I broke her heart.
There is no parenting manual to tell you what to do with a child who wants to shoot for the stars. Sometimes I am too much of a grown-up; I told my daughter it was unlikely she would make it to the Olympics. Then I wanted to go crawl in a hole as I watched tears stream down her face.
I tried to make it better by saying there are many ways to enjoy the sport of gymnastics. She just nodded and remained quiet. We talked about what it would take to get to the Olympics – what the steps were, the grueling hours, the things she would miss. I told her to think about her goals and we would talk the following day.
As I left her, I felt like I failed my daughter. Totally. Completely. There’s nothing that tells a parent how to encourage a child to dream while helping them see reality.
The next day, we sat down again and I once again asked her what her goals were in gymnastics. Do you know what she said?
“Mom, I want to go to the Olympics.”
Tenacity. I have a tenacious, determined child. I smiled and we talked about coaching and maybe finding some new coaches that would be more supportive of her dream.
And I sighed a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t completely crush my daughter’s dream. And in that moment she taught me what tenacity really is. It is staring in the face of impossibility and the faces of people telling you that you are too old and that you can’t and saying, “Watch me do it anyway.”
Tenacity is trying again and again. She may never make it to the Olympics, but it won’t be because she didn’t try.
A few days later, we were trying out a new gym and I watched as my daughter stuck a back walkover on the beam for the first time and smiled inside.
Watching her, I realized that I give up on my dreams far too easily. I become frustrated and wonder if I am too old to have any success. I tell myself that I am too old to publish my first novel and that I don’t have enough time. I am my own worst enemy. I need to learn tenacity from my 11-year-old daughter. I need to borrow from her strong-willed determination and put it to work in my own life.
As we made the difficult decision to switch her gyms and coaches I asked her if she was going to be sad to leave the gym she has been at for two years. Her reply: “A little, but I think that’s normal. But I’m super excited, Mom. This gym is much better.”
And letting nothing stand in her way, she teaches me more.