We live in a city with lots of options for the myriad things in which your kids can involve themselves (and you). And partly because we are lazy, and partly because we are often broke, and partly because we really don't believe in over-scheduling our kids, each of our kids only does one activity at a time - and nothing formalized until 5.
We largely stick to B-list stuff - that is, not being part of the Right league, the Traveling league, but rather the church leagues, the cobbled-together teams at the Y. (This is, well, partly because we are lazy, partly because we are often broke, and partly because we don't believe in over-scheduling our kids...)
My husband is gigantic, and people assume he was once a pro-football player. He was not, but he was a college athlete, and briefly a professional rugby player. He is a graceful, natural athlete. And coach.
I am also very tall. People assume I was once an athlete. While I would never directly mislead, I do not disavow people of this notion - and so far no one has challenged me.
I do not do the things that require skill or coordination, or moving my body in any sweeping and organized movements with some others approximating the same - and, heaven forfend, still more who sit on sidelines and in metal seats and watch. *shudder*
My daughter's main 'thing' is gymnastics. She has, I fear, more of my coordination than the Big One's. With gymnastics, I reason, she can build a solid base of physical confidence while also developing strength and flexibility. It is working - that is, she is very strong and very flexible and she perseveres and is getting pretty darn good. (I predict, however, she will be 6'2" - at least - and not a contender to steal the thunder from the likes of Mary Lou and Nadia.)
My daughter engages in her gymnastics at the 'right' gym. (Remember, I notionally, proudly, even avoid the 'right' sports leagues.) This gym serves tony clientele - that we live just beyond, on the metaphorical wrong side of the tracks - about half a mile from Their gym. That we use.
For the second year, we go to every class and re-register each term. It costs, of course, hundreds of dollars. For the last term - it costs $85 more. For the leotard. For the "show."
Really? For my never-gonna-be-an-olympian gymnast? $85?
I decided that this year, we would just not do the show.
This was not to make a point, and it occurred pretty organically. I stood there, at the place, with the spring registration in hand. Unprepared. I had just deposited a check for some freelance work for $300 and had my oil changed. I had not counted on the leotard fee. It was January. There was shiny new Christmas debt, and It didn't feel like spring.
I explained to my daughter (loosely - mostly just, "we won't be doing that this year, but you still get gymnastics every week") and she took it mostly OK. For weeks, she didn't seem to even think about it.
When classes evolved, later in the season, to the point where they were 'rehearsing,' the Big One and I were out of the country. AB, my daughter, told me that she had been asked to sit out the rehearsal part of class because she wouldn't be in the show. She cried.
I freaked out. I did not want a decision, based largely on my ability to pay at that moment, to stick as some Important Thing in her memory. I did not want her sitting out of 3 minutes of public floor time show to trump two years of gymnastics. It would become, inadvertently, a defining moment of her childhood.
Geez. Really? How did I not realize that??
I then wrote a very measured letter to the place explaining that I thought the recital was optional, that if they were going to punish my daughter for her non-involvement, and for my financial shortfall, then I would find the money.
They assured me, via voicemail message, that this was NOT the case. No one HAS to do the recital, lots of people miss it, she was free to practice during the rehearsals...they would make her comfortable... I called back and said 'thanks.'
I went in early this week to pay for fall registration. The owner was there. She was outrageously gracious. We talked about AB, and the new season. The show came up. She offered, should I want it, a generous discount on the leotard.
While my back brain was saying "THIS is not about THAT" and "charity...charity...charity," I took it. I wrote the reduced check. I did. I told myself that maybe they were trying to keep a client. Maybe? It wasn't about charity, but about making right on the substitute instructor's poorly communicated message that AB would be on the sidelines.
I felt sheepish. I felt... less. Less than all the right gymnastics moms in front of whom I try real hard to be invisible. The mommies who do not work at jobs, who have nannies and nice cars and perfect shiny designer flats I covet and swingy spring coats and who are never late and always have tasty snacks. And drinks.
Then, today, I drove the carpool. Which meant I was there early.
At the start of class, they passed out the leotards. And I watched.
Shiny. Orange and gold and black and silver and cheetah print and asymmetrical and... well... sassy. Super sassy. Sassy like I would never buy for my daughter. Like I would never encourage. Along with every other girl, AB was given hers to try on.
And here's the thing: she loved it.
She lit up. She couldn't believe it.
And later she was sheepish about it, because she knows how I sneer at sassy.
But I saw it: she really, really, super, $85-dollars-worth LOVED it.
I chatted with Mom A and Mom B and all the other scary moms whose names I forget weekly. And I was one of them, sortof. For a minute. Another mom of a girl with a shiny leotard and a show coming up.
And I tried to imagine dying the little death I would have died if I watched, instead, her standing with tears in her eyes being strong while everyone else got their sassy sasswear.
And I was more ashamed of myself than I was for taking a wee bit of charity. If that's even what it was.
I will drink in her sparkly goodness in that jam-packed gym on a Saturday in May and I will be SO relieved to have narrowly missed defining a piece of my daughter's childhood with exactly the wrong sliver of missing $85 trivia.