If you are a long term reader, you’ll know that by and large, with a few additional activities thrown into the mix, dance and gym are the absolute loves of my children’s lives. Dance, singing things, playing things, performing but gym plays a huge part in their happiness for three of them. The other girl prefers to knock people over And you might have realised that we’ve had our ups and downs over gym in the last couple of years, as the gym(s) we attended went through flux and change. If you read closer, you’ll also know that one of my children has been a bit of a handful in recent times, causing us to really bother about how well she was coping with life.
In a busy family it is really hard to keep a handle on how well everyone is doing – emotionally, physically, educationally etc etc It was obvious that Amelie was pretty low and this was impacting her behaviour in general. We were slower realising how bad it was and that she was ceasing to be happy in places she had always enjoyed being. It took one session of me observing her in one of those places to suddenly see that things were not a bit out of whack, they were really wrong indeed. Whether it was stemming from there and coming home or stemming from home and coming out there, I don’t know, but things were wrong. Amelie was so far on the wrong path that it was more like she’d been picked up and plonked down in a different county than strayed slightly away from where she wanted to be. I was far too slow on the uptake and it’s only since that I’ve really thought about how much she has been through and that perhaps even the happy arrival of Bene has taken its toll on her.
This caused a big long think. And a rethink. 3 weeks ago now I took Amelie for a session with her godmother, who is an ice skating coach as well as an all round good egg who understands little girls who love sport and are slightly more ambitious than their physical abilities allow for. Watching Amelie skating really opened my eyes, particularly watching her being holistically coached one to one, in a setting where she wasn’t anticipating being ‘good’ and wasn’t competing with anyone or herself and where there was no pressure. She was a different girl. And that’s when I decided it was time to take her away from gym. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good a place is, or what they can achieve with the best they have to work with or even what a child thinks they want. A thing, a place and a circumstance can be perfectly good – and just be wrong for that child.
Knowing this wasn’t going to go down well, I set about a plan that involved more than just skating. I talked to them all about how difficult gym was becoming, given session changes were imminent and suggested we had a look at the two other options in town. Neither has the same level of gymnasts but I was surprised to find them all agreeable. Josie said she was bored and ready to give up and Fran said she felt that as there was no prospect of her really improving, she could happily change to a new sport. Under pressure I dragged them to one taster session which was LOVELY but too low level to entice them and then to a new gymnastics club in Peterborough which has set up next door to our own unit. Fran really kicked up but I really felt if they were all going to stop, they needed to do it knowing they were ready to leave one place but that nowhere else had anything else to offer. Fran had the closest thing to a strop that she does on the way.
When we came home after their four hour trial, we discussed that truism which goes along the lines of “mother is always right” :p
They had had an utter ball. It’s a very different approach to their previous gym and they are some of the better gymnasts there which is, I suppose, likely to make them feel pretty good. The coaching stance is to push every try new things and achieve every last ounce of their potential, no matter what level they are or how well they are doing on individual pieces. I’ve no idea whether that is conventional or not, nor whether long term it will be a good thing for everyone, but the atmosphere was so positive, so busy and so exciting that all of them came out buzzing (and utterly knackered) and said instantly that they wanted to go back. It’s a dancing school too and they get to do dance lessons alongside gym, some shows and some really different things but the big difference just came from what a fresh start did for them. Sometimes a fresh start is what you need. For Fran, having someone push her on to new things has absolutely rocked her boat. She’s doing new vaults, different tumbles, front somersaults, whips and flics on beam and new dance, getting masses of praise and encouragement and notice. For Amelie the change is even more profound. After struggling to get beyond basics on vault in 3 years, she’s now flat backing competently and moving on to handsprings. The dreaded cartwheel on beam has been discarded as not worth losing sleep over and she is doing backwards walkovers on beam without help. I daresay Amelie will need that cartwheel at some point, but frankly soddit, she isn’t going to be an olympian and I’d rather she was happy and not slogging away to the point of hating it because of one move. And Josie is just chirping along, happy to do stuff at her own ‘frankly not that bothered’ speed.
This was a difficult post to write in many ways and I know if it is read by some, they’ll see it as a negative post about their old club. It isn’t. I know they did their best and I know they turn out excellent gymnasts. I know I annoyed them and I’m probably at fault for being a high maintenance demanding parent and I know in the end we didn’t part on great terms but I do wish them well and actually I have been deeply impressed by their commitment to all their kids over the years.
What this post is, is a written record of how hard it was to step away from what the girls and I knew and take a leap and a step into the unknown to try and relieve the pressure we/I/the girls themselves had all put on everything by trying to get what we needed from a situation that was better geared to offering something different.
So here below girls, next time change feels frightening and you aren’t sure I’m right, is video evidence of how much can change in 2 weeks when you take a leap into the unknown.
Amelie flat back over table.
Amelie flat back.
Fran learning a new vault.
New vault prep.
Amelie handspring. The vault is a bit pants but she actually ran like a gymnast not a ballerina!
3 weeks later they are buzzing, all enjoying doing some extra hours, loving Gymfusion, really enjoying being pushed by someone who has them as his material to work with and wants to get the best from them and for them. I love the sense of community, the packed tea eaten mid session by coaches and kids together, the open office always ready to chat to parents, the kids area set out with crafty stuff for waiting siblings to use, the viewing area and the coach who comes out to talk to each parent at the end of the session. I love that the owner took the time to go and tell Fran, after a dance class, that she is an exceptional dancer who has real potential and I love that my girls have bounced through every session and come home on a high. I love that Maddy listened to their enthusiasm and decided to go back to a novice class and I love that Fran, only there 3 weeks, has been offered a main part in their show on merit.
I’ve learned a lesson though. It’s dangerous to let the happiness of your children rest too hard on one place and one set of people. We love the new gym but ice skating will continue and the girls already have lessons in dance elsewhere and will continue to do that too. I’m determined to take a step back. If any of them show any signs of misery at this club, they’ll leave. I’m not going to be the pushy parent who tries too hard to get things made right for them again. By the time new year comes and they start competing again, when panto (did I mention Fran and Amelie are in panto again?) is over, then we’ll see. But I do at least feel I did one thing right, which was to make a clear decision that something had to change, even when I felt there was no alternative option available. It’s such a relief to have happy, challenged, excited girls again and not to be cringing waiting for them to come home, knowing there would be frustration and lack of enthusiasm again. We all learned our lessons; some of us had to learn a little bit about trying harder and making an effort and some of us had to learn when to stop trying so hard. (That was me).