Meanwhile, at gymnastics

By Country Fried Mama

As a mother, I am still fresh out of the baby years.  The Belle just turned two.  Miss D. is 4.  And I am still shocked by things those of you with older kids probably find obvious.

I no longer need to carry anyone down the stairs.

No one will collapse if I fail to produce snacks on demand.

My children are not me.

That last one hits me each week during Miss D.’s gymnastics class.  I sit in the parents’ holding pen for 45 minutes and watch her through the glass.  She is all ta-da hands on the gym floor, while my own fingers are gripped tightly to the edge of my chair.  I try not to gasp as the older girls go flipping and flying across bars and beams.  Miss D., thank goodness, is not performing circus feats yet.  But she is doing lots of things for the first time and approaching them with enthusiasm and glee.

There is little fear in this child.

Somersault on the balance beam? Sure.  Flip over the uneven bars?  Okey-dokey.  Hang from the rings and swing?  You got it.  Spend an hour a week with girls whom she (mostly) just met?  Of course.

She tries to talk to me through the glass sometimes, and I can’t hear her, but I’m certain of what she says. Her body language is far more: Did you see me?  I did it! than: I’m scared.  I don’t want to.  Can you come in here?

Who is this child?  Quite clearly, she is not me.  Sure, she has a white chalk handprint on her black leotard-clad bum, and that is totally something that would happen to her mother.  But otherwise?  This one is already her own person.

Which makes me feel three things:
We’re doing a great job!  She’s no mini-me!  She feels free to be herself in almost any circumstance!
She needs me less.  I am making myself redundant.  I am going to need to find some hobbies.  Or additional employment.
What if this doesn’t last?  What if she adopts self-doubt on her fifth birthday.  Or her sixth?  Or (more likely) her 12th?

So many of the 12-year-old gymnasts, the ones flipping and flying across the mats, wear shapeless T-shirts over their leotards.  They hunch their shoulders.  They look at their feet.  They spend their time at an activity designed to draw attention, and yet, they clearly don’t want anyone looking too closely.

When did that happen to them?  Were they confident and exuberant four-year-old gymnasts once, too?  And is there any way to stop the march from exhibitionist pre-schooler to shrinking pre-teen?

At the end of gymnastics class this week, Miss D. was sporting a pretty severe leotard wedgie.  She didn’t notice or care, though.  Four is a pretty wonderful age.

Country-Fried Mama is a transplanted Yankee raising two girls in the land of college football, sweet tea, and refined manners. Visit her blog at Country Fried Mama and follow her on Twitter @countryfried

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