This mom wants her kids to keep fighting

balletLike most 5-year-old girls, I wanted to be a ballerina. I was in love with the idea of twirling in a beautiful costume and I wanted those silky ballet shoes that lace up your legs.

My mom signed me up for lessons and I was overjoyed.

It only took a few classes for me to be totally hooked. I would stand in my bedroom and practice my feet positions. I would try to get up on my tippy-tippy toes and pirouette. In my mind, I was as graceful and beautiful as anyone in my class.

Maybe even more so.

I have no idea how long I took classes. Days? Weeks? Months?

The reason I stopped, however, is engraved in my memory.

One day after class, the ballet teacher took my mother aside and told her:

“Ballet really isn’t her thing. She is clumsy, uncoordinated and ungraceful.”

Just like that, the lessons stopped and my dream was gone.

There is nothing wrong with finding out you aren’t good at something. That is part of life and I accept that.

But for some reason, the labels “clumsy,” “uncoordinated” and “ungraceful” became as much a part of me as my brown hair and hazel eyes.

I WAS those labels.

I became convinced that I could not do anything requiring physical coordination.

Not even the monkey bars.

I didn’t even try.

I can remember P.E. being absolutely torturous for me. I would dread the team selections and always try to find someway to get out of playing volleyball or softball. I was terrified of looking like an idiot and I was convinced that it couldn’t go any other way.

I let those stupid labels rob me of more than just playing sports. I let them dictate the kind of person I would be and the type of risks I would be willing to take.

Fear of failing kept me from so many things.

It’s really rather stupid.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m super conscious of labels. I do not want my children limiting themselves.

I want them to fight.

The phrase “I’m not good at that” or “I can’t do that” is banned from our home.

You can learn to be good at anything. All you need is the desire and practice. That’s what I tell them.

I want them to fight.

I encourage my kids to try new things and to never back out of a challenge. Facing your fear is the only road forward.

I want them to fight.

Yet, here I am still frightened of doing things that require coordination.

I have very little fight.

Yesterday we met some friends for ice-skating. My kids have never been and they were excited to try something new.

“Are you sure?” I said on the drive. “We only have one hour. We could go get ice cream instead?”

“No!!!” they both cried.

All week, I had been telling myself that I was going to ice-skate with my kids. That I was going to allow myself to look stupid and fall. It is OK to fail. I can do this.

Yet, the fight left me the second I walked in the door.

“I’m not going to skate after all,” I told them. “We can’t afford for all of us to do it.”

“Awww,” my daughter said. “Sorry mom. That’s not fair to you.”

No it’s not and it has nothing to do with money. That was the logical argument I made with myself to get out of trying.

It’s not fair that I won’t fight.

Clumsy. Uncoordinated. Ungraceful. For. The. Win.

How I wish I could just play catch, volleyball, jump on a trampoline or kick a soccer ball around without it filling me with a sense of dread and anxiety.

As I sat on the cold bench at the skate rink and watched my children my heart was bursting with joy. There they were. All by themselves trying to figure it out. Pushing buckets around the ice with big helmets on their heads. They would fall, get back up and try again. No tears. No frustration.

Determination.

Belief.

Fight.

Maybe I will never have enough fight for myself, but seeing my kids fight for a life without fear is more than enough.

ice

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One hand and then the next

“Mommy,” she whispers as she gently taps my nose with hers. “Wake up. I need my Pippi braids.”

I open my eyes and look at the clock. 5:30 a.m.

“Go back to sleep,” I say in the nicest way I can muster.

“Mommy,” she whispers again gently running her fingers through my hair. “I need my Pippi braids right now. It’s important.”

I open my eyes and look at her. She is dressed in her new favorite Pippi Longstocking outfit and is holding the hairbrush and four rubber bands in different colors.

“I need more sleep,” I manage. “Just 30 more minutes.”

“OK,” she says with a sigh. I hear the disappointment, but it’s 5:30 a.m.

Thirty minutes later my alarm goes off and she is standing right next to the bed waiting. She is still holding the hairbrush and rubber bands. I’m sure she did not just stand there for 30 minutes waiting. Right? I’m sure she played or something.

I sit up and try to be as pleasant as I can. I spray her hair with detangler, which she had thoughtfully placed next to me in bed. I brush her hair carefully making sure that I don’t pull or hurt her. I use her favorite parting comb, the pink one with the sparkly handle, to gently part her hair into two. I use the pink rubber band on one side and the yellow on the other for pigtails. Then I braid each one.

“Blue rubber band on the pink side and red one on the yellow side,” she says.

When I’m done she skips off and puts all the brushes and spray away.

“Thanks mom,” she says. “See you downstairs.”

After dragging myself through my morning ritual of shower, picking out the lest objectionable of my clothes and running a brush through my hair, I head downstairs.

My girl has made us all breakfast of cereal, toast and juice. Brother is there and dressed too. I think I might be dreaming. They both smile.

“What did you do with my children?” I ask.

They giggle and we eat.

“Today’s the day,” she says.

“For what?” I ask.

“You’ll see,” she says.

I pack lunches and do the morning dishes as they pretend that their bouncy balls are pigs. The pig race gets a little out of hand, but we make it out the door on time.

The ride to school is filled with talk about the pig race and plans for building a more elaborate race track and making prize ribbons when we get home. I tune in and out as I sip my coffee. We drop brother off and head to her school. I look back at her in the mirror and she is beaming.

“What is going on?” I ask her.

“You’ll see,” she says again.

We pull into the school and she is literally bouncing in her seat. She bolts out of the car, grabs my hand and we head straight for the monkey bars.

monkeyShe has been dreaming of making it across the monkey bars for over a year. It was only in the last week that she started really trying. Every day she would just hang on the first bar and then drop. Over and over and over. She never seemed to get tired of it.

We spent hours the previous weekend and several more after school all week with her reaching across a few bars. She could make it about halfway now.

After a few attempts, we developed a cheering agreement. I was not allowed to say anything until she dropped. No clapping or encouragement.

“It makes me nervous when you say something,” she told me.

So I would just watch and nod. When she made it farther than before she would come over and say, “you can cheer now” and I would.

I take my normal standing place at the end of the monkey bars and watch her face. The look of determination was fierce. I was silently beaming with pride. When this girl wants something, she will get it.

Then she took off. It was slow and deliberate. One hand then the next. Her face was filled with concentration. She made it past the halfway part and I had to bite my tongue to not scream out with happiness for her. She kept going. Slow and deliberate. One hand over the next. Finally she made it to the last bar and dropped.

“I did it!” she screamed and ran so fast to me that I almost fell over. The look of pride, excitement and joy was so wonderful that I almost cried. “I knew it would happen today. I just knew it! You can cheer now mom.”

I did. I cheered for this accomplishment and for all those that will come her way. Look out world.