|Photo Credit: Gabrielle Grafrath|
It's happening again. The same comments I got when D was about Mal's age I'm now getting about Mal: "When he gets older, he needs to be in gymnastics." For some reason, my kids were apparently both born with a sense of balance, agility, and athleticism that I do not have.
Daphne was just under 2.5 when she started a little tumbling class at a community center in Las Vegas.
|Sorry for the blur;trying not to flash in her face.|
D was in the class for about two months before we moved away, and her teacher, who had been a gymnast in Russia, told me, "You need to be sure she gets into a gymnastics program wherever you move."
|Sitting om her circle.|
So we did. And she was in the same gym from the time she was just pre-3 until the summer we moved, when she was just pre-11.
Today, not for the first or second or even third time (I guess I've lost track), someone told me that I needed to get Mal into some sports program "like gymnastics." People usually start the conversation after watching him scramble up a slide or jump around on the trampoline with no characteristic toddling. When I say he's 20 months, they're shocked (also, he's really big for a not-yet-2-year-old; like, I need to get to get some 3T clothes because his 2Ts are getting way too short-waisted) and mention that he is going to be some kind of athlete.
So today, I started thinking forward to when Mal might be old enough to start a class. Right now, he can't follow instructions (an email I got on development recently said that one way to avoid stress at this age is "don't expect your child to do what you ask... but keep asking, anyway." So he's right on track). When he can, it'll be fun to see what he can do. He accidentally did a somersault the other day, and James just went crazy because it was such a shock. So Mal decided to "flip" again, by putting his head down on the ground and kind of falling over to the side. Every time he did it, he'd expect us to clap and cheer just as enthusiastically as when he'd really done it. But we do know he has it in him.
When D was in gymnastics, I read Little Girls in Pretty Boxes and Chalked Up and they kind of run together in my memory, but I think it was Jennifer Sey who talked about how girls kind of age out of competitive gymnastics by the time they're 16 or 17, but because of how males develop, they don't really hit their stride until about then. She mentioned the competitions where there would be a bunch of 14-year-old girls and 22-year-old men, and I was glad Daphne wasn't on track for the Olympics.
Anyway, I got to thinking about how naturally powerful Daphne was, and how she made up in force what she might have lacked in finesse. She had to work very hard to get the dance portion of the sport down, and until today I don't really think I considered the difference in how men's gymnastics and women's gymnastics are scored. When I got home, I looked it up and couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. But what I read did talk about how women's floor routines include more dance moves and jumps whereas men's floor routines have more gymnastic skills.
But even without it in writing, Daphne got a few messages about aesthetics: 1) Smile, always. Think about it, the girls in the national competitions do it, too. Smile and wave and be adorable. That's part of women's gymnastics. Daphne believed, even if she were never told this directly, that points would be deducted if she did not smile at the end of each "thing." 2) No one can be able to tell that you're wearing undergarments. Daphne told me that if their bra strap showed or you could see any bands or whatever that there would be deductions taken, too.
Okay, both of those: How effing stupid. Seriously?! A girl just tumbles her heart out and if she doesn't look like Little Miss Sunshine at the end, she's not going to be judged as "good" as someone who cheeses it up convincingly? Do you see men grinning like giddy kids when they do their gymnastics? Then why should girls have to? Did she do the skill? Then she gets the points. I understand aesthetics like control of fingers, toes, legs symmetrical, etc. I get maintaining a tidy posture, graceful, even. But to feel like if you wear adequate support and someone can tell, you're not going to place as high? What the heck?
I told Daphne that she should be glad she did gymnastics when she did, because if the smiling thing were actually written down somewhere, today I'd probably lead some charge to have it removed.
I was always very sensitive to the messages Daphne was getting from gymnastics, as I knew the horror stories of body-shaming, berating, negativity, etc. And we were SO fortunate to find a place that was completely absent of any of that. It was a fun place, and they had the girls' whole-person formation as the priority instead of just doing well at this sport and looking nice doing it. It was treated like a genuine sport, not a beauty pageant plus some tumbling, and as difficult as it was for Daphne to make friends (she was always quite a bit younger than much of the team), the fact that it was a safe environment for her to learn was never something I took for granted. (Shout out to Gymnastic Sport Center in Sherman!)
As an aside, I remember a radio disc jockey in Las Vegas saying that anything that has to be scored subjectively isn't a sport, so that basketball, football, soccer, and hockey are sports, but that gymnastics, ice skating, cheer leading, and even boxing if it's not a KO or TKO. But I digress. You can discuss that amongst yourselves...
So, the sexist reality is that I don't have any of those fears for Mal if he ends up competing in gymnastics. Some things are just easier for boys.
I'll probably wait until 2017, and maybe even until he's 3, then see if he wants to take a beginner class. Until then, we'll be at My Gym a couple of times a week, brushing up on those core skills.