The runners take their places at the starting line. “Ready, set….” The first runner takes off. “GO!” The rest of the runners go. The tall blonde runner is a little late on her start, but she quickly whizzes past all of her competitors, waves to some cheering fans, and handily wins the race. And that is how Kiki won her first blue ribbon in the 3 year-old girls’ division at our local 4th of July festival kids’ races.
Our daughter is athletic. We’ve known that ever since she started walking. She is tall and strong and she was able to climb things at the playground that other kids her age couldn’t. You all know my friend Mrs. Miss. Well she’s an Occupational Therapist and she commented that Kiki at age 2 ½ had the physical coordination of a 5 year-old.
I was taking pictures of Kiki and Hubby on her first day of soccer practice and I overhead one dad point at my daughter and say to his wife, “have you noticed this girl in the pink? She’s really good.” And then his wife replied, “well look how tall she is. She’s obviously almost 4.” Kiki wasn’t even 3 yet.
We took a feamily trip to Vermont so that Hubby could realize his dream – Kiki on skis. We signed her up for a private ski lesson and took a billion pictures of her (nothing is cuter than a 3 year-old ski bunny). Her instructor was amazed at Kiki’s ability. She said she could not believe that this was her first time on skis. She even went so far as to tell us that she had taught lessons for years and that she had only ever had one other 3 year-old with as much natural ability and that kid was the son of an Olympic skier.
It’s hard not to be blinded by parental pride. Of course I think my daughter is amazing. So it’s sometimes hard to gauge how accurate my view of her athleticism is. For example, the ski instructor seemed genuinely impressed by Kiki. But do coaches and instructors just exaggerate young children’s abilities for the parents’ sake? I mean, what parent doesn’t want to hear that their child is amazing?
Hubby and I also wonder if maybe our daughter is just an early bloomer. Who knows? But for now, it’s looking like our daughter could have the potential to be an athlete if she wants to. This means I have the potential to be a soccer mom (or basketball or gymnastics or volleyball…). I hope that I can be a good one. The kind that cheers her on and encourages her. Not the kind that pressures her and criticizes her. The kind that practices with her so that she can improve her game. Not the kind that nags her to practice so much that the game loses it’s appeal. The kind that embarrasses her with my clapping and cheering at her games. Not the kind that embarrasses her with my yelling at the coaches.
It’s already a fine line with Kiki between encouragement and pressure. I compliment her swimming strokes at the lake as she swims between Hubby and I and she lights up. But I remind her to hold her breath if she goes under and she decides she’s done swimming and wants to play in the sand. I’m sure I’ll have a hard time figuring out where that line is as she gets more into sports. I’m sure I’ll get it wrong a few times and make her mad.
I think it’s clear though that the first thing I need to do is get a really huge trophy case to put in the family room. I can put her blue ribbon right on the center shelf and just wait for all the other ribbons and trophies to come. Or is that too much?