Claire had gymnastics today, which is one of her favorite things to do. She loves the other little girls in her class (except for one girl who always tries to steal her hula hoop) and is so proud of herself for doing cartwheels and walking on the balance beam. Let me stop here and assure you that my child is no future Mary Lou Retton. When I say she does cartwheels, I mean that she squats on all fours and moves her legs about half an inch to the side. She is pretty good at stepping over the stars on the beam though, so maybe there's hope.
Since school is out, some of the older girls are in the gym practicing at the same time as Claire's class. The little ones are seriously in awe of these big girls, and, I have to admit, so am I. Since my own gymnastics experience is limited to one humiliating year (topped off by a meet in which I stubbed my toe on the springboard during my vault event and fell to the floor crying in pain) and watching the Olympics, I think it is really cool when these little bodies can fly through the air and land on their feet. Or when they can swing around and around on the bar and then let go. And land on their feet. Or when they can tumble all the way across the gym without stopping. And land on their feet. Clearly, I'm fixated with the fact that they always seem to stick their landings. This is probably because I never could, but that's something for me to work through on my own..
Today, a group of nine year olds was practicing and I caught myself watching them more than I watched Claire (Oh! Hi Claire! Yes, I saw that cartwheel! Good job!). Not because they were doing awesome gymnastics stunts, but because they seemed to be in boot camp. One little girl was jumping from the floor onto a waist-high mat (yes, I must admit I did try this at home and no, I can't do it). Another was jumping, legs bent, across the gym. Another was straddling the beam and using only her arms to work her way across it. And yet another was pushing a mat across the gym floor as fast as she could.
I was impressed. Their coach, however, was not. I watched as the coach (a college girl, home for the summer) called them all together and begin barking at them, just like a drill sargent. She called them lazy, told them they weren't trying hard enough, that they needed to work harder and asked them why they were there. The girls looked at the floor, at each other, at the the ceiling, anywhere but at the coach.
I found myself feeling angry. Indignant. Who did this coach think she was? These girls were only nine, and, let's be honest, probably not future Mary Lou Rettons either. Shouldn't she be encouraging them instead? Building their self-esteem? Allowing them to have some fun?
And that's when it hit me. Maybe I'm going to be one of those moms. The one who thinks the coach is too hard on her kid. The one who thinks there must be a "personality conflict" with the teacher. The one who can't handle constructive criticism when it's aimed at her child.
So, please, when Claire is old enough to be in sports where they actually keep score or activities in which there is some level of expectation placed on her, remind me not to be that mom. Or at least get me a muzzle.