There are some things that I swore as a parent I would never do. If you’ve ever raised anything, you already know that most of the things I swore I would never do are things that I have, by now, actually done. I was a really superb parent before my children were born.
One of the many promises I made was that we would never, under any circumstances, be part of a traveling sports team. We were not going to spend our time, our money, our WEEKENDS, traveling around to other towns watching our kids play ball or shoot a puck. While I understand why some families choose (or are coerced) to do this, I’ve never really understood the appeal. I’m not a natural athlete and didn’t really grow up playing sports. Plus, I love my weekends. A lot. They are necessary to my ability to unwind and catch up after a long week at work.
But something unexpected happened last spring. My oldest daughter tried out for the competitive gymnastics team at the local gym. At that point, she hadn’t really found her niche. She had things she liked to do, friends she liked to hang with. But she hadn’t found her thing. And I really felt that she needed a thing. Something she could work hard at, fail at, succeed at. I didn’t really think that gymnastics would be her thing but figured that if she wanted to try out, she might as well. And as fate would have it, she made the team. Fast forward a few months down the road and now it’s competition season.
Our first meet was a three hour drive and two states away from our home. We were total meet rookies so I was glad to have our good friends there with us. They showed us the ropes, talked us through the events and scoring and cheered for and encouraged my daughter.
As is my nature, I was worried about the whole thing. Would she remember her leotard and warm ups? How would we do her hair and get it to stay in place? Where was the gym, how long would it take to get there? More importantly, how would my daughter respond to the pressure of competition? Would she get terrified and freeze? Would she just phone it in and give a mediocre performance? Would she, could she, rise to the occasion and shine?
I was a nervous wreck. There is little that is more terrifying for a mom than sitting in the bleachers and watching your child mount a balance beam with the intent of staying on it through cartwheels and dismounts. I literally held my breath through every event as if by not breathing, she would magically be able to hold on, stay on, carry on. I didn’t want her to know how nervous I was, though. Before she marched in for open warm ups, I wanted to pull her aside and give a lifetime’s worth of wisdom. I wanted to tell her to try her hardest, do her best, hold on tight, focus, focus, focus. But I knew that would be the wrong move. I knew it could throw her into a tailspin and, being my daughter, she was already nervous enough. So I settled on a single phrase. Just one sentence. That’s it. No more, no less. I met her in the athlete’s room, gave her a hug, choked back my tears of pride and said, “You got this.”
And she did. She had it all under control. She stepped out there with confidence in front of a bunch of strangers and she performed her routines. It wasn’t perfect. In fact, she was dead last in her group. But she didn’t care. She held her head high, conquered her nerves, stayed on the beam, and she did it. All I had to do was trust her, and hold my breath.
You got this.