Monday, December 9, 2013

... like walking in the rain and the snow...

... or wobbling on the ice and sitting in the gym...

One of the things I love about our girls is how unique each of their personalities is. They look similar (sometimes they are mistaken for twins, though they really don't look *that* similar), they can sound and act similar. They are clearly closely related. But boy are they different in personality!

K is a rule-follower by nature. She checks with us, knows when she's stepping out of bounds, listens to instructions and follows them.

L is a boundary-pusher. Tell her she can't do something and she'll do it. She's the only one in the family who regularly wears her shoes in the house, even though we have a long-standing convention of NOT doing so (exceptions for visitors and, apparently, for Miss L!). "I've just got to get the ...." "I'm going to the bathroom...." Whatever the reasons she gives, they don't really map to any real justification and she might as well be saying "I know you told me that but I'm not going to pay any attention to what you're saying." Which she is, in essence saying. Sort of.

A well-balanced and thoughtful friend down the street from us who has a child with a similar style to Miss L once said to me, "Isn't it great? Wouldn't you hate it to be any other way?" His point being that the sort of "do it anyway, apologize later if necessary" approach can be a real powerful strength for these people in the future. Much more so, possibly, than the rule-following, permission-asking approach of many of the rest of us. I don't know how true that will be, but it's a nice way to think about it as we navigate the challenges.

In any case, this is all intended as a lead-in to my real topic, which happens to be how much we, as parents, are willing to do in support of our children. Which is not a new or particularly illuminating topic, I know, but it's one I've been thinking about.

As two examples (and here is where the differences come into play, at least a bit):

A week ago Sunday we went skating as a family, a request from Miss L for her birthday. Her birthday desires were:
  • go skating as a family
  • have dinner out as a family
  • have cake and ice cream at home with our neighbors (and pseudo-grandparents of the girls)
Nice and simple and sweet. Just my kind of celebration, in fact. Except for the skating bit, which is hard on my knees and cold and hard and....
So we went to the skating rink and all skated, spending family time (after a challenging effort to get the girls out of the house in an appropriate state of dress and properly fed) at a rink crowded with beginning and mediocre skaters (our family included), a cold and echo-y space with gouged and chunky ice. I did a bit of skating as a college student, and I loved it. But this time (and the other time we skated at the same place) both M and I were holding onto slipping, floppy little skaters who were a bit awed by the activity and the chaos of the rink. What I'd love to do is find an opportunity for the family to skate without the crowds, music, chaos and give the girls a real chance to learn how to get around on skates. This wasn't it.

But it WAS L's birthday celebration, so we went, we had fun, and we came home with sore knees and cold toes.

That was Sunday.

Last Friday we all went to West Seattle High to watch a three-school gymnastics meet that the girls had heard about from their gymnastics "coaches" on Thursday. So we sat on hard wooden benches in an echo-y high school gym and watched girls in leotards do the vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercise. Just what I want to do on a Friday night! And the girls *loved* it.

And M and I realized that in "normal" life, our exposure to gymnastics is limited to either watching the girls do their little girl attempts at cartwheels and handstands, or video of the Olympics. And what we very quickly realized was that there is a *huge* gap between the beginning gymnasts and the Olympians and if you go expecting to see someone anywhere close to Mary Lou Retton or Nadia Comenici, you are going to be disappointed. (Huge realization, right?) And to be honest, most of the competition was much closer to beginning than to Olympian. Floor exercise routines seemed to consist of a couple wobbly, bent-knee cartwheels, a roundoff (possibly), a forward roll or two, and then, mercifully, they were over. It was eye-opening.

And reassuring, oddly enough. These were high school girls! And they looked and behaved like high school girls. As they should have. Or rather, they behaved better than my impression of how high school girls would behave. They were all supportive of their team mates, clapping and yelling encouragement, acting mature and with good sportsmanship (sportswomanship?). We did wonder whether gymnastics might be a sport where, if you're truly competitive, you aren't spending your time on a high school team. Are the really good gymnasts on club teams instead of their school teams?

The bottom line though, is that the girls were in seventh heaven in the gym (and the rink). K , who'd worried that we didn't know where we were going, that we weren't on time, that we wouldn't know where to sit and how to watch, she settled down and eventually sat on my lap and soaked it all in. L too snuggled against M and also tried to absorb it, though they both had lots of questions.

With multiple things happening at the same time, with loud music and incomprehensible loudspeaker announcements, clapping and yelling and cheering, it was a bit much. High school students came and went, some obviously coming from other sport workouts, others looking like they had nothing better to do on a bitterly cold Friday evening. And (I noticed) there were the parents watching closely from the bleachers around us. When K told me later that she wanted to be on a gymnastics team and that I would have to come to her meets. I told her that I would do that. Because I would/will. Just as I'll go skating again with L when she next wants to do it for her birthday. Because these are my daughters and this right here and now is what we have and what we get. This is life.