“Excuse me,” as your Gigi says when she’s trying to lead prayer before Sunday dinner, and everyone is still daring to speak amongst ourselves, “Excuse me, I’m talking up here. Yeah, hi, sorry, look at me please, I’m talking, thanks.”
She is so funny, that Gigi of yours, if by “funny” we mean “hilarity brought upon by lack of filter, which only she can somehow continually pull off,” which, of course, we do.
I have some thoughts to impart to you today, dear daughter.
Everyone tries to make EVERYTHING a competition, and some things ARE a competition, and that’s great for those things … but most things, just generally speaking, don’t matter all that much. I took your – at current 19-month-old self – to your Saturday morning “Tumble Bees” class last week, and I watched with horror as I realized that you have the makings of a gymnast. You really are quite flexible, with quick reflexes, and a shockingly strong balance – all gifts acquired from your Dad, no doubt. Plus, you are a climber. As you run from balance beam to ball pit, to slide, you keep stopping mid-run, and looking back – and up – at me, with a smile so big, it turns your face into one giant, mushy, toothy, kissable dream. You clap your hands ferociously, as if to say, “I love it, I love it, I love it, Mom!” And I remember with a rush all the gymnastics tournaments that I drug my parents to when I was little, and then – because I had to choose between gymnastics and volleyball in the 7th grade – all the volleyball tournaments, where they sat in the bleachers cheering me on, with unabashed support. I stare at you, pulling yourself into the ball pit, your little feet kicking high in the air, and I wonder, not for the first time, which sport, or artistic endeavors you are going to commit to one day … and I hope, and I pray, that I encourage you and support you exactly the same way your Papa and Gigi supported me.
And I also hope and I pray that you do not wind up a gymnast.
I would worry about you worrying about your body image all the time. Plus, the words “balance beam” incite a sort of dread-y panic attack deep within me. I remember all the Summer Olympics spent sitting cross-legged in front of the TV with my cousin Maria, biting my fingernails as the young American gymnasts inevitably fell, one by one, into last place. I found myself rooting for all the countries on the balance beam, even Russia – maybe especially Russia, because they seemed very serious – for it seemed such an impossible feat, and so dreadful that any of them should have to perform such a rigorous routine on a beam that was only approximately 4 centimeters wide! I recall feeling sorry for their parents too. Even then, I understood how awful it must be to be a relative of those young, doomed daredevils. If my fingernails were gone, chewed to the bone from a carpeted floor in OHIO, surely their entire fingertips were chewed off. “I hope our parents are happy that we are just OK at gymnastics,” I told Maria. “Seriously,” she agreed.
So. You will probably be a gymnast.