Sunday, December 13, 2009

disappointment and dilemmas

She sat staring at her brunch—face pale, eyes vacant. This was not our daughter. "I don't feel well," she whimpered, sipping her lukewarm raspberry tea. "You'll feel better after you eat something, Bub," I replied. The same turmoil I'd been feeling all weekend returned. How do I handle this? What's the best thing to do? My stomach churned. I wish to God I knew. But I didn't. And I still don't, even in hindsight.

Life is full of these handbook-less parenting moments—I realize this. I know I am not the only parent who struggles to know what is best for their child on a given day. But somehow the addition of gymnastics to our lives has increased the number of these moments in a rather disproportionate way, and I am left feeling like I'm faltering (and failing) more often than not.

This weekend was meet number two of the month, just one weekend after State Championships. Practices are Wednesday nights, Friday afternoons, and Saturday mornings. Dilemma number one: do we opt for the additional Monday night practice, like many of her teammates do, and give her a competitive advantage, or do we allow her to have at least one afternoon (I work T/Th so she goes to her Grandma's and isn't at home) free for being a child? We choose to forgo the additional practice, and spend Monday's at home, reading and relaxing. Her friends do not, and their scores reflect that. What's a parent to do?

Most of the time, we do not have practice on Saturday mornings on the weekend of a meet, but this weekend we did. This was a good thing, as it meant we didn't have to miss a practice. More time to work on the events that trouble her. A good thing, right? Or no? Dilemma two: do I opt to keep her home and let her rest and rejuvenate, or do I take advantage of another opportunity to get more confident on her bar routine? I choose to send her, some moms choose to keep their girls at home. Which choice was better?

Having practice on Friday nights and Saturday mornings means missing a lot of social events. Sleepovers, birthday parties, mother-daughter events for school—most fall on Friday nights. She finally gets invited to an event on a Saturday afternoon—a couple of hours at Fort Rapids, an indoor water park. She loves water parks, she loves the friend who has invited her. She's tired, but she's had a nap. She never gets to just be a kid and do things with her friends. But the meet is tomorrow. Dilemma three: Do I allow her to go, or no? I consult with her father, the Voice of Reason within our household, and he agrees she needs to be a kid. She goes to the water park. She wakes up today tired and with a sore throat. Wrong decision, or no?

We get up for church this morning, unable to sleep in because I'm teaching Sunday school and Tom's running camera, and we're all out the door by 8:30ish. We leave church and head to brunch, to fuel our gymnast for her meet, and she announces she isn't feeling well. You can tell it to look at her. She is not her normal self, by a long shot. Dilemma four: do we pull out and go home, or push through? We get some cold medicine, and within an hour she is feeling better. We push through. But is it the right thing to do?

The meet begins well, with a 9.15 (out of 10) on her floor routine. She's shooting for her 36 today—she needs two within the season to move up to level five next year. Both of her buddies have achieved it—but both of her buddies practiced all summer while she was out with a broken arm, and both attend the additional practice. Dilemma number five: do I break it to her that she's not likely to catch up to them this year, or let her continue to hope (and continue to be disappointed)?

Vault is decent—another 9.15. She's done better, but she's done worse. She squeaks out an 8.65 on the bars, which is a full half point improvement from last weekend, and I make a mental note to point that out to her. You can't spend four months out with a fracked up arm and expect to get a 9 or above right away on the bars. But I digress. She heads in to her final event, the beam, needing a 9.05 to get her 36. Should be a piece of cake. She took first place on beam for her age group last weekend. The 36 should be in the bag.

I am nervous as she begins, remembering that her warm-up was a little more wobbly than usual, probably because of her head cold. I breathe a short prayer, but that is the last breath I take for what seems like an eternity. She is still wobbly, fighting to hold on to poses that normally don't sway her. I pray harder. She wobbles again. And again. And then, my tenacious little fighter falls off the beam. I curse under my breath, trying to keep my disappointment from escaping my eyes.

She finishes, but she is not happy. She dismounts, fakes a smile for the judges, and makes it barely ten steps before bursting into tears. 8.4. There will be no 36 today. Both her friends make 37s, and my daughter is inconsolable.

Dilemma number six: had I made a different choice on any of the decisions above, would it have changed today's outcome? And if so, am I partially to blame for her disappointment? Or worse, totally?

Where is the handbook for THAT?


Anonymous said...

1.) Remember my cousin that dropped out of gymnastics? That's why. Because she got burned out. Because she missed all of the slumber parties, birthday parties, learning to drive, going to the movies, chatting on the phone with her girlfriends - EVERYTHING that a kid should be doing. SHE was the voice of reason in her house. She said enough. K. is doing very well. Despite missing four months. Do not sign her up for the fourth day of practice. All those other things are more important than gymnastics. Children stop having birthday parties in the sixth grade. She needs to go to as many of those as she can.
2.) Ask her what her goals for gymnastics are. Is she in this to have fun? Is she in this to do the best that SHE can do or to be the best? Is she in this to go to State? Nationals? International level? If she is in this to have fun then have FUN. If she's in this to go to the Olympics tell her to have FUN instead.

She needs to have balance in her life. You did not make any wrong decisions this weekend. She went to a party, she got sick, she messed up the beam. Oh, well. The beam will be there on Monday. Stop beating yourself up and go have fun.

And K. I saw it with my own eyes - you did great today - even on the beam.

Love - Bonnie

mommycares said...

Good one on colla voce - it helps a lot!

We clearly share similar parenting experiences and views.
I've been reading one that I'm hooked on -
I have a feeling you'd get a lot out of it.

Incredible job on your blog; keep it up.


cj said...

No wrong decisions, Lorie. And in my opinion, she didn't mess up on the beam. She did it, the best she could under the circumstances she was under...not feeling well. She didn't give up or give in. Some days are good some days are bad...just remember the women's American Olympic team this last Olympics? Full of fobbles and wobbles and falling off.

She just had a day, one more practice wouldn't have made any difference. She was not feeling well and going to the party didn't do that to her. After having all that time off due to her broken arm while her friend were sweating out their summer in the gym..she came back swinging and look at how well she's done. Give yourself a break, tell K to give herself a break and with an athlete's mind move on towards the future.

And if K wants to go the Olympics, she should go for it. :) jmho. She doesn't sound anywhere near burned out to me. She sounds like a girl who has goals and ambition. Let that score be her success, not her failure. What does K want?

Anonymous said...

You are a good mom. Period.
These sorts of competitions and the training are intense and involve a lot of hard decisions. I think keeping her balanced on the idea that gymnastics may be an important part of her life but it's not her whole life is so important.
That way, if she gets bored in a year, cool; and if it takes her through college, cool.