By Olga Mecking | Dec 8, 2017
Special to espnW.com
First she taught herself to cartwheel. Then she moved on to doing it using just one hand. Since then she has cartwheeled on pretty much every imaginable surface: grass, sand, concrete, shallow water, and more.
A man at the beach asked me if I taught her that. I replied by shaking my head, “Oh, no.” She didn’t get it from me.
My daughter, who is now 8, has a very athletic uncle, grandparents who used to be physical education teachers and another grandmother who sees the importance of movement and working out. But me? I am a slacker mom. I wasn’t much into sports growing up. I was usually chosen last for the team at school. My short stint with martial arts ended with me sitting on a bench nursing a bruise on my head through the whole class. I have no idea what got me into martial arts in the first place. I was nerdy and quiet. I devoured books by the dozen. Maybe I hoped it would toughen me up. It didn’t work.
Many years later, I am blessed with an incredibly athletic daughter. She is strong, quick and fearless. Just recently, she taught herself to move from cartwheel to a bridge. And that’s the point I knew I needed to do something.
I was so against organized sports at first. Aren’t children these days over scheduled and over pressured? Shouldn’t they have time just to be kids? Yes. But we do have the kids in other classes — cooking and theater, to name a few — and I’ve seen them thrive. Why should sports be any different, just because it’s not what I grew up doing? Especially if she’s passionate about them? So I’m now looking for activities for my active girl to do. She loves gymnastics, especially, so I’m researching how to nurture that love safely, in a way that won’t hurt her growing body. And how to keep her safe.
It’s not easy because we live in the Netherlands and I don’t drive, so taking the bus or tram with three children (the others are 4 and 6) is exhausting. I tried to get the children to a nearby kids’ gym when they were smaller, packing them up and taking the bus the few stops it took us to get there. They loved it, but it took a lot of work. It felt like I needed three days to recover from the stress of moving everyone around.
So we’re looking for something that is more achievable logistically. It has to be within walking distance, at least until she’s able to take herself to classes. There are several dance schools close by, which seems to fit her love of movement and her energetic nature. Inspired by her friend, my daughter has expressed interest in taking ballet classes. There is also a nearby athletic association offering all kinds of programs for children. I’m sure we can find something that will work for all of us.
Maybe it won’t happen immediately — at this stage, my daughter seems to change her mind every second: She wants to be an athlete, a scientist, a writer, preferably all at the same time! — but I’m committed to keeping those possibilities open for her, as best as I can. Even sports! We’ll find something, even if it’s just in time for her to change her mind again.