Monday, August 29, 2016
When Your Child Gives Up A Sport
"Are you sure you don't want to go back to gymnastics?" I asked my daughter as Simone Biles flipped through the air during the Olympics. My mouth dropped open. I could barely walk on solid ground properly and this chick was cartwheeling on a BALANCE BEAM.
"Nope," Natalie replied quickly. "I'm done." She even made a slashing motion with her hand.
I stared at the girl on the beam. My hopes and dreams of Natalie being like that one day faded away because I won't lie: when I first signed her up for gymnastics and saw how easy she made it look, I thought, wow, maybe she has that something special. I mean, yes, sometimes she'd fall flat on her face, but she inherited MY genes, so it's a given.
Natalie started when she was five.
She moved up the classes throughout the year. Rec Gym 1. Rec Gym 2. Rec Gym 3.
And then she was invited on the team. I should have known then that Natalie was thinking of giving up on gymnastics when I told her she'd have to practice two times a week. Plus wake up early on weekends to compete.
"No way," she went, wrinkling her nose. "I'd rather play." She wavered back and forth a few times. She liked the idea of being on a team. But she didn't want to do the work that came with it. She wanted to be with her friends. So she remained in Rec Gym 3, but sometimes after class she'd go, "The teacher yelled at me again."
I knew why. Natalie would space out in class. When she was supposed to be practicing handstands, she was staring in the corner. When she was supposed to be cartwheeling on the beam (like the Olympian--only she'd fall off like 80% of the time!) she was twisting a strand of hair on her finger. When she was supposed to race towards the teacher to do a flip, she'd be giggling with the friend behind her and the teacher would have to snap at Natalie to "pay attention."
That's what Natalie was told a lot: "Pay attention. Do what you're supposed to be doing." And Natalie just didn't have the heart anymore. In the beginning it was fun. But then it got tough. More serious.
"It hurts!" Natalie would mouth at me when doing the splits.
The other kids would come bounding out of the room after the class, vowing that they'd be practicing splits, cartwheels, and flips all weekend long. Meanwhile, Natalie was like, "Can we get some McDonalds? Can I go play with my friends now? My bones hurt. Gymnastics isn't fun anymore."
Then we moved. I thought maybe she'd change her mind. I told her about gymnastics places I found.
"I told you: I'm done," Natalie would insist.
"No thank you," she'd answer primly other times.
So when Natalie told me no again as we watched the Olympics--really, it was me watching--Natalie was messing with her iPad. She wasn't even interested in the girls who flew through the air expertly. I realized, this is it: she's truly done. My heart tugged a little. But I knew I wouldn't press the issue anymore.
She was done.
And I had to be okay with it.