I have an unnatural fear of gymnastics. I think it's a fantastic and suspenseful sport. But I'm fearful for my kids to participate in gymnastics. I am convinced that the sport is so taxing on those little bodies that when I watch competitions on ESPN, -- because I'll watch ANY sport -- I watch through my fingers. I'm sure a gymnast will snap a leg during a landing. Or hit an apparatus with a body part. Or pull something out of socket. Or fall off some beam or bar that is raised too high up. It's very stressful for me to watch. But here's the part that makes no sense: I'd let my girls play tackle football if they wanted. I'm big on physical-style basketball. Maya spars in Tae Kwon Do and I've seen kids get knocked out with head kicks, and yet I still encourage her to be aggressive and go for it and, most importantly SHAKE IT OFF if she feels the sting of a kick or punch. But gymnastics, which is unknown territory to me, seems way more grueling.
I was on a spring board diving team when I was about 15. I was progressing right along until I hit the diving board with my thighs doing a standard one and a half front flip. My coach said, "You're jumping back a bit on your approach." I was majorly mind fucked from that moment on. I was unable to kiss and make up with the end of the board. My coach suggested we work on back dives for awhile until I was able to SHAKE IT OFF. I practiced a back pike and promptly nicked the corner of the board with my head a la Greg Louganis. I pulled myself out of the diving pool, walked over to the lap pool and joined the swim team on the spot. Didn't even say goodbye to that fucking dive coach. And this is how I view gymnastics, a big mind fuck with a nice injury waiting on the other end. I've had plenty of injuries during my illustrious basketball career including two broken fingers just a couple years ago that made me hang up my high tops, but I guess gymnastics is just so foreign to me.
Maya never had much of an interest in gymnastics other than jumping on the trampoline or doing a flip into the foam pit. But who doesn't want to do that? When we attended a gymnastics birthday party not too long ago, Husband and I were all over that too. Mina, on the other hand, was born to be a gymnast. She shot out of my womb with pointed feet and stuck the landing, man. I had been denying this fact until a month ago.
Since Mina could grip a bar, her favorite activity has been the monkey bars. In preschool and kindergarten, she spent so much time on the monkey bars, the palms of her hands turned into one big callus. It hurt me to hold her hand because the skin was so rough. I'd ask, "Mina, what did you do at school today?" "Monkey bars." "Did you do art and writing?" "Yes. And monkey bars." She was so good, that when we'd go to the park, other parents would ogle Mina going back and forth and forth and back across the bars, then swing for literally ten seconds BY ONE ARM before she'd change direction and then repeat. She developed lats like an Olympian swimmer. You think I'm kidding? Look at that picture. I had written in a previous post that though she does Tae Kwon Do, she tells everyone she is a gymnast. I'd say, "You're a green belt! Aren't you proud of that?" She'd say, "Yes. But I like gymnastics." FINALLY, as I panicked internally, Husband convinced me that I couldn't deny it any longer. We had to sign her up. What was one hour a week going to hurt?
The gymnastic school is a musky warehouse with dull, industrial lighting that seems oppressive to me. The air is wet and thick and parents populate the Parent Pen anxiously and humorously. Husband and I were naively joyful during her first class and we clapped and laughed as Mina had a ball. But when we looked at the other gymnasts we realized that these kids and these parents are not fucking around. Every single body on the floor was a taut specimen of a child. Every single body had a quarter-bouncing ass, long oval muscular thighs and 24 pack. We know Mina is small for her age, but all these girls are small and packed into little superhero bodies wearing velour bathing suits, lavender and pink and royal blue. They pranced around seriously with fat-bare limbs slathered in white chalk and their hair was pulled tightly and gelled and glittered and bowed. They were all doing one-handed push ups, practically, like 500 of them. And climbing ropes with their fingertips, and doing sit ups by hanging upside down. And the militant coaches lacked joy. They were serious too and just bigger, aged versions of the same body type. The banner on the wall read: "Gymanstics: The Art of Perfection" which scared the shit out of me and only confirmed my fears about this crazy, tortuous sport. But, of course, Mina loved it and apparently caught the eye of one of the vulture coaches that accesses athletes like quarter horses; maybe because they look like them. After only three classes, they invited Mina to be in the excelled class. And at age six, she will now do gymnastics two days a week for an hour and a half a pop. Until they kidnap her to Romania and really whip her ass into shape. I caught the end of her first excelled class on Monday. This is when they have the tiny little group of girls climb a rope that stretches from the floor to the warehouse-sized ceiling. I arrived just as they said, "Mina are you ready to try The Rope?" And I clasped my hands and thought thoughts like, Just do your best, baby. Climbing a rope is really hard -- and wouldn't you know that lil mufucka scurried up the rope like it was NOTHING. I sucked in my breath emotionally as I looked at my baby way in the air. I then wondered what kind of super strength she possessed. But obviously the monkey-bar lats came in very handy.
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