the one about "being normal"

So, last week, I won the Suckiest Mom Award.

No really, I did.

I said something to my husband that no mother should ever say, though I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not the first who has said this...or thought this.

"Why can't she just be normal?"

I blubbered this through tears as we left her gymnastics class 5 minutes before it was to end because she refused to participate. She stared blankly at the teacher as all of the other leotard-clad toddlers jumped and squealed and gleefully did what they were asked to do. Even her most favorite activity, the trampoline, wasn't exciting to her, and when I told her that if we left, we may not ever come back (after we had spent the better part of the last year in that class), she said, "That's fine, Mama."

I drove separately that night and took the opportunity to pout and sulk and cry without my child bearing witness. I would never in a million years want my 3 year old to know I was disappointed in her, but, shamefully, I was.

It wasn't about gymnastics. I didn't have ambitions that she would make an Olympic team. I simply wanted her to find something she enjoyed and wanted to participate in. I wanted to see the joy on her face. I wanted to ignite a passion for something. And I'll admit it...the little leotards were damn cute.

I called my husband to vent and that was when I asked that question. He listened while I rambled and worried and cried.

"All the other little girls in there are so happy to be there, but she could have cared less."

"All the other little girls did what they were told and had fun doing it, but she refused."

"All the other little girls..."

I couldn't believe what I was saying. Since when did I care what any other children were doing but my own? Had I really just begun the vicious cycle of comparing my daughter to everyone else's, which only breeds insecurity, competition, and tons of self-image issues in young girls? Why did her defiance of gymnastics impact me so much?

When families are expecting a child, they spend a lot of time dreaming about what the child will be like. They imagine soccer players and football players and basketball players and valedictorians and future presidents and doctors and beauty queens. They imagine popularity, social engagements, prom dates, wedding dresses. They imagine scoring the winning goal, making the graduation speech, winning the award.

I projected Noelle's disinterest in gymnastics to mean that she would grow up to be a couch-loving, uninvolved, apathetic school-hater. She would prefer watching Japanese cartoons to going out with friends. She would complain about walking out to get the mail because it made her too tired. She would grow up to own cats. And lots of them.

She also could have just needed a nap or wanted a break. But my mind does crazy things sometimes.

This "fast-forward" vision of my daughter scared me, but what scared me more was my attitude about it. Would I love her less if she wasn't the captain of the cheerleading squad or prom queen like I was, or if she didn't score the winning basket or wasn't valedictorian like her father? Would I be disappointed in her? Would I be ashamed? Would I not support her interests or still encourage her to be the best version of herself, whoever that may be? Would I not be as proud to be her mom?

The answer, the true answer, to all of those questions is absolutely not. I'm her mama. I will love her (and Charlotte, and any other future children) forever with no conditions. She will grow up to do amazing things, be them what society defines as amazing or simply what are amazing things to me.

She may or may not be a star athlete, but I really hope she just enjoys keeping herself healthy and active. She may or may not be valedictorian, but I really hope she just enjoys learning and challenging her mind.
She may or may not be popular, but I really hope she's just loving and compassionate to other people.
She may or may not be prom queen, but I really hope she just knows how beautiful she is, inside and out.

When my family would watch sports together, my dad and I would sometimes get wrapped up in the competition and make snide remarks about other players. My mom would always say, "Remember, he's someone's son."

The last kid off the bench, the one who missed the field goal, the one who scored for the other team, the one who was 5th runner-up, they are all someone's child.

And the curly-haired, sometimes shy, sometimes bossy, always curious, always amazing, disinterested gymnast...well, she's mine.

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