Ben and I were driving Leila to gymnastics camp when I excitedly asked her if she would like to take gymnastics. For over a year she has practiced her cartwheels and handstands and one-armed handstands and walking on her hands in our living room with no guidance other than her intuition and a handful of YouTube videos. Her ballet training is much of the same, just occasional clips of Swan Lake. This summer we finally signed her up to a one-week camp at Little Gym, a trial run to see if something longer term would hold her interest long enough to be worth the investment. YouTube videos and living room practices are free. It took a couple days, but by day three she declared, “I just can’t wait for gymnastics! I love gymnastics!” Okay. I looked up the schedule, talked it over with Ben and finally asked Leila, “Would you like to take a gymnastics class?”
“But what if I can’t do the things?”
I paused. This was it. This was that parenting moment I dreaded. The one that felt momentous. We haven’t really had those yet. I searched for the words.
“That’s okay! It’s fun to try new things, even if you can’t do them. It’s about having fun. Maybe you’ll know how to do it, maybe you won’t know how to do it.”
Or something like that.
She seemed satisfied.
What I wanted to say, what I hope I take a moment to sit down and tell her when she’s older and can digest it is that life is lived in those moments of trying the things we are not quite sure we can do. What I want to tell her is that we do not have to limit ourselves to the things that we, or anyone else, perceive us as not good at doing. We have full permission to do things badly, poorly, clumsily, foolishly with our whole heart and full enjoyment.
That I signed up for an inversion workshop because I heard her say that she wasn’t going to handstands when she grew up because grown-ups don’t do handstands. Fear and shame be damned, I was going to ignore my terror and risk breaking my neck so that she could look to her Mom and know at least that one more thing was possible. And because of her and that bravery it sparked I now know I am stronger than I could have ever imagined.
I do not think I will teach my daughter that she can be anything she wants to be. I don’t know that I believe it, and I don’t know that it serves her. But I will do my best to teach her she can absolutely, always, without apology do anything she wants to do.