To the gym!
There are three things that make my toddler’s personality really shine: the great natural outdoors; music and gymnastics. The first two I can understand: both her daddy and I share the same love of the outdoors and music has always been a big part of who I am (not necessarily a good thing, I was once in a band called Spatula). However the last one is alien to me: gymnastics. Which is why I am excited to join her at the start of her little adventure.
I should be clearer here. The toddler didn’t just turn up at breakfast time wearing a one-sleeved shimmery leotard, performing back tucks and dip swings and announcing she loved being a ‘na (“gymnast” – not to be confused with ‘na’na, “banana”). No, it was more subtle that that. She whooped with joy when nosediving off the bed, took to spinning and rolling across the living room at any given moment and began to climb any object, animal or person: “me climb the baby now, mummy…” So when I saw an advertisement for a free trial session at our local ‘baby gym’ I knew it would be perfect for letting her loose.
Uh, oh, Mummy has issues…!
What I didn’t expect was the feelings it would stir up in me. Despite now being in my thirties, with various ups and downs in life behind me, despite having once had a professional career…being an independent woman able to live on my own for weeks on end with two children…having my own circle of friends and my own firm likes and dislikes and opinions…despite giving birth for hours on end with a back-to-back baby on only gas & air…I got scared when we got to the baby gym and I HAD TO TAKE MY SHOES OFF. My stomach actually lurched when the instructor said “ok guys, take your shoes off and we’ll start our warm up on the mat!” The word “mat” was almost enough to make me throw up there and then. I found myself giggling at myself as I unlaced my converse…WTF was going on here?!
The thing is, perhaps I have issues with PE…Sports wasn’t fun for me at school. I can’t remember primary school sports at all. All I can remember is the worry from Year 6 to Year 10. The hormonal years. The sensitive years. The awkward-as-fuck years.
Here are the issues:
Team picking: two popular kids are chosen to head two teams. We’ve seen it in life, we’ve seen it in the movies…the fat/geeky/ugly kid gets chosen last. I was just before that kid. OK, I exaggerate slightly: I think I started middle-top based on my looks at the time: the tallest girl in the class. Then as it became apparent that I was terrible at catching a ball, I downgraded to the middle. Then as my expression started showing that I really would rather be eating peanut butter on toast and watching Friends than cavorting around the cheesy school hall doing the bleep test, I was relegated to the bottom 5. Once you are in that set, it’s pretty hard to come back up again. Once the teams had been picked the games began.
Rounders. With rounders, the worst result was to get out straight away, thus reinforcing your rubbish-at-sports status in front of your disappointed peers. The best result was to get out straight away too: so that you could make a daisy chain and sunbathe. At one stage, catching the ball when I was a fielder was the most important moment in my tiny little life. I would love to go back to my old self and say “who cares?!” Laugh when you are almost last to be picked! Laugh when you miss the ball, sit down and enjoy the sun!!! You are in Year 6 for goddsakes they haven’t even invented the SATS yet! Enjoy life, school, sports…Now I really sound like a mum.
The showers. You had about 30 seconds to run through cold water, dress and walk to your next class. I couldn’t even get a verruca sock off in that time, even with talcum powder. One teacher even threatened to get out her cold keys if we didn’t hurry up (errrr thinking about it isn’t that a bit dodge…)
Periods. Sanitary towels now are ultra sophisticated hybrid pieces of wafer thin foam. I can’t say I felt the same freedom as the girls on the Always adverts do with a 10cm bodyform pad between my legs. Thank god for tampons later on: in and out – literally.
Boys. “Hahaha you should run faster, cos you’ve got no tits!” Oh dear Mr, I think you are going to find in 20 years time that you picked on the wrong blogger…watch this space for the next post titled “idiots I have known”.
6. Forward rolls. I wrote to Shout Magazine’s agony aunt with this problem: I hate PE, I can’t do a forward roll. Why was it so bloody compulsory anyway?!
If that was my low point, my highs came outside of school: I won a couple of swimming competitions, a local badminton tournament and later on as a working grown-up (ha) I took up running and yoga whilst working in a very stressful job: it balanced out my body and mind at the end of every 9 til 5. In fact every activity that I had done outside of school I have LOVED. Sport isn’t compulsory, but it’s necessary for a healthy body and mind; it can bring frequent feelings of happiness and confidence. No one should ever be forced to do sports. I’d like to think teachers are less old-skool and kids are less self conscious, but I know the latter isn’t true. But I do know that if my girls have an awful time in PE I know that they will have a fabulous time with me swimming, their dad running about a tennis court and all four of us walking and adventuring at weekends. I hope so anyway. I am naively determined not to let the iPad win (see my future post ‘Why I Love the iPad’).
So, after loving her first few classes: hanging from monkey bars, balancing on ‘the horse’ *shudder* and generally embracing her climbing, balancing and spinning antics; my little one still surprised me by doing her first forward roll. I could have cried.
Then, she turned to me and said “mummy do?”. I tried, I tried, I tried…! But it didn’t really work…it kind of hurt my head before I had even got off the ground. But that’s cool. She didn’t mind. And I won’t write to Shout magazine about it. Because in all honesty, I really don’t want to do a forward roll. I would rather walk on Dartmoor, I would prefer to try kayaking, I would rather go for a swim and sauna, I would rather take a pilates class and I would rather dance 4 hours on the dance floor to hits of the 90s. Actually I’d rather curl up with a good book and a bar of chocolate.
My budding little gymnast might hate netball. She could dread touch rugby and shirk from the cross country races. But she will always have her forward roll – and, even if she wants to go it alone she will always be in our team.
For my darling x