Maybe I’m a slow learner or just a bit stupid, but you’d think after being a mother for nearly seven years now, I’d KNOW that any expectations I have about what and how my kids will do at any given moment would be a little more realistic by now. Nope. Just stupid I guess.
Once a week I like to annoy the absolute crappers out of myself and watch Sussie stuff around in her gymnastics class for an hour. I sit and seethe for sixty minutes as she ignores her instructor, swings on the bars and has a half-hearted go at a cartwheel. It’s pretty safe to say she won’t be plucked from obscurity by an AIS agent looking for the next ribbon gymnastics star and I’m totally fine with that. But sometimes I wish I could reach through the glass, yank her out and drive home in disgust. But I don’t for one fairly simple reason- she enjoys it.
She loves the trampoline and the mats, the bars and the big soft cubey things. Her face is alight during the warm up and she doesn’t really stop smiling for that hour. She’ll jump ahead in the queue for the movement her group is practising. She’ll launch herself down the trampoline like a bug-eyed toad and then perform some bizarre kind of statued The Thinker pose to stop at the end.
I can see the instructor sigh and huff and puff because she is in no way in control of this six-year-old girl. AndI’m so glad Sussie’s got some spunk about her, but the institutionalised teacher in me despairs. How can she be a good student if she’s continuously stuffing around? What will she be like in ten years’ time when it’s not just juvenile bloody gymnastics we’re talking about but Year 11 and Shakespeare?!
I spoke to another mother who was wandering around outside and commented on the fact she never comes in to watch her daughter. “I can’t. All she does is muck around and watching that just makes me angry.”
So I’m not the only one frothing at the mouth as we watch our children make little effort with the sit ups and perform Goldie Hawn like moves around the gymnasium as every other kid patiently works through their tumble turns.
Inside, I spoke to yet another mum whose daughter displays similar traits to Sussie’s and we marvelled that they don’t really like playing together. To be fair, it’s probably a good thing since they would possess a ruthless axis of power in the playground which wouldn’t be safe for anyone. But this sensible woman just laughed at my fears and quite pointedly said “We want them to have that spark- we need to encourage it, not stomp it out of them.”
And that’s exactly what I’d be doing if I could reach through the glass into that gym. Squashing down all that lovely spirit and boldness and creating a meek little grey streak of docile girl- not the brave tall and brightly coloured shewolf I need to raise. That would be a travesty, a big middle finger to every feminist step made before Sussie and I.
Instead we get in the car and I ask Sussie whether she enjoyed class today. “Yeah! It was great!” I ask whether she tried her hardest “Yes! Most of the time.” I ask a more pointed question about how her teacher would rate her performance and I get a muffled “I don’t think she’d be very pleased.” We talk about what she thinks she’s doing better at and how she could improve on her behaviour for next week. I ask whether she likes to help people who don’t listen to her and relate that to how her instructor might have felt today. By the time we’re half a kilometre down the road the discussion is over and we’re on to whether we should go for a bike ride this afternoon.
After a series of failed attempts on a pedalled bike with training wheels, we got her a balance bike to try for a few months. Yesterday, she got on what had been a machine of torture a few months ago and rode that pedal bike (without the training wheels) like a boss.
I’m hoping she’ll be strutting through that gymnasium like a boss some day, not lurching like a bug-eyed toad: I guess she already is. In the mean time I might just go for a walk in the sunshine while she carries on inside the gymnasium, thank my lucky stars for this gorgeous ball of spunk and put my expectations back in their ridiculous little box..