...to brag about our kid.
I come from a long line of bookworms, klutzes and couch potatoes. My dad took band in high school to get out of gym. I did the same thing with modern dance. In elementary school, I was always the last kid to be picked on the team. In fact, the team captains would fight over which one wouldn't get me, because my presence on a team insured a loss. Even when it was my turn to be team captain and had first pick and managed to get all the best players on my team -- we still lost. And back then, since your school popularity was determined by your athletic ability, my fate was sealed by the fourth grade.
So I was a little bit worried about my own daughter. We all want to spare our children the indignities we suffered when we were young. How was I going to handle it when she came crying to me because the other kids wouldn't want her on their teams?
I did have some hope in the fact that my husband is somewhat athletic, having played rugby and tennis when he was in school. And when Megan was born looking more like his side of the family than mine (creamy white English complexion instead of my dark olive coloring, slim hips and such a small tush that she can barely fit into a 5 slim jean at the age of 8)... this looked better. But she did get my brown eyes and fine hair, as well as a recessive gene for thalessemia (a potentially fatal anemia found in people of Jewish/Mediterranean descent - safe as long as both parents aren't carriers). More mysterious was her type O negative blood. Gareth and I are both A positive. (Megan's blood type was inherited from her paternal grandmother -- and obviously, I must have recessive O and negative genes, too).
When Megan was 4, I enrolled her in the same Tae Kwon Do class as her friend, Tanya. It was something they could do together as well as an activity I hoped would foster confidence. That was where we first noticed that she did not inherit my family's lack of athleticism. One of the first things she learned there was defensive rolling. "Is she taking gymnastics?" asked Mr. Ronceros, the instructor. "She should be. She's practically flying off the mat."
I did not start her in gymnastics then. I think we overprogram our children with too many classes and activities and do not give them enough time to just sit still and develop their imaginations. Life is just too fast these days. We had just begun the karate -- I wanted her to focus on that.
And there was the less lofty reason -- I did not feel we could afford to pay for both kinds of lessons.
So we did Tae Kwon Do for three years. Megan progressed, she enjoyed the time she spent with Tanya, and she liked it -- but she didn't love it. She never spent time outside of class practicing her kicks, punches or forms. She did, however, teach herself to do a killer cartwheel. And I wondered if it might be better for her to try a new physical activity.
So last year, we headed over to our local gym for a free gymnastics lesson, and Megan loved it. I told her I could not pay for both karate and gymnastics, and she needed to pick one. That was the end of the Tae Kwon Do.
Megan is the type of child who is always bouncing around. She puts off getting ready for school by going into her "morning stretches," which consist of series of back bends and "bridge kick-offs"; she'll be watching TV and decide to break into spontaneous round-offs and handstands. She can balance on a 4-ft. beam, pull herself up on uneven bars and climb a rope to the top of the gym (although she has not yet learned how to avoid getting rope burns and blisters when she does that).
I am utterly in awe of her -- not only because of her grace and athleticism, but because I have no idea of what having those abilities feels like. I don't know where it came from. So I watch - and feel very proud. And try not to have those awful thoughts of "Olympics" -- although of course, that is one of her dreams. She even announced that, as a dual citizen of the UK, she would like to play for the British team, and I thought to myself that might be easier for her to attain... before I reminded myself that Olympians have to push themselves so hard that they don't have a normal childhood, much like actors and other performers. The one thing I don't stop myself from fantasizing about is the possibility of an athletic scholarship, especially to UCLA, one of the nation's true powerhouses of women's gymnastics. Maybe that could happen... if Megan continues to love the sport... for another 10 years...
Last week, Megan's coaches decided she was way too good for the level she has been training at, and they advised that we move her up to the next one. This requires a twice-a-week commitment, for a total of three hours weekly. And it costs me more. I was ready for this, even wondering how long it would take them to notice how good she is getting. So I really am turning into a gym mom now.
When we got home from her session, I found that the state had finally sent us the results of the academic tests Megan had taken last spring. The kid may not be a bookworm like her mom, or a budding little scientist like her dad, but she scored off the chart. Here's an area where I can choose to think she does take after me -- and I'm doubly proud.