One of the harder things about growing older is that you start to realize that things you fantasized about are simply not ever going to happen. I chose a career as a lawyer when I was in my twenties. Yet I still believed that someday I could be a veterinarian, or a teacher, or an artist. Lately I’ve been fantasizing about being a jewelry designer.
Well, kids come along, mortgages enter the scene, student loan payments seemingly never end. I spent many years at the bottom of the seniority list in my union, and actually received a layoff notice at one point (it’s still hanging on my office door to keep me humble). I hung on and now I am high enough on the seniority list that, unless the entire company implodes, I will not get laid off. Job security is an offer one cannot refuse, with the obligations that come along in life and the creature comforts that we all get used to enjoying (you know, computers, cable TV, addiction to Amazon Prime, haunting consignment/junk shops for treasures). So I’m keeping my day job, I guess.
Not my house, but it could be someday!
The other fantasies COULD be achieved, if I had the guts to make a career change, but one thing I know for sure: I will never be athletic, no matter how hard I try.
I know a lot of people who post their energetic enterprises on Facebook. Many of my dear friends are canoe-ers, marathon cyclists, daily runners, weight lifters and gym attenders. It makes me feel like a slug – no, even slugs are more active than I am. I want to be athletic, I really do, but I have NEVER even been coordinated, much less graceful, so forget athletic. It’s a good day when I don’t trip and fall. Today I dropped the Peter Rabbit dish I bought at Beatrix Potter’s birthplace thirty-five years ago, in anticipation of my children before they were even a concept. Of course it broke and is now in the recycling bin. I long ago gave up getting upset about broken objects. It’s a way of life for me.
I’m way more of a threat to Peter than Mr. McGregor
When I was growing up, boys had to play sports, but girls were generally exempt. However, occasionally girls would run down the block to the ice cream man, or play marathon games of jump rope. I was that kid who got a terrible pain in my side whenever I had to run. I couldn’t get into the jump rope rhythm enough to just leap right in to an operating rope, so the turners had to stop, let me walk in, and then start turning the rope. And even then it was a challenge! I was terrified of Double Dutch.
Run! Run for your life!
Luckily, I went to an all girls high school, so there was none of that team picking where I would have been the last choice. However, gymnastics were a big deal among the girls at my school. For me, having to leap over those horses was equivalent to walking over Niagara Falls on a wire.
Same feeling, right?
If you have no problem ambling down the street without tripping, or you can leap over obstacles like a gazelle, you probably can’t imagine what it is like to feel panicky about such things. I frequently have dreams in which I am required to climb through a small opening in order to get to work or get home or someplace important like that, so I HAVE to do it. It’s truly a nightmare. I wake up with my heart pounding, grateful it isn’t real.
I know grace or athletic ability comes easily to lots of people, and perhaps if I had started young enough and worked hard, I could have overcome these obstacles. But alas, that kayak has sailed.
As a CTWM, endeavoring to exist in the non-judgment zone, I have tried to accept this about myself and forgive myself. This is not about being overweight or out of shape (even though those are also facts). This is about having a body that doesn’t cooperate with the messages my brain sends it. Just as someone who wants to do calligraphy but her hand won’t cooperate or who wants to make a quilt but can’t sew neat stitches, I simply cannot be coordinated enough to be athletic.
I feel sad about the pressure on girls. There are expectations I never experienced, about playing competitive soccer or practicing 5 hours a day to achieve Olympic-level skating skills. In the grand picture, it is good for all kids to try to learn about their bodies and to engage in team sports. But for those of us who just can’t make our bodies be our friends, it’s a scary world.
I write this because I’m concerned about all the little girls growing up now. Please, women and men, listen to your daughters, granddaughters and nieces if they get a tummy ache on the day they are supposed to try out for the team. Tell them, “It’s ok, you don’t have to go.” Then find something they do well and exalt it. Don’t call them clutzy or awkward. Help them navigate a world where athletic prowess is the new “pretty.” Support them if they don’t get chosen for the team.
Childhood is mean enough without finding extra reasons to feel inadequate. Wouldn’t it be great if all parents could discern that one talent that is as natural to their child as breathing, and give the child every possible opportunity to nourish it, even if it’s something the parents don’t understand or enjoy? Who knows, you may even get into it! I learned about so many new things through my kids’ interests: Volkswagens, computer programming, Legos, music, theater, Batman. Encouragement and recognition of unique talents and interests by significant adults is one key to building their self-esteem. Good luck!
6 thoughts on “Not Athletic? Join the Team!”
I really like this topic Randi. Honestly, athletics have always been my thing. I can’t imagine what my high school and college experiences would have been like without them. Before I became a parent I thought, “what will I do if my kids aren’t athletic??” Now as a parent I realize that there are SOOOO many more important things to worry about. However, being totally honest, I was completely bummed out when my five-year old begged me to start ballet. But, she loves music, she loves dance, and she seems very committed to taking dance, so I reluctantly signed her up, and you’re right…I might, at some point, actually “get into it.” I will support my daughters in whatever they choose to do for hobbies and I will never make them do anything they are not comfortable with, but if I go “0 for 3” and no one takes up a sport, I think there will be a small part of me that will be sad.
Childhood is mean enough without finding extra reasons to feel inadequate. <<< This, thank you.
Those last few lines say it all ~ ABSOLUTELY! Great post, Randi! ♥
Thanks, Kate. I just want parents to get away from the idea of forcing kids to do stuff because the PARENTS want them to. My older son was made to play T-ball and really suffered because of it until I figured it out. Life would have been easier for him if he fit in and played sports, but that was not who he was. It taught me a good lesson about how important it was to get to know each of my children and their particular potential area of excellence. AND THEN, when to let it go! Older son was deeply into theater in high school and was so happy and so included with a really nice group of kids. After h.s. was over, he abandoned theater. It killed me (especially because he was very lonely at times and I thought, “Oh PLEASE just get back into theater! That will fix everything!”), but it wasn’t about me, was it?
There’s a lot to absorb in this post – I can so relate to being the kid who was never athletic, VERY uncoordinated and always dreaded the various events and stuff (I HATED field day). I totally agree that if the natural talent is not there, parents should not push it and they should say it’s ok to opt out. However, I do believe that it’s important to teach kids that staying active is critical to their development. Maybe they don’t have to do organized sports or activities that require competition – a simple walk in the woods with a friend, or a stroll downtown is all it takes.
I am one of those that did not bloom from an athletic standpoint until I was well past high school. However, I would hate to think that because the importance of staying active was not stressed in my childhood, that I would have missed everything that I am doing now. My parents always stressed that the important thing is that you TRY because if you never try, you will never know what you are capable of. It may take a while to find the right thing and perhaps you’ll never find it, but if you didn’t try, you’ll never know for sure.
thank you for a very though provoking post, Randi!
Your parents sound terrific. My parents weren’t that way. They told me I was a clutz.