Life Has No Pause Button (a.k.a. Changes)

Everything has its season. Change is inevitable. Of course, of course, like so many others, I am very familiar with these sayings. And of course, they are true. Life has no pause button. Children do not remain small. People grow and change. Our interests and abilities shift as time marches forward. But although we understand these things, when the tide shifts and change arrives, it is unsettling, like walking on wet sand.

My daughter is quitting gymnastics. It is a huge change – not just for her, but for everyone in our family. She has spent most of her childhood as a gymnast, breathing in chalk dust, traveling to competitions throughout the state and beyond, and executing difficult skills as her team and her family cheer her on. She has been our little athletic superstar, smiling for the camera with shiny medals hanging around her neck. Our tiny Olympic hopeful. But now, at the young age of eleven, she has decided that she has had enough. She is currently competing as a Level 8 gymnast (out of 10 levels). This will be her final season.

Balancing on the balance beam

I love my daughter to pieces, and naturally, I respect her decision. Gymnastics is one of the most demanding youth sports, and one of the most expensive in terms of money as well as time. Unless a child dreams of obtaining Olympic gold, or at least university scholarships, there is not much point in continuing at the highest levels. But still, I will miss it. I will miss seeing her do amazing flips across the balance beam and swing around the bars in her adorable leotards. I will miss her huge grin as she salutes for the judges and earns high scores. I will miss the proud idea that she is The Gymnast of the family. Oh, change is hard. Boo, change!

Swinging around the high bar

But on the other hand, change can be a very good thing. No more gymnastics means no more scheduling our family life around her 25-hour per week sports schedule. It means no more cooking dinner before two in the afternoon and packing it in thermoses and containers for her to eat at the gym. It means no more silent homework times in the car during the long commute, no more missing out on birthday parties or school events, and more time for her to play with her brothers, and maybe make a friend or two.  And perhaps best of all, no more gymnastics means more money in the family budget. Wow – money to save for a new car, money to replace our aging household furniture, money to save for family vacations – money!

“What would you like to try after gymnastics is over?” I asked my daughter, because with her natural athletic ability, it is impossible to imagine that she is not doing some sort of sport. “Perhaps a dance class or swim team?”

My daughter’s next words completely shocked me. “I think it would be fun to play soccer. I’ve never done it before, but it looks like fun.”

Soccer? Soccer? My daughter is ready to quit gymnastics and try playing soccer? Wow! Okay, change isn’t such a bad thing after all. Hooray for new beginnings! Open the door; bring on the change!

Medals for gymnastics winners

Life on the Scales (aka Parenting is a Balancing Act)

My daughter likes to watch her brother’s soccer games on one of her only days off from gym.

Today, I am being a bad parent and a good parent at the same time. You see, I am letting my 11 year-old daughter play hooky from school. I know, I know…what an irresponsible mom! But I do have a good reason. My daughter, who is now a level 8 competitive gymnast, is almost never home. Since she is required to train 22 hours per week, nearly every moment of her time is absorbed by school or training for her sport. Even when we do have moments together, driving to schools or the gym, she is usually doing homework. The sacrifice? Time together to swap jokes, talk about books, or learn how to French braid hair. Time to be silly and play pretend or even watch her pet hamster run around his cage. Sit down and eat family meals together? Ha! Five evenings per week, I hand my daughter an insulated thermos full of food to eat during her break.

Sometimes, I feel terrible, as though my kid is missing out on a normal childhood. Her brothers get so much more time to play with friends, to daydream, to bake cookies, and to lie about watching Spongebob cartoons. They get so much more of my personal time and attention. It seems so uneven.

“I don’t mind, Mom,” my daughter told me the last time I expressed these concerns. She is perfectly happy to eat from a thermos and breathe chalk dust 22 hours per week. She would rather swing around the uneven bars or do flips on a balance beam than daydream and play with friends. It is a sacrifice, but for her, the payoff makes it completely worthwhile.

This week, due to the time and financial commitment to her sport, she was unable to join her sixth grade classmates at science camp. So, rather than force her to go to school and be the only kid there, playing hangman and watching movies with a substitute teacher, for today, I decided to let her stay home. What a great morning it has been! We built structures together with Kapla blocks, did housework while listening to music, and then lounged around on the sofa, watching Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Then I taught her how to make the perfect cup of tea, while we discussed the book she is reading, Anne of Green Gables, and we ate warm slices of fresh, homemade bread. Next, we are going to paint our nails and practice French braiding hair. Bad parenting? Maybe. As for me, I call it balance.

Image