I tumble, therefore I am
It's the first organized activity I've created for them - ever. Up until now, I didn't think they had the maturity, or the attention span, to really get something out it.
Interestingly, I'm the only parent of the 9 girls in the class who sticks around to watch them go through their paces. I probably could convince the girls to let me leave for the 90-minute class, but I confess - I enjoy it it too much to want to go away.
They still act a bit goofy and immature (they're the youngest girls in the class), but I also see the concentration on their little faces when they gingerly push beyond their known limits to try a dip on the balance beam, or a new sequence on the trampoline. They're discovering a new and powerful relationship with their body, and it's wonderful to watch.
And it takes me back to my own brief gymnastics career.
My 15 minutes of athletic fame came in sixth grade, when I somehow blossomed into a pretty good gymnast. My piece of equipment was the low parallel bars, although I also loved sailing over the horse and swinging on the unevens. I remember truly enjoying the effort it took to perfect my routines. And how proud I was during an exhibition that my father was able to come see me.
My mother, a working mother, couldn't make it that day. And I do remember feeling angry that she couldn't be there instead of him. But think of it - how wonderful is it that my father, who was self-employed, could take time from his busy day to be there for me?
Gymnastics was a big focus for me that year, and it culminated in one of the biggest surprises of my life.
I was a member of the orchestra and was playing the violin on stage during our sixth grade graduation ceremonies.
As they began awarding the prizes for different academic and athletic achievements, I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if I could win an award, but I didn't think there was anything I truly excelled at that would make me worthy of such an honor.
When they got to the gymnastics award, my gym teacher went to the podium and started talking about a young girl out in the audience who had put her all into excelling that year. Instantly, my heart sank. She couldn't be talking about me, because I was up on the stage.
Nevertheless, a few moments later, she called out my name, and I rose from my chair, put down my violin, and went up to accept the award. She had purposely thrown me off, to make the surprise that I had won all the more thrilling.
That silver statue of a young girl doing a perfect handstand has traveled with me throughout a life where I've accumulated and lost too many material possessions to even count. But I always kept her, a symbol of something for which I've always been unabashedly proud. For a brief, sweet, wonderful moment in time, I was a gymnast.
I have no idea how well my daughters will do in gymnastics, or whether it's something one or the other will want to pursue as they get older.
But it's been eye-opening to me to see them fall, get up, and keep trying. Brushing each failure off with a laugh or a grin, and practicing each move til they get it - well maybe not quite right yet, but pretty darn close.
And I realize that each little victory they make in forming a letter correctly, understanding a math pattern, or perfecting a forward roll brings them one step closer to the self-assured adults I hope they'll one day become.
And if one or both of them happen to fall in love with the sport, you can be sure that either my husband or I will be there when they get their chance to shine. And I might just bring my father along, too. Just for the history.