Before I was a mom, I swore I would never join the ranks of parents putting their preschooler in sports. I saw one too many children who were barely able to pick their own nose without help being forced onto the playing field by parents who were sure their child was the next Olympic star. While I’m a fan of sports and music lessons, I wanted to wait a while.
As is the case with most people who suddenly become parents, everything changed when Jake was born. If you haven’t been following along with Jake’s story, he was born with a few sensory disorders as well as hypotonia which is a condition that causes muscle weakness and very tight tendons and ligaments. The last few years of therapy have helped him walk and move somewhat normally.
The thing that changed my mind about putting Jake into a sport besides the fact that he has spent the last few months standing on his head was that he is no longer receiving services for physical therapy. While he is doing better, I know that “better” isn’t always enough. So, I did the research and last Friday was Jake’s very first gymnastics class.
I thought it was smart to sign up for a preview class before shelling out the money we don’t really have for an eight week class. Within ten minutes of the class beginning, with very happy tears in my eyes, I went to sign Jake up for the entire session. We had found a winner on the first try!
The owner of the gym found out that Jake was a new student and had some sensory problems. He went through the entire warm up with Jake, helping him understand what he was supposed to be doing, and then came and asked me a bunch of questions about how his coaches should handle Jake.
This is the owner with Jake.
Jake’s little class of preschoolers in baggy leotards went through three sections with different coaches. Each coach was amazingly kind and patient with Jake.
Jake has a hard time coordinating his movements, but this coach was really good about waiting for Jake to “jump up high”.
She was also very sweet about letting Jake hang there for a very long time.
Jake’s limbs go in every direction when he falls, so we are going to have to work on him not falling everywhere whenever he hops off of the bars or beam.
and hanging upside down is what he is very good at anyway!
The next section was floor work and watching four-year olds try to do cartwheels is pretty cute. Jake thought that the trampoline was the best thing ever!
He absolutely loved the back walkover prep!
The coach at this section was really good about helping Jake do something a little different if he was having a hard time. They were supposed to do somersaults, but his little body doesn’t quite tuck into that position, so she let him “roll like a pencil” down the wedge. She cheered him on and helped him feel really good about that accomplishment.
Parents aren’t allowed on the floor (which might explain the quality of the pictures) and I was very glad for that during the balance beam section. When I was doing gymnastics myself, I got hurt more on the beam than any other thing. Jake had absolutely no fear of walking on a full-height beam. The coach held his hands and helped him kick up into the air, but Jake didn’t need any help at all jumping off at the end.
During the last section, the owner came back to talk to me more about Jake. I was able to give him a little more history of his therapy and how frustrated I’ve been without knowing what is going on in his current therapy at preschool. He helped me think of some things I can do at home with Jake to help him practice. He saw Jake laughing and jumping on the trampoline and said, “This is going to be all the therapy he will need!” I totally agree!
When it was time to go, Jake ran over to me and yelled, “Mama! I like ‘gymnatsics!'” I asked if he wanted to come back and he turned around and headed for the mat. When I told him that we had to wait a while before going back, he folded up into a ball of tears. I got him cleaned up, put his shoes back on, and as we headed out the door, he turned around and gave a sniffly wave and said, “Goodbye! I’ll see you soon!”.
Even though I thought I’d never do this, I’m really happy to have found a gym that has such a great team of people who obviously love their jobs, love the kids, and are happy to be where they are.
I have no illusions that Jake will be an Olympic star, but I don’t care. We’ve found the next right thing for him and I am very thankful that I have something I can work on with him at home.
I’m even learning that the thing we swore we would never do can turn out to be the best thing in the world!
Maybe I’ll get a pet tarantula next.
P.S. Since this blog is public, I didn’t include the name of the gymnastics studio, but if I know you, I’m very happy to recommend them. They deserve it! 🙂