Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why I Lied and Shattered My Daughter's Dreams

My daughter is a gymnast. She is also a soccer player, lacrosse player, pianist, tennis player, and soon-to-be swimmer. She's also seven.

She has a lot of energy and a lot of interests. She wants to do everything. But if you ask her, she'll tell you she's a gymnast.

She decided she was a gymnast--not just someone who takes gymnastics--last summer at camp. She became very dedicated and was excited to be invited to the pre-pre-team that practiced two hours rather than one. She got to wear the uniform. All in all, very exciting.

The coaches held a fun (i.e., somewhat pretend) meet for the little kids last spring. My kid loves competition, and she was hooked. She dreams of being on the team someday.

As we headed into summer, I was told that she would be bumped up to the pre-team. Pre-team meets twice a week for two hours each. I wasn't thrilled about the four-hour per week commitment, but I recognize that this--at least for now--is her passion, so I worked our schedule around her attendance.

On her last day of gymnastics camp in August, I stood with the coaches and began to fill out the fall enrollment forms. They told me that they wanted my daughter to join the team this year--the real team, where the girls wear the snazzy uniforms to real meets.

I am so proud of her hard work and accomplishment. I'm impressed that she achieved her goal, and I know she'll love being on the team. Someday.

But not now. I didn't even tell her she made it.

The gymnastics team practices twice a week. The practices are 6-9 p.m. No way.

My daughter is going into second grade, and her bedtime is 8 p.m. She is a delightful, engaging child who does well in school, has no behavior problems, and rarely gets sick. I attribute much of this to a consistent good night's sleep. No seven-year-old should regularly go to bed at 10 p.m. on a school night after three hours of intense athletic activity.

The time of day was a deal breaker, but I doubt I would have let her join the team even if it met right after school.

Six hours per week on a single sport that lasts the entire school year is too much at age seven. I love that my daughter has found something she loves, but I don't want her to specialize when she's a second grader. I want her to keep trying other things too.

When I told the coaches that she would not be joining the team and would instead do the pre-team class, they tried to persuade me. They have seen my daughter's drive to learn and improve, and they said that pre-team would be a lot of what she already can do with little opportunity to learn new skills.

That made me feel bad, because I know it's not the choice my daughter would make. But it didn't change my mind. It's my job as a parent to set limits for my children, even if I shatter their little kid dreams.

It feels lousy, but I know I made the right choice. My daughter is still a gymnast, but she's a lot of other things too. I plan to keep it that way for a while.


  1. I completely agree with your decision. Kids need to be in bed by 9 pm (at the latest) and that type of practice schedule is ridiculous for 2nd grade kids. What happened to hour long practices once a week?

    Jill H

  2. Emma made the dance competition team at her old studio in Athens, GA. This would have been a serious commitment of time for her in First Grade so I told her she couldn't do it -- I possibly made a mistake telling her that she had made the team, but she tried out so I had to tell her something. We moved the Summer before second grade and her studio here doesn't compete so the issue has never come up again. The good thing about dance v. gymnastics is that you can dance and learn without being competitive. That option doesn't seem to exist in gymnastics. That's why I steered my daughter towards dance rather than gymnastics -- she took both through first grade. I think you made the right decision -- though I might have told her she made the team and also told her the reasons why she couldn't do it this year. Just my two cents. .

    1. Based on your advice and a few other comments, I've seriously considered whether I should tell her that she could have been on the team this year. She would be so proud and excited. After all, can't she appreciate that there is no way she could participate at the time it is offered?

      That's what I love about sharing parenting issues with friends--being offered considerate advice.

      After thinking it over, I've decided that there is limited up side. She would feel proud, but at her age, she would mostly just feel like she was denied an opportunity. At this point, she gets great joy from merely doing gymnastics, so I don't feel like I'm cheating her of too much by avoiding the tears. The secret is mine (at least until she gets on the Internet and reads my blog, which I hope is years away).

  3. That is what a good parent does. So proud of you.

  4. Sometimes, doing the right thing for our kids can be very difficult.Judy B