Monday, June 25, 2012

The Ten Types Of Gymnastics Parents

(A small word: gymnastic classes are not cheap. If you like this article, forward it to your friends, click on the links, and buy a Five Tool Tool T-shirt. Or twelve. They make great leotards!)

Oh, I have watched you, my fellow caretakers. Always on the perimeter while your daughters (and OK, sons, but not so much) bounce and hop in leotards they can't stop fidgeting with... and after years of this, my eyes have wandered on to you. For those of you who haven't the pleasure of parenting a gymnast, here's what you'll find in the stands beside you, and yes, I've been many of these people. Let's get into it, shall we?

1) The Drop and Go. My personal hero, and the one I go for when I'm really time-stressed or the kids have been true beasts, the Drop and Go is the parent who barely slows down outside the gym building in their quest for 60 to 90 minutes of uninterrupted Me Time. If only those pesky seat belt laws weren't in place, we could get this down to a rolling toss. For this, we pay up to four figures a year, and their kids are clearly the least-interested and worst-behaved of the bunch, since they can sense the neglect... but hey, it's 60 to 90 minutes away from them. Some days, that's all that keeps you from showing up at the police station or the local news. Can't condemn them too much.

2) Asleep in Public. Can you sleep on a plane? A bus? A subway? While driving? Anywhere, really? Step on down to back-crushing plastic folding chairs, the wide-eyed wonder of little kids that don't have narcoleptic parents, and the knowing sadness that is your little one looking up after finally getting that move she hasn't been able to do, only to see your drooly ass in full sprawl. No, really, I saw it, sweetie! I'm so proud of you for... whatever that was!

3) Coach Killer. Why watch your kid when you can try to tan the neck of the accented staff member on the floor below with your mental powers? Just because they've made a sad little career out of preventing injuries from deluded kids doesn't mean that they know what's right for *your* deluded kid. STARE HARDER. He'll recognize your kid's potential if you just STARE HARDER.

4) PDA Phile. Fresh from their terror-inducing unmanned glide through the parking lot, it's a tablet / smart phone / laptop toting parent that's so enraptured by their glowing electronic rectangle, you can pretty much set their hair on fire, just as long as the WiFi holds out. Special points for doing something that clearly shouldn't take up much time or attention at all (like, say, writing for your crappy blog), or looking at content that's really not appropriate for a facility with little kids. (OK, I haven't been the latter. Yet.)

5) Too Happy. Did you know that this moment, this moment right now, is the only moment you can truly experience in your life? Too Happy does, and their over-enthused applause -- for any kid, really, they are border collies in human form -- for any made move, or energy-drink fueled encouragement for any half-hearted attempt -- can curdle the spine of any human with, well, ordinary cynicism for 21st century America. Making things much worse is the fact that their kids clearly love them, and are probably doing better than yours. (Maybe I've been staring at the wrong people.)

6) Spawn Tastic. In the words of the late great Bill Hicks, these are the folks that haven't stopped their rutting long enough to figure out the whole Food Air Deal, and have decided to fill the stands with a half dozen bored progeny to watch Favored Child go through their routines, rather than pay the bulk rate for babysitting. Needless to say, your gym *loves* these people, since they are seeing a multiplier effect on their revenue. Especially once they sell the less talented kids' organs for cash!

7) Fish On Land, Gasping. The kid is in something really unfortunate (jersey from another sport, pajamas, swimwear, underwear, stained and/or disintegrating), and so is the parent. The parent is in the gym's shop, furiously trying to figure out what outfit will fit their kid, or asking other parents where they bought their kids' stuff. The coach is pointing them towards the skill and injury-free foam pit area, and trying to convince the kid that they are learning the best way to, um, control their body in air, or something. But look quick! Because in a week to a month, they either look like everyone else, or they are gone. The gym is no place for iconoclastic behavior, people.

8) Cyborgs. Do not engage these people -- if, indeed, they are people at all, it's really hard to say -- in any kind of conversation, for fear of the laser-emitting stares. You'll know their kids from the impeccable form, the pristine leotards, and the slight hint of terror in their eyes if they fail to make the next level / team / move in the scientifically determined time allotted. (Oh, and if you find yourself saying the words CRUSH KILL DOMINATE without a trace of irony, you might be these people. Change your oil responsibly.)

9) Team Indulgence. Does your gym have a snack bar? Puling kids looking to stuff their holes with junk food to refuel from that grueling session of falling into foam pits? Weak-kneed parents that had dinner plans that didn't involve plastic toys caving in to the need to bring on Type II Diabetes to the next generation with a quickness? Then you've got Team Indulgence, here to corrupt your own kids into puling behaviors, as well as fix that unfortunate stereotype that gymnasts are in shape. I said I wanted two deserts, not one!

10) The Total Nightmares. The child is in a leotard that costs most than dinner for a family of 6. The household has more cars then people, a thousand square feet per human, a working knowledge of capital gains tax laws and on-call professionals for every possible need. The child has never known a moment of self-doubt or concern that things are going to be fine, just fine. And the parent is sitting there, bemused, supportive, and slumming because of all of their wonderful possessions and opportunities, time with their children is the most valuable time of their day.

(Hey, Shooter Kids? Dad needs you to become her new BFF, so that I can invite her dad over for a friendly game of poker. Either that, or you be so much better than her that she has some kind of psychological breakdown. CRUSH. KILL. DOMINATE.)

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