I watched my daughter halfway attempt to do a cartwheel at her gymnastics class the other day. It’s a skill that she mastered months ago, but has now suddenly “forgotten” how to execute. My frustration started to boil as I realized that this was the third class in a row that she’d acted nonchalant.
Like she doesn’t care. Like she doesn’t want to be there. If she had “Fuck this shit” in her arsenal of vocabulary, she would use it.
And I had no idea how to handle things.
She just seemed bored in her class. I don’t know how or when or why things changed. She used to be the kid that needed very little guidance. The kid who listened and followed directions, who acquired new skills quickly, who didn’t need to be summoned off of the trampoline when all of the other kids were working on the beam.
And it wasn’t just gymnastics. She was bailing out of skiing lessons as well, opting to display extreme separation anxiety meltdowns than have fun on the slope and work on her “pizza” and “french fry” positions.
I grappled with two opposing thoughts: Pull her out of class, or make her tough it out.
What do you do when your children want to give up?
My first thought was “That’s it. We’re done. This is our last class.” Because classes aren’t cheap, and if she didn’t want to be there, then it was a waste of time for everyone involved.
But then I argued, “Shouldn’t I make her stick things out?” Perhaps this as an opportunity to teach perseverance and discipline?
Because I know this lesson all too well. And not just from my career as a professional dancer.
Take Exhibit A:
When I was a senior in high school, I enrolled in AP Calculus. Not because I was a genius, but because the trajectory of my previous school’s curriculum forced it. It was either AP Calculus or Physics, and since I can’t seem to even line up my cue ball to hit a clear shot in to a corner pocket, I figured my chances were better at calculus than physics.
But that calculus crap is HARD.
I did okay at it, but about halfway through the semester, I felt overwhelmed. It was a lot of homework. Homework that made my head swirl. And I had come down with a horrible case of Senioritis.
Calculus wasn’t effortless, and therefore, I wanted to drop out. So I made a proposal to my parents to drop the class. And when they respectfully declined my request, I did what any mature high school senior would do.
I threw myself on the floor and had a Grade A, Tasmanian Devilish, Supreme Toddler tantrum.
I’m talking pounding the floor, kicking my feet, crying and screaming about how unfair my parents were. And no matter how much I protested, they didn’t back down on their stance. I wasn’t quitting and that was that.
It was a hard lesson to swallow. In the end, I finished the course with a pretty decent grade. And in my freshman year in college, I tested out of math classes because of my AP Calculus test result.
Thinking back to this experience made me realize something about my daughter. She may very well be my carbon-copy perfectionist. If it doesn’t come easy to her, then she doesn’t want to do it.
I get that. I relate to that. I have lived that.
Realizing that you’re not an instant natural at something can be eye-opening and humbling. Some folks rise to the occasion and tackle that head on. And some decide to give up.
Because giving up is the easier thing to do.
But I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if I let my daughter quit because the going got tough.
So, yes, I am keeping my daughter in gymnastics. I am having the hard discussions with her about what it means to work hard, to keep trying when things aren’t a piece of cake, to find something new in the mundane because it will make you stronger. I’m trying to convince her that with a little dedication and effort, she will see the rewards of her perseverance.
Like being able to take a Power Walking class in college while all your other friends are stuck crunching numbers in Calculus 101.