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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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Today’s gratitude: gymnastics

by Sierra on August 18, 2009 · 0 comments

in parenting

Today, theGymnastics Academy of Boston totally made my day.

It had a tough act to follow. The day started out beautifully, with a blissful preschool morning featuring a pleasant walk, a romp in the sprinklers at a local park, and a nice quiet lunch and story time. The kids left, and I read my e-mail to discover a story I worked particularly hard on had been picked up by an editor I’m developing a very nice relationship with. Then Rio and I shared a bike ride, which turned out to be much more comfortable than walking in this humid heat because we had breezes to enjoy.

So by the time we arrived at the Gymnastics Academy, we were having a pretty rockin’ day. We went to scope the place out and decide whether or not it was a good fit for Rio for fall classes. It’s more expensive than I will normally go for an activity for her – like, about double my usual cap for children’s classes. But after a year of trying and failing to get her into the always-full classes at the Boys and Girls Club or other cheap places I caved and took her to a real Gymnastics place. Which is what she wanted all along anyway; she somehow cottoned on to the equipment and discipline of gymnastics and got very attached to it at about age 3.

Of the stand-alone gymnastics places in the area, we chose this one because it is within a reasonable bike ride of our house and seemed to be full of gymnastics geeks – people who were not super into the body fascism or glitz elements, but were serious about gymnastics as a sport and not just entertainment for little kids. Again, this was what Rio wanted.

The women behind the counter when we walked in started off asking me about Rio’s age, her gymnastics background and her skills. “Talk to her,” I said. “She’s your customer.”

At that point, the woman segued beautifully into talking directly with Rio, asking her what skills she knows and what she’s interested in. The conversation seemed to be going well until Rio told her interlocutor that she could do a cartwheel.

“I’ve never seen that,” I said, as mildly as I could.

This is where things got really good. The teacher (who we’ll call Dawn, since that was her name), offered to show Rio the gymnastics space and equipment. We all took off our shoes and went inside. She showed Rio around, and asked her to do a series of things: a forwards roll, a backwards roll, a variety of poses. Each time, she’d gently ask Rio if she knew how to do it.

Rio always said yes, even if she had no idea what Dawn was talking about. I’m pretty sure she had never attempted a backwards roll before in her life, but she maintained she knew how and then fearlessly threw herself backwards head over heels at the first opportunity to prove it.

She was like that through the whole interview: all fearless enthusiasm and focus. Dawn would gently correct her form, Rio would listen, take the direction and try it again. Clearly, this was some gymnast-bot who was secretly swapped for my kid in the night.

The test routine included at least one move on every major piece of equipment, to Rio’s delight since the bars and rings and bouncy things are a crucial part of the gymnastics mystique for her. When she’d finished, Dawn placed her in the advanced preschool class rather than the kindergarten group, explaining that they’d reevaluate her in 10 weeks and probably move her up to the next level then. It seemed clear that Rio was on a cusp between skill levels and they wanted to put her near the top of her class instead of near the bottom to start out. Fair enough.

The slick thing was that she managed to present this to Rio in a way that made Rio bust with pride at having been placed in the Right Class rather than angry or sad that she’d failed a test. At home she told her dad that even though she is not taking the Best Class, she will still be one of the Best Gymnastics People In The World. And then she showed off her backwards rolls some more on our bed.

After the class placement, Dawn invited Rio to join a class that was just starting, to see how she liked it. She jumped in like the proverbial duck to water. I sat in the lobby and filled out paperwork. I’d better get very comfortable with this lobby, I realized, picturing myself hanging out there on winter afternoons with a notebook, working on an article while Rio learns to flip and spin and stretch.

So I signed over vast quantities of time and money, and bought her a sparkly bathing suit that the nice lady at the counter swore was not really for swimming and was really required for the classes. Rio’s officially a gymnastics student now, and will be for the rest of the school year.

It cost many more dollars than any other activity I’ve ever signed her up for, but if she continues as she began, I will consider it a bargain.

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