Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Most Hated Gymnastics Parent

I have to be careful how I say this. It is not my intention to be cruel, mean, or belittling. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know how much I love Addison- cheer for her- fight for her. If this is the only thing you've read that I've written, just know that I love my daughter very much. With that disclaimer in place, I'm going to try to sort something out that has been bothering me all day.

This morning in gymnastics class, Addison did better on some of her gymnastic moves and obstacle course participation than she ever has before. Her listening and following instruction? She didn't do her best. She didn't even do half her best. She pretty much didn't even try to listen and obey. She was fighting me the entire class. She knew it. I knew it.

And the thing is, I KNOW she can do better. Today it wasn't an instance of "does she understand?" it was flat out toddler behavior issues. We made it through the class, notched it in our book of experience, and with a sigh of relief lined up for the end of the class "hand/foot stamps" that the teacher gives. Each class does get better, but they are all a lot of work- some definitely more than others.

The teacher was stamping another child's hand and explaining "One stamp is for good gymnastics and one stamp is for good listening."

Now I was in a snarky, crabby mood because I was exhausted from my 45 minute workout disguised as gymnastics class. What I said next I shouldn't have said because the class didn't know me at all, so they had no background with which to process my comment.

"In that case Addison should just get a half a stamp." I quipped

In my mind I subtracted out a stamp and a half because of her VERY poor listening skills today.

The looks I received after saying that were shocked and full of judgment. I swear several of the other moms gasped and pulled their kids closer to them.

This negative response really kind of ticked me off for two reasons.

1. Yes, I am the mother of a child with special needs. But that doesn't mean that I'm not allowed to get crabby when I've spent the entire class chasing and pinning down my child while your child the same exact age (if not a little younger) sat like an angel listening to the teacher. Sometimes I get so sick of people expecting me to be this perfect mother that never gets bothered by anything. I am a regular ol' mother who is constantly pushed to the breaking point just like anyone else. Does it bother me that my almost three year old behaves like someone half her age? Yes, yes it does. Does that mean that I love her any less? no. Would I want to "change" her to not have Down syndrome? no because then she wouldn't be Addison. It's just- sometimes it's hard, and I wouldn't be giving you a fair picture of our life if I didn't say that every now and then. The roll of sainthood for sure does NOT include my name. Do I think that parenting a toddler with Down syndrome is a life full of rainbows and unicorns? No, but I make the best of it all, and the appreciation I have for the good and happiness that happens along the way is magnified by the trouble that we went through to get there. (and believe me, there is a LOT of good and happiness along the way)

Now I will be the first to admit that I should not have thrown out that off-the-cuff, snarky comment about Addison's stamp. It was one of those past-the-lips-before-it-registered-in-the-brain type of comments. Did I only want her to have half a stamp? NO of course not. But after I got past the "woe is me" stage, the incident really got me thinking about something else.

2. Just because Addison has Down syndrome, does NOT mean that any effort at all gets a pat on the head, a cookie, a medal, and a cheer JUST BECAUSE she exists. Um no. She is a little girl. And AS a little girl, she needs to put forth her best effort just like any other little girl. Those expectations might be altered to fit what she is capable of doing, but she IS CAPABLE of actually earning the pat on the head, a cookie, a medal, and a cheer. If I put her up on a pedestal and hand up trophies just because she's breathing, she'll learn that she never has to work for anything. That would mean that Addison's behavior as an adult would look a lot like her behavior as a toddler because she never put in the work to grow past it. Enabling her to be a trophy brat doesn't do anyone any favors, least of all her.

Once again- was taking away her stamps at gymnastics class a reinforcement of that? NO. I shouldn't have said it (and I was totally kidding. If you know me at all, kidding is kind of my thing) And I know that me getting upset from their reaction isn't fair because they don't know me, and they don't know Addison. It would have been easy for them just to assume that I was being cruel. That Addison had done her best and I was being ridiculous. But the fact is that Addison HADN'T done her best, and that's why I made the comment. I wasn't serious about the comment today because she wouldn't have understood the connection between her lack of a stamp and her behavior. This incident just got me thinking how I will respond when she is ready to understand consequences (soon) and allowed me to vent for just a minute. (-:

And before you completely hate me, here are some pictures from the morning:

Taking breakfast into her own hands
Walking into her class
Arriving during an older kids' class
Waiting for the start of her class
Explaining to me why her way was better than mine (-:
Exploring the room is her favorite part. lol.
This is a "Where's Waldo" situation. Bonus points for picking out the gymnastics princess:
Tomorrow we're starting a ten week music class. We went to a sample class last week and Addison loved it SO MUCH. I look forward to watching her enjoy a class that is easier for her to participate/behave in. She's such a music baby. (-: More on this class later.


  1. I think you did the right thing!

  2. Moms have to push their children to the maximum of each child's capability to enable them to accomplish their own dreams and goals. So--I would have snickered at your comment had I been there today :)

  3. When I live in Texas, mothers are constantly horrified by what I say about my kids....
    when I live in Boston no one bats an eye.

    I think it's your audience, another group of moms would have cracked up!

    Addison was being a nudge, big deal.
    If I was in that class and had witnessed Addison's behavior throughoutt I would have laughed out loud. And my children are typically developing, but I think even I could recognize a kid being a nudge is just a kid being a nudge.

    Don't overthink it, you're fine!

  4. Well I think you did fine and probably would have giggled at ur comment.
    We started a 10 week music class today! It wad great- my 15m old loved it!!!! Can't wait to hear how your 2 do!


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