My daughter was a competitive cheerleader from the age of 5. She took to the sport very quickly and her talent was undeniable. She started to excel in tumbling and it was obvious to me that she needed to hone in on this talent and see where it would take her.
When she turned 9, she had learned a double full on her own. It was amazingly technically correct and I had not taught her it, she learned it solely by playing around in the gym. And because I could see her talent, I quickly called around to gymnastics gyms and enrolled her in the amazing sport of Tumbling and Trampoline.
From the moment she walked into the gym we all could see her future. She was talented and boy was she good, so good that in her first two months she made the developmental team at the gym, the USAG Jumpstart team, and started her career in level 7.
She was a fast learner and it was clear that Tumbling and Trampoline was going to be “her” sport. She made flipping look easy. She was beautiful in the air and made the hard skills look effortless. She was way more talented than I was as a gymnast and I made the Olympics. I couldn’t help but to see into her future and revel in her own fame and fortune.
First I could see her making it to World Championships, hopefully by then Tumbling would have been an Olympic sport and she would be one of the first team members. Then I saw her getting a job with Cirque du Soleil when she was older, where I would go visit her with all my friends and family and we would watch her as the featured act. They could have t-shirts and merchandise made of her. I was so proud of a future that she hadn’t even had yet and didn’t even know that I was planning for her.
At the end of the year she was a State Champion and I was ecstatic that my dream for her was coming true.
Until, one day on the car ride to practice she told me that she didn’t want to go. When I asked her why she calmly said, “I don’t want to do it anymore.”
These words hit me like a slap in the face.
I tried to hide my shock and calmly said back, “Don’t you like to tumble?”
She replied, “Oh my goodness, I love it.”
She loved it? That didn’t make sense. She loved to tumble, she was amazingly talented, she had amazing coaches, and her future…didn’t she don’t have the same dream for her future that I had?
So I asked, “Why?”
She had no problem coming up very strong reasons, she said, “I don’t like it. I don’t like the pressure, being judged, being corrected on everything, the conditioning, climbing the rope, going to competitions, and (what she considered the final straw) wearing a leotard.”
Knowing that I should not try to convince her to stay and that I really could never try to convince her to stay, I pulled the car over, gave her a kiss, lovingly and unconditionally accepted her decision, and turned the car around to go home. That night when we got home, I called her coach. He was as shocked as I was, but completely understood her decision.
The next day I had an uncontrollable urge to cry (although I never did). I felt sad and depressed. When it was the time when I usually took her to practice, I felt empty. I thought about not seeing my gym mom friends that I had made. I thought about the class practicing and improving without my daughter, and not getting free tickets to Cirque. I thought about the talent that she wasn’t going to use and how my dream for her that wasn’t going to come true. I wasn’t ready for her to stop.
I seemed to be taking the loss of her sport worse than my daughter. She had known for weeks that she didn’t want to do it anymore. She had already come up with a plan on what new sport she wanted to try. She wasn’t worried about ending her journey in a sport she want to do, in fact the only reason she tried this sport was because she knew she was a great tumbler and thought this was the next step. But after a few months she knew that this sport wasn’t for her. She stayed in the sport because she decided to finish out the year. But after the year was over, she was sure she wanted to stop.
She was relieved with her decision. I was the one who was having a hard time. On the outside I was her accepting, nonjudgmental mom whom was proud of my daughter for having the confidence to tell me her desires. And I was honestly proud of her. She knew how talented she was. She knew that she was on track for greatness. She knew that everyone was shocked by her talent and yet she still had the guts to tell everyone that SHE didn’t want to do it anymore.
My emotions were all over the place. In one moment I was mad, mad that she wasn’t going to use her talent. In another moment I was in shock, because I thought she loved this sport and I didn’t see it coming. In the next moment I was in denial, I was convinced that in a week or two she would go back to the sport. In the next moment I was sad, at the loss of the (my) dream.
I had to come to terms with this loss and with any loss comes grief. There are many stages of grief, one of the being guilt. Oh and boy did I have guilt. What mom would let a 9 year old make a life changing decision about her future? This was hitting me hard. Maybe I should have stepped in and made her stay. Maybe I knew better than she and maybe she was too young to understand what this sport could bring to her future. What if my mom would have let me stop doing gymnastics at 9? I would have never made the Olympics. But then it occurred to me that I didn’t want to stop doing gymnastics when I was 9. In fact, I wanted to be in the gym every minute of every day. I loved it and if I didn’t like it, my mom would have let me stop.
My reality was that my daughter was the one who had to commit to practice every week, work through fears, push through painful conditioning, and (the worse part) wear a leotard. If she was the one who was going to have to put in the work, then she was the one who should decide it she wanted to or not.
She was happy with her decision and walked around the house like a weight had been lifted off her chest. Later that evening she asked to go bounce on our trampoline and at that moment I realized that she (nor I) had lost anything. We both gained many lessons; we realized that Tumbling and Trampoline, as amazing and incomparable of a sport that it may be, wasn’t HER passion. She still loved to tumble and flip, and she needed to find HER passion.
There were parts of Tumbling and Trampoline that she did love. She loved to flip, learn new skills, and she loved to perform in front of large crowds. But she wanted more.
She wanted a sport that had teammates, dancing, flipping, tumbling, excitement, music, and stunts. She wanted to cheer. It was very clear to me that she has found her passion. Her passion, her future, all of her dreams and goals was in cheer. She spends hours and hours outside of practice listening to cheer music, choreographing routines, practicing skills on her tramp, stretching and conditioning in her bed room, and watching videos. Her love for cheer in undeniable. And I do truly love that she loves her sport.
At times I look back on her Tumbling and Trampoline journey and I smile. It was a great experience for us all, but mostly for me. I grieved for the loss of a sport instead of realizing that it was an amazing chapter to her story; The story of my daughter’s childhood. And as with every experience, she is a stronger and has a better understanding of what she wants out of life. As a mom, I can’t really be upset at all. She knows what she has planned for her future, she knows her hopes and dreams, and I know as long as she is happy, so am I.