When my daughter watched the 2012 Olympics, she fell in love with the gymnasts and immediately began to somersault around the family room. We thought it was cute and enrolled her in a beginner gymnastics class. Little did we know that that one, seemingly innocent move would forever change the course of our lives.
She was a natural talent and quickly moved to the pre-team and then level one within a year. At her first competition, she won the all around trophy and was hooked.
Over the years, we have watched her develop into a focused, dedicated young lady. We also discovered that competitive gymnastics is a whole family sport and has some unique qualities that you can only fully comprehend if you have lived through it.
10 Things Only Gymnastics Moms Can Understand
- Rips are a rite of passage and should be celebrated. Those nasty looking hands with the raw wounds are a sign that your gymnast is moving on to harder skills. The rips on her toes from the beam are even more painful (try walking with rips on your toes), but again, our girl couldn’t wait to show them to us because only “real” gymnasts get them. When I wanted to coddle her and put medicine on them, she replied, “No Mommy, I have to let them get tough. This is how I get better.” Those rips have now formed into rough calluses on her hands and feet, but she was right, they did help her get better, grip the equipment easier and move on to new skills.
- You should buy stock in bobby pins now, while you still have years left in the sport. Maybe buy stock in hairspray too. You will purchase roughly five thousand bobby pins every season and they will all disappear by April. My daughter uses approximately one hundred bobby pins and a can of hairspray for every single meet. It takes a lot of product and pins to get all that hair slicked back and smoothed down into an acceptable bun.
- You love the other girls on the team and think of them like your own daughters. Many nights, the gym moms drive each other’s children back and forth to practice. We feed them and we listen to them talk about everything and nothing. We fuss over them when they have an injury. The girls share clothes and hand down leos to the smaller ones, just like real sisters. We root for the other girls and nervously hold our breath every time they hop on the beam. We watch them practice or compete and cheer and clap for each and every one of them. Our hearts ache for them when they fall, have trouble with a new skill or don’t place at a competition.
- At the same time, you kinda want them to lose. The sad truth is that only one gymnast can win and you want it to be your daughter. As much as you love the other gymnasts, you always want your daughter to be just a little bit better than them.
- Your vacations revolve around travel meets. Each year, we anxiously await to hear where the big travel meet will be because that inevitably determines our family vacation too. We either all go to that location and stay a few extra days after the competition or it determines our budget for our “real” family vacation. Plus, we can only travel when the gym is closed so we have one, maybe two, weeks out of the year when we can take a family trip.
- The other moms are the only people who truly get you. We commiserate over $300 leotards or missing time from work to get our girls to practice. The long drives to the gym, juggling schedules, rubbing aching muscles . . . only people who are currently in the trenches and doing this on a daily basis can really understand just how difficult it is.
- You live out of your car and always carry snacks, an extra leotard and a book light for doing homework. My daughter goes right from school to the gym for a four hour long practice. She eats dinner and does homework on the way home. I’m not a car person, but I do insist on a comfy, spacious vehicle since I spend most of life in it. My SUV has twelve cup holders, fifteen different spots to charge electronics, a third row for carting extra kids with us, extra utensils and straws stashed away in the glove compartment, spare change for vending machines, even matches in case we get stranded and need to start a fire to stay alive. Gym moms are always prepared, right?
- Your other children get dragged around to every practice and meet. My poor boys have sat through more car rides and competitions than I can count. They know which gyms have the best snacks and they have found endless ways to entertain themselves during a long meet. I’m hoping this is preparing them for adulthood and sitting through boring work meetings.
- You are a little afraid of your daughter’s abs. She is a beast and you would be afraid to run into her in a dark alley. Her arm muscles probably rival her dad’s. I’m not going to lie; sometimes we make her show people her muscles because it it wild to see that on a little girl.
- Your daughter is the most hardworking, ambitious, disciplined young lady you have ever met. I have been told by many people that gymnastics is the hardest sport in the world. It is rife with injuries. Very few gymnasts will ever make it to the Olympics or earn college scholarships. However, it teaches our daughters so many things. The girls are excellent students with amazing time management skills. They are mature beyond their years and respectful to others. They have a can-do attitude and always pick themselves back up and try again, both at the gym and in their personal life. In the end, it’s not about the Olympics or college scholarships; it’s about raising incredible young women.
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