Thursday, May 30, 2013

FTT Off-Topic: Level Four Fear

On sale for $47; the biggest secret is Parents Are Marks.
Not really sports, so read or move along, you.

The Eldest, a teen for about six weeks and always a girl, is a Level 4 gymnast. If you don't know what that is, that's fine; basically, it means that you can do stuff on every apparatus, have probably been at it for a couple of years, and are on the cusp of being in a team or performing at a meet. You are better at gymnastics than 98 to 99% of the people on the planet, and acutely aware of just how many people are in the 1 to 2%, since you see them all the time, and have to get over that fact. A lot.

She's also on her third gym, having been jerked around and irritated by the two previous places, though to be fair, she's probably not the easiest kid in the world to teach. (Shockingly, my kid is a mite headstrong. Clearly, her mother's fault. We also didn't start her young enough, assuming that starting her at all was the right move, and, well, it was.) She also took a full month off while transitioning from the last gym, going on vacation and being in a school play, and for much of that month, she didn't talk about gymnastics.

I wondered, during that time, if we were done with the sport. Turns out that we're not.

I'm glad that we're not... except when I'm not. Let me explain.

My kid is, like me, a hobbit; she doesn't really look her age, and that lack of height plus her monomaniacal fitness level makes her a reasonable addition to a team. She's focused as well, though she doesn't really have the Crush Others edge that makes me think she's ever going to do this for more than fun and fitness. And that's fine, really; though I'd love for her to get more of a taste for competition as she rounds into adulthood, I've been her dad long enough to know that pushing when they need to pull just makes both parent and child frustrated with each other.

Anyway, she's now on the upswing, training four times a week, enthused about her teammates and coaches and routines, doing 12 hours of exercise over three nights and one morning during the school year without too much grumbling about the inevitable aches and pains that result from this work. Which is all good news, right? Well, sure... if you consider the borderline car payment that's involved to keep her in training, or that those funds could kick up the college fund savings by a fairly dramatic level, or maybe even (dare I dream) put something aside for my hopefully less than completely dependent dotage... good news.

But she's 13, ya know? And could decide to stop being a gymnast if the training goes south or the teammates get bitchy, and the grades are good and this has to be a nice addition to the resume for college later, and no, I'm in no way dreaming of even a partial athletic scholarship from this...

Doubt, FYI, creeps even into the Nice Moments of being the parent of a youth athlete. Tonight, I shopped with her online and ordered her three new leotards (these are not cheap, you will be shocked to learn) because, well, four times a week is four times a week, and I found a coupon code and yada yada yada. I could have just gotten two and kept her in the same stuff she uses now with more frequent laundry; once more with feeling, she could stop at any time. But that's not supportive at all, right?

And that is, honestly, what being a parent is like. Doing things for them with full outward confidence, while being completely convinced, in moments of low energy or esteem, that you're doing it all wrong. And knowing that they are learning from you all the time, and much of that time, it's not something that you are aware that you are teaching.

If all goes well, she might get into a meet in another 4 to 6 months. At this point, she just wants to stay on the team. And I just want her to... give her whole heart to a pursuit, while not getting her heart broken by it.

And to make the investment worth it, while never feeling like she has to make the investment worth it...

And to be there at some future date, when she or her sister struggles with the same decision for her child, if that's the path she wants to take in life...

And have no good advice, no good advice at all, on which way to go.

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