Two weekends ago my son had his first State Meet and I concluded my first season as a Gymnastics Mom as opposed to a Gymnastics Coach. I went into the season worrying about how everything would go for both my son and me but then left the season with a new understanding of why I didn’t need to care so much.
Let’s Gab about it.
Last August I started having trouble breathing. I felt like my lungs were weak, that I couldn’t reach the full height of my inhale, and that the air I could get in felt muggy and thick. Within a few days of this (and several hours on Web MD), I worried myself into thinking I was quickly withering away and that without professional help, I was all but gone. Feeling frantic and desperate, I visited several doctors on both ends of the healthcare spectrum (western medicine through natural & holistic healing) and took on all kinds of tests, x-rays, medications, and fancy things like acupressure, herbs, and energy healing that didn’t produce many answers.
I felt like I was suffocating from all of it until one sweet doctor (along with several close friends) pointed out that what I was experiencing could very well be less about something specific going wrong within my body as much as it could have been more closely related to the stress and anxiety I was bringing on myself from all the busy schedules I was keeping and all the worry I take on because of them. After reading some great material and doing some serious introspection, I realized that I was, in fact, expending a lot of energy worrying about and caring too much about things that weren’t necessary. The first step in my recovery was, actually, to take a step back and learn which things I was worrying too much over and which things were really worth caring about. In order to breathe healthier, I had to THINK healthier.
When my 6 year old started competing in his first level 4 competitions this winter, I found myself, once again, worrying too much–but this time it was about how the season would go. To begin with, I knew, first-hand after having been a gymnast, all about the thrill and pressure of competing. I remember how satisfying receiving ribbons and medals could be as rewards for hard work I’d put into practice all season. I also remember the blow a bad meet had had on my self-confidence. I worried that my little one would have too many emotional highs and lows throughout the season for me to handle.
Secondly, having coached many competitive gymnasts, I’ve seen far too many parents stretch their necks to catch every single score of every single gymnast to prematurely calculate the outcome of meets (which always leads to feelings of overwhelming joy or frustration depending on which number their gymnast would stand above on the podium)…so then I worried that -I- would have too many emotional highs and lows for my son to handle.
Worry worry worry.
But then the meet season began and quickly, within the first two competitions, I noticed that my son didn’t even think about, let alone, care about anything I had been worrying over. He didn’t care about what score was flashed across the screen; He didn’t worry about how much better his teammate did than him or where he was placed in the line-up. All he cared about was getting a little approval treat from his coach, finding things to giggle about with his teammates throughout the meet, and earning a medal or two that he could take home to show his grandparents. With the help of my reading and this realization, I quickly learned that I needn’t hold my breath waiting for scores or breathe a sigh of relief when another gymnast didn’t stick a landing because, to my son, those things didn’t matter to him. If he wasn’t going to deflate over all the little details, then I didn’t need to either.
And so that’s how the season went! Aside from a few moments where he showed signs of disappointment in himself, the season went without a hitch for our family. After every meet we laughed about his favorite moments, talked about the flubs he wasn’t so proud of, and then went out to ice cream regardless of how many ribbons or medals he brought home (which, gratefully, he earned enough of to feel satisfied with).
Being so young and so freshly dipped into the world of competition, my 6 year old gymnast was able to remind me that I could literally suffocate myself over things that hadn’t even crossed his mind. In the gymnastics world and outside of it, if we can just let those unnecessary worries go, everyone will feel a whole lot better! And, in all honesty, it WORKS! Not only are my breathing issues significantly improving, we are all able to enjoy a lot more breathing room as we teach our gymnast about things he should really be caring about–like finding opportunities to improve, learning to have respect for his coaches, his teammates, judges, and opponents, and loving the experiences he is having as a fine young gymnast.
Every athlete cares about his/her sport in different ways and with different intensities. I’m sure that one day my son will (probably) care a lot more about scores and opponents–but until that day comes, -I- won’t worry about them either [deep-long-satisfying-sigh].