Months and months ago the owner of my daughter's gym asked me to write up a flyer for gym parents about good parent behavior and not falling into the trap of being a "helicopter parent" (ie. parents who stay at all practices monitoring every detail of their child's progress, coaching from the sidelines, etc.)
I haven't written the flyer yet.
I haven't written anything on that subject because I don't want to be a hypocrite.
My daughter, Anna, is devoted to gymnastics, which is obvious from the twenty-hours-a-week she willingly puts into the sport. She's athletic and strong, maybe not the most athletic and the most strong, but she loves it and I never have to coerce her into going to practice. She's a hard-working kid and has a pretty determined personality for someone going into third grade.
When it comes to meets, Anna is pretty chill. She doesn't seem to get nervous and she enjoys herself. Yes, she'd like to do well, but if she doesn't do well, she shakes it off pretty quickly.
Now enter her mother (ME). The night before meets, I can hardly sleep. If I do watch her practices, I'm sitting there biting my fingers and saying pseudo-curse words in my head if she can't make her clear hip/kip/toe circle/jump to the high bar combination.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
My daughter is testing right now to see if she can qualify to go down to the National Training Center in Texas for national testing. The last couple days she's been struggling on beam and bar. I woke up this morning with visions of flawed beam skills dancing through my head.
AGAIN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
For the most part, I keep these thoughts to myself. I work on encouraging my daughter, not tearing her down. So, I'm not so worried about her emotional health as I am about my own.
I talked to my mom about this problem while I was visiting Hong Kong earlier in the year. I had to miss Anna's sectional meet (the score of which would dictate if she was going on to State). I knew from a text from my husband that she fell on beam, and that she didn't get her best score on floor, so I figured she was out of the running for State. And I felt miserable about it! (As it turns out, she did make it, and went on to have a pretty good State experience, but that's another story.) While I was struggling with misery, I asked my mom that same question: WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why I am feeling this way about something I have no control over? Why can't I just let her go and have fun with gymnastics? Why do I, at least every couple weeks, have to fight back the monster of Crazy Gymnastics Mom that seems to want to take over my (usually-reasonable) body?
Part of me wonders if I can't be chill about this because we put in so much time. So many hours. Not only in the gym, but also in the car. We live a few towns away from her gym, so our mileage and gas bill are atrocious. Our family life has been turned upside down. I never considered home schooling, but now that Anna has this schedule, we have no other choice. So, part of me wonders, am I just trying to prove to myself that this was a good idea? If Anna does well in gymnastics, wins medals, goes to Texas for the national testing, does that somehow make all that sacrifice WORTH IT?
My mom gave me sage words of advice. She said something like, "This may be something you always struggle with, to have the right perspective. But you have to keep fighting the battle to have the right perspective and not let that wrong perspective win."
That's advice I should know how to follow. Believe me, I've had plenty of experience as an aspiring author with the ups and downs of pursuing a dream. It's often a struggle to have the correct attitude, to keep going even when the "prize" seems far away or even unattainable.
There are always other writers who are better, more brilliant, than you are. You want to cheer everyone on, but sometimes it's so discouraging when others are pulling ahead and you're left behind.
Anna's coach said something wise, and I remind myself of it every time I find myself in Crazy Gymnastics Mom mode. I heard him tell one little girl, "You can't do gymnastics forever. When you grow up, you're not going to be able to do this stuff anymore, and the only thing that's going to be left is the character you built from doing it."
This blog post is my pep talk. Not only to myself, but to all of you out there who are pursuing a dream, no matter what it is.
In the end, it's the journey that matters. That's where we build character. As a writer, I had to come to a place of peace. My dream may be to win the Newbery Medal someday, and that's a huge motivation, but I can't let it distract me from the joy I find in the journey. From daily writing. From reaching my smaller, more attainable goals. And doing the best I can with the talents (and responsibilities) God gave me.
I want the same for Anna -- and all my kids when they figure out what their BIG DREAM is. I want them to feel peace, to do it because they love it, to make sacrifices, to work REALLY, REALLY hard, not for the awards or the praise, but because they want to grow as people and make a difference in lives around them.
I feel better now. I may be able to sleep tonight ... and wake up to wrestle with these emotions all over again tomorrow.