No Longer a Gym Mom (aka: When Your Kid Quits)

Gymnastics Team Coaching

My daughter is the tiny one on the right

My daughter quit competitive gymnastics last year. At the end of a great Level 8 season, she announced, “I’m done.” And that was it. I thought it would be so hard when she gave up her sport. After all, she had been a gymnast since the age of 4 – nearly 8 years. Nearly 8 years of eating, breathing, and sleeping gymnastics. 8 years of living in leotards and eating meals at the gym, and being covered in chalk dust.

But you know what? It wasn’t that hard. My daughter was done. And she happily moved on to explore new things – a soccer team, drawing cute comic books, and playing with her brothers and toys and hamsters more often. Every now and then, she complains that she can no longer do a great split or a standing back tuck. But then…who cares? She is no longer being judged on her ability to do so. And I am no longer shelling out thousands of dollars a year to fund her sport. Which I did, because yes – I thought my daughter had that special something that could take her to the Olympics, or at least a university scholarship. (But then again, she is a disciplined, dedicated, mostly straight-A student. So who needs gymnastics for a scholarship?)

bye bye money

 

It’s funny, how our culture convinces us parents that it is not good enough for our kids to just explore the world. To paint pictures for fun. To try a few different sports for the joy of it. To toss a Frisbee, fly a kite, ride a bike. Remember when that was childhood? But now, ours is a culture of elitism and one-upmanship. Part of it is for parental bragging rights (Look at my Johnny! He just won the state Taekwondo Championship!). Part of it is fear (If my kid isn’t the best of the best at something, she won’t get into a good university).

All of it is rather ridiculous. Because here’s the thing – great universities still accept great students. Good universities still accept good students. And it makes more sense to invest those thousands of dollars into a college savings fund each year instead of throwing it toward competitive sports, hoping for that rare scholarship.

And we parents, we know this. We know perfectly well that if little Jenny never accomplishes much more than a few Girl Scout badges and a season or two of recreational volleyball, then she will not be any less of an accomplished adult than the kid who played first-chair violin until graduating high school (because we also know that hardly anyone continues to play their band instruments beyond high school, even for pleasure). And yet, we persist in our ridiculousness, pushing our kids through the gamut of competitive lacrosse and football and soccer and gymnastics, feeding them dinner in the car, and helping them with homework late into the night. And we assure ourselves that we are creating for our children a better future. competitive running for medals kids lacrosse

So I, too, told myself. Until my daughter quit. And I didn’t know before what a good thing it was to quit, until suddenly, I realized that my daughter has time. She has time to daydream. She has time to finish her homework, then play with her dollhouse, or watch Spongebob, or ride her scooter around the neighborhood. She has time to be a kid who is not on the fast-track toward becoming an elite athlete. And maybe this is what it takes to create for her a better future. Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, s

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2 responses to “No Longer a Gym Mom (aka: When Your Kid Quits)

  1. Great post! It’s so important to be well rounded and to be able to experiment in life and learn by trial and error and experience lots of different arenas. Our ultra-competitve schools and workloads and athletics frequently prevent that type of well-rounded development. Not to mention time to relax and reflect, to think and read and ponder and re-read.

    Somehow our culture has gotten the idea that success means sitting in an office, turning oneself into veal, fighting commuter traffic (as long as you’re driving a fancy car while you sit in that traffic), putting onself under stress, being sleep deprived, and making a bunch of money. We’ve forgotten that time is our most precious resource.

    • Exactly. And not only time, but time for relationships, time for exploring ideas, and time for trying new things. This culture of elitism used to exist mostly among the upper class (the pressure to get kids into the best prep schools, etc.). But somehow, the ideas trickled down to the middle class, and we all panic, thinking that our children must have the “best of the best” of everything, too, in order to be competitive. But it is not true. We have a country filled with people who are great doctors, engineers, scientists, and businesspeople who were never elite athletes or first chair musicians or valedictorians of the best high schools. Many successful people got there from good old-fashioned studying and hard work. And yes, from competitive gymnastics, my daughter learned to be a very disciplined hard worker, but there are much less expensive and time-consuming ways for children to develop a sense of discipline or self-confidence.

      Would I still have allowed her to stay on the team if I had realized these things sooner? I’m not sure. I let her stay because she loved the sport so much. She was the horse pulling the cart, and I hated to let her down, especially since she really did have a rare talent for gymnastics. That’s really what made the difference, in the end. But if she had only been an average athlete, or had expressed that she no longer wanted to put forth that level of effort, then I would definitely have encouraged her to quit much sooner.

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