Leaping Past the Labels

Monkey is 8 years old and does back handsprings in my living room. Not my favorite place for that, admittedly, but considering as a toddler in foster care she was Failure to Thrive, and that she has Bipolar and Anxiety… I’m just happy she’s doing any leaping at all!

Overcoming with Special Needs

Labels can't hold back her heart.

Gymnastics and dance get her through life. When she’s mad, she dances like the Step Up movies – her own special mix of break dancing, gymnastics, and modern dance. It’s raw and beautiful to see her cope like that. To know that gymnastics has done for her what no medication has ever fully been able to.

She’s been in gymnastics for years. But when the invitation came last month to join the Y gymnastics team, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put a kid who struggles emotionally in a competitive arena. Wouldn’t it poison the well from which she draws her life-water? Can a child with anxiety thrive in competition? I didn’t think so. I didn’t even want to find out. I was okay hiding behind her label.

She begged and begged. I prayed. She begged more. I considered. She begged with that extra-sweet little face of hers. I signed her up.

On the first day of team practice, tears leaked from eyes as I watched her walk in with a troupe of “big girls” – much taller than her, much stronger, much less fragile emotionally….

One, two, three practices. Then came the tantrums.

She wouldn’t go. She hated it. She was sore. Her mild incontinence wasn’t holding through the maxi pads. Her anxiety was having a field day. I was so angry at myself for exposing her to this after all she’s been through in life. What kind of a crap parent am I that I’d let her get hurt?

A parent who wants my girl to heal and grow, that’s what.

I called the coach, asked how we could work together to help Monkey get through this transition. For some reason, despite the anxiety I had about pushing her too hard, I knew this one was worth pushing just a little farther than usual. Would the risk be worth it? The coach and I both thought so.

So I sat Monkey down and asked her what it would take to feel like she’s doing well on the team. We came up with a list – simple things really:

  • “tell me what I did right before correcting something”
  • “pair me with an older gymnast so I can get help”
  • “show me how to change a movement instead of telling me”

That’s all it took. Once that was settled, she was in. In for the tough practices. In for the soreness. In for feeling young and new and a little lonely.

And I was in too. Right there with her, not hiding behind her label.

Have you faced a choice about whether to push your child when they show aptitude for something? How did you handle it?


(Photo Source)

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