Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Gender and Gymnastics

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The Olympic event that never failed to capture and hold my children’s attention this summer was gymnastics. My 7 and 8-year-olds didn’t watch many other events, but when this was on, they’d drop whatever they were doing and come running to watch. This got me thinking maybe this was the sport for them. Both of my kids have tried out several sports and they didn’t seem to like anything.

“Do you guys want check out this place?” I asked one day. Even though I’d suggested it, I didn’t feel much better about trying something else. When we walked into The Little Gym, the last gymnastics class of the day was wrapping up. A bubbly young woman invited us to watch the end of the session. As my children pressed their faces to the glass, the spark I saw in their eyes let me know making the extra stop had paid off and so would the additional money I’d have shell out to get them registered.

Still, I was hesitant. What’s that about? I asked myself. The kids were excited and the facility was able to accommodate my schedule. My hesitancy was about enrolling Levi in gymnastics.

Up until I remarried two years ago, Levi lived in an all female world. That and the fact that Liv is older and has the more dominant personality have caused him to play with and enjoy many things that are traditionally considered “for girls”. Like Littlest Pet Shop animals, tea parties and playing with Liv’s doll house. Every night he gently tucks his stuffed animals in. I’m OK with that. He’s a natural nurturer and will make an amazing father one day. But he also loves most “boy” things. Except for sports. Because of this, at times he’s struggled fitting in with boys who do. Would enrolling him in gymnastics contribute further to this and even make him a target for bullying?

Gymnastics plays to all of my uniquely gifted boy’s strengths: he is strong, agile and fearless. It’s the natural choice for him. This was apparent the night of his trial class as other moms watched him leap effortlessly from the high bar to the low bar.  As far as bullying goes, if he turns out to be as good at gymnastics as I think he can be, instead of bullying him, other guys would probably be amazed at his talent and give him respect.

A few days earlier, when I’d voiced my concerns to Levi’s teacher, a petite, gutsy woman named Charlee, she told me, “Let him do gymnastics. Let him own it.”  Suddenly, I knew he would. Channeling Charlee, I signed him up. Who knows, maybe someday a little boy who doesn’t quite fit the gender mold will watch Levi and be inspired to pursue gymnastics too.

–Tammi

Photo courtesy of Courosa

3 thoughts on “Gender and Gymnastics

  1. Tammi,
    I applaud your efforts to allow your children to be themselves and shine. I think so many people spend their lives trying to live someone else’s dream…live up to someone else’s expectations…blend into someone else’s idea of “normal”. When we do this, we lose the uniqueness that makes us who we are, and in some cases we spend so much time living someone else’s version of our life that we forget how to live our own version….sometimes not even realizing that we have our own dreams. When we don’t allow children to use their unique gifts and shine their own unique light and instead try to force them into what others call “normal”, we are telling them they are not valuable….that there is something wrong with them. This isn’t the message that any child should get. This isn’t the message that any adult should get. We should build people up, help them reach their dreams, and help them understand that their gifts, interests, talents, and ideas are valuable and worthy. I believe that people who judge others negatively because of unique characteristics or qualities do so because of insecurities they have. What a boring place this world would be if we all were “normal.” And when we come up against those who judge us for the decisions that embrace our uniqueness….I like to think of this quote: What you think of me is none of my business.

  2. I have to ditto Jenni, that was so well written! Shine on!

  3. Jenni and Deb, thank you so much for echoing what I feel in my heart about my decision. After I posted this, Levi had his first session and the pure, unbridled joy on his face the entire time was absolute confirmation that gymnastics is for him. I appreciate both of your comments more than I can say and will fully embrace my wonderful boy shining the way he was made to. : )