It began as a way for my bubbly daughter to channel her boundless energy. It was supposed to be just one more after-school activity.
But soon gymnastics became my daughter’s passion. She discovered a challenge that was fun and constantly evolving. She talked her coach into giving her a spot in the traveling team. She talked my husband and me into letting her compete.
She took to it so naturally that she quickly began collecting medals as we watched in awe. Her brother had to learn to keep himself entertained like scores of kids that cheer on their talented siblings but must endure hours until the medals have been handed out. My husband and I have memorized the mandatory music for the floor routines and mastered our ponytail-making skills.
But the more she advances, the higher she jumps, the more back handsprings she aces, the more nervous I get.
How do the Olympian moms handle the anxiety of knowing that just one mistake can seriously injure their child? I finally understand why some parents choose not to be present when their child is competing for the gold. At this point, my daughter’s disappointment when she doesn’t perform well is the least of my concerns.
The other day my fears became very real. My little girl was at her gymnastics summer camp and while executing her landing from the parallel bars, she overextended her neck. I arrived at the gym to find the paramedics evaluating her while she was struggling to hold in her tears. The moment I saw the ambulance outside, my heart skipped a beat. But seeing her laying there — knowing how serious the accident could have been — the fear just paralyzed me.
All I could think was, “Please let her be okay. Please let her spine be fine. Please. Please. Please.”
In the end, it was just whiplash. She had no nerve or spinal damage (yes, we did X-Rays the next day in yet another visit to the doctor), but something in me changed. All I can think of now is all that could go wrong in the future.
That’s why I haven’t been able to stop thinking, “I am not Olympian mom material.” I am not even competitive gymnastics mom material. I honestly don’t think I can handle it. Meanwhile, my daughter returned to her camp a few days later unfazed, as though nothing happened. It’s her passion and nothing is going to deter her.
So for now I am pretending to be strong even though I refuse to watch her train until I find the strength to be as brave as she is. I know you can’t wrap your kids in cotton and keep them protected from all harm, but I wish I could. At the same time, my daughter’s courage and discipline has inspired me to figure out how to let her soar. It’s a risk, but her joy is worth it.More On