On Saturday morning I took my daughter to her gymnastics practice at the local YMCA. Since she's a kid who primarily moves through the house by flinging herself over furniture, the prospect of having a legitimate tumbling opportunity thrilled her so much that she counted down the days during the weeks leading up to her first practice.
Let me tell you, the girl was ready to roll. (And cartwheel. And flip.) As we left the gym after her initial practice, she showed me the participation stamp her instructor had marked on her hand and offered an excited play-by-play of every apparatus she had used, even though I had watched the whole time.
So, the next week when it was time for practice, I was caught off guard when she declared that she wouldn't do gymnastics, dug in her heels, and refused to get out of the car.
I could tell you that I handled the outburst gracefully, demonstrating an admirable blend of patience and savviness that deftly showcased the wisdom I've gleaned from ten years of parenting, but that would be a lie. By the time we entered the gym, fellow YMCA patrons, both parents and children alike, were staring at our spectacle, awkwardly observing an unexpected showdown between my daughter, who had morphed, Hulk-like, from a pleasant seven-year-old into an unmovable object, and myself, who symbiotically escalated into an unstoppable force who spat out mono-syllabic utterances like: You. WILL. Go. To. Your. Class. NOW.
Periodically, when I noticed a mother warily eyeing me while using her cell phone (checking the local Child and Youth Services, I was certain), I tried a different angle. See? This. Is. FUN. Those kids out there? They're having FUN.
In other words, the exact opposite of what we were having at the moment.
Twenty-four long minutes later, my daughter joined her group, took her turn on the uneven parallel bars, turned toward me, and said -- of all things -- I love gymnastics, Mom!
You don't say.
I would have smiled, but I was still too occupied being ticked. Besides, I had carved out a nice little corner of the floor so I could isolate myself from the other parents sitting respectably on the benches. Scowling a bit longer from my corner somehow felt right.
I made eye contact with no one as we exited the gym. Although my daughter was happily chattering about her passes across the balance beam and demonstrating childlike amnesia of all earlier drama, I still was agitated from its sting.
Right then, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a woman offer a sympathetic smile. "I just wanted to let you know that I've been there, too," she said. "Oh, I've been there." As she momentarily commiserated over painful drop-offs, strong wills, and limited patience, she patted my shoulder again. "I was praying for you the whole time."
Oh, dear fellow YMCA gymnastics mother, your prayers were well appreciated. In fact, they likely reached heaven right when I was hoping that the scuffed gym floor would swallow me whole.
It's a gift to others when we acknowledge, without a trace of judgement, that we've been there. Carry on, we say. We freely admit that we've been there, too, and despite ourselves, we've lived to parent another day. So will you.