By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener
Back in kindergarten Kira wanted to join the jump rope club. I, protector of family time and maternal convenience, said no. Not because I am a heartless cretin. I am not altogether unsupportive of my children’s interests. It’s just that this particular interest met at 7am Monday mornings. And at that time I had a sleeping baby’s needs to consider.
Her teacher sought me out and gently suggested that I let my kid join the jump rope club. I smiled and nodded, and said no.
When Kira was in first grade I let her join the club. Her teacher came to me with a gentle suggestion that I put her on the team. I smiled, I nodded, and I said no. Practices, you see, would interfere with family dinners. And family dinners came first.
Then came the note from her gym teacher. The fact that I was single-handily undermining my child’s dream was getting around. So I moved dinnertime, and I put her on the team. I dropped her off at practices. And Kira and her jump rope ne’er did part.
It was all just fun and games and then Kira qualified for the Junior Olympics.
And suddenly we’re spending full Saturdays in high school gyms. And rearranging our summer vacation to include a stint in sunny Des Moines, IA, home of the 2009 Junior Olympic games.
Isn’t irony fun?
Jump roping, it seems, has morphed from a thing that you do in the street with the neighborhood kids into an international, competitive sport. Boy was I surprised.
And proud, for sure. Proud and surprised and overwhelmed and more than just a little confused about what to make of it all.
I imagine there are parents out there who would know what to do with this. Parents of little gymnasts who they’ve been driving to pre-dawn practices for years; soccer parents who transverse the country for weekend tournaments. Parents who have had the time to gradually adjust to life with their little athlete.
All I know is that I don’t know how to do this right. My kid has a dream. Of course I want to support her. But what exactly does that mean?
I always thought it’d be a cinch to support my children, and their dreams, without sacrificing family dinners every night or lazy afternoons in the backyard on weekends. Now I’m trying to figure out how to give Kira what she needs (practice? rigorous training? pasta for carbo-loading?) to compete at an international level while we cruise around the country on a road trip we planned long ago. Without losing site of the fact that it is family vacation time. Summer-fun-in-the-sun time. And our eight year old, athletic though she may be, is simply one of the four members of this family unit. It has to work for everyone.
I’m sure I’ll figure it out, somewhere along the line. I’m trying my best. I downloaded some 1980s tunes with good jumping beats for her routines. I bought a timer to help her work on her speed events. I nodded and said yes as she accumulated a wire rope (for speed,) a beaded rope (for strength) and a long-handled rope (for freestyle.) I’ve learned how to count steps, which is no small feat for my aging eyes as her little sneakers pound out about 200 per minute.
Yeah, 200 steps a minute. I can knock myself out juggling this and rearranging that. But at that speed there’s not a chance in this world that I’ll ever be able to keep up.
You can see Kira jump, jump, jump around here…