading our family into a situation that we certainly were unprepared to commit life and limb to.  Her last meet was her best, and (gasp!) we opted out of State.  I practically guffawed when F's coach tried to reason that State competition was the celebration at the end of the season---she mustn't have been paying attention.  My perfectionist daughter had had terribly difficulty dealing with the stress of competition, the emotional rack of being "switched on" for half a day, and the total let down (in her head) of her winner's vision not being fulfilled.  It.was.brutal.  Scenes played out in parking lots with other parents staring or offering solutions.  

Since I'm conscious of how I speak with her about her participation, I never used the phrase, "Don't you want to do this?" or anything like it.  That line of questioning only serves the parents' wishes, and causes inner conflict in the child---they're intelligent, they know though it only sounds as if they're being asked what they want, the child also doesn't want to displease her parent, only furthering distress in the situation.  Ever caught an episode of the train-wreck show Toddlers In Tiaras?  Not that I'll ever watch again, but it was a constant barrage of moms asking their daughters the very question but in different forms. 

In our case, she didn't want to quit, she wants to be in the Olympics like Gabby and Jordan, she loves gymnastics, "gymnastics was my life, and you RUINED it!!"  It was actually, she's been doing it since she was about 2, over half her life had been doing something regularly in the gym.  The stark reality set in during this competition season: the massive commitment of practices, very job like, stripping away childhood's imagination and dream time; of sending my child to be subjectively judged by persons unknown, who hand out scores based on their personal opinions regardless of the code (they are human after all, see "cutie points") amidst hundreds, or thousands, of other little girls whose more rabid parents are push-push-pushing...well the prospect was daunting, and made me feel ill.  

F had an example of the perfection required in the sport with Miss Polina, who recently qualified for Nationals, she saw it daily, she knows what it looks like.  Moreover, she knew when her performance didn't match that ideal, when she didn't win at meets, putting dents and dings in her burgeoning self-esteem.  The medaling at local meets is confusing at best, and these girls know that the participation medal isn't the same as the podium medal.  "It is a sport of unforgiving perfection", as one coach/parent/owner remarked to me.  Take that statement into an incredibly competitive arena of subjective judgement, where who you know matters, what you look like matters, how much time and money you have matters.  I'd rather my daughter be judged on her character first, and everything else second, but in the gymnasium that's not what shows first.

After careful thought, sorting though our feelings about the situation, we decided it was time to leave.  Too many good people we knew in the beginning had gone by the wayside during growth spurts the business experienced.  The Man & I both were losing confidence in the young coach's abilities to lead the little girls creatively and compassionately while encouraging them to try harder for that elusive perfection.  Added to that was an accounting discrepancy that barely came to resolution, not without some ugliness, which simply added to my sadness around our experience.  

While he is completely soured on the sport, especially for little girls, I still have some hope that we can creatively keep her in touch with the strength and flexibility, but without the incredible pressure to perform to perfection.  I think it un-just to send children in for judgement on an ideal that exists only fleetingly and impermanently, dependent on the person judging.

So, ultimately we're looking to separate her DOing from her BEing, gymnastics is one facet of a growing persona, but it's not the end-all.  I want the fun of it to come back for her, participation with a healthy detachment around results---we'll explore options until we get something that works.

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