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I love a good story, especially when I see one play out in front of my very own eyes. This is one such story…
We started Clara in gymnastics about 2 months ago and my 2.75 year-old daughter absolutely loves this stuff. Mom and I are on board as well because not only is it fun for the family, but Clara can also build strength, confidence, and relationships. And the cherry on top: there are about a dozen other families also present that have toddlers; each of whom can go rogue at a moments notice.
Clara’s age group has a ‘parent participation’ class where either mom or I will stretch alongside our little amig(a)s and walk with them as the navigate the week’s obstacle course. The week in question, Monica was assisting while I took the opportunity to watch and knock out some business matters. Win-win.
There was one particular family (mom – Shannon, daughter – Olivia, and dad – Dad Smith) that stood out to me this week. They were frazzled, spent, and about ready to snap. Maybe it was the work-day? Perhaps a bad post work dinner? Maybe a rough month? Either way I could see it at first glance, and I recognized their mindset because I’ve been there before. I’m not here to criticize because parenting and family-ing can be tough. That doesn’t mean we can’t look back a day later and laugh at our past experiences, right?
Yea, I agree. So let’s press on.
If we didn’t recognize the Smith family’s condition visually, they hit our radar when Shannon and Olivia hit the mat for warm-up and embarked on conversation with our teacher, Morgan.
“I’m Shannon, this is Olivia,…” Was the polite intro that hung in the ether for a moment then ended up continuing: “…And you are??”
Great first step toward forging a respectful bond between parent and teacher, am I right? Although entertaining, this was a mild indiscretion that was easily passed over as gymnastics ensued. And actually, 30 of the class’ 45 minutes passed before we arrived at our main course.
I was typing on the keys, responding to texts, and throwing up 2 thumbs-up for the best moves from Clara (1 thumb for decent moves) when Olivia shot herself out of a cannon from the gymnastics mat toward me, the other casual observers, and the main door that awaited beyond. The kid had had enough. My eyes widened and mouth went agape as I saw the child move at a respectable rate for her age toward the door. Mom was about 2 seconds behind sweet Olivia, and my concern lessened slightly as I thought mom had this catch within her grasp. One problem: Shannon hit top speed and didn’t close ground. She stayed about 2 steps behind her swift daughter.
“Oh, man. We may have ourselves a certified situation here…” Was my uninspiring thought as I watched this race unfold. Two strides passed in what seemed like an eternity as I saw Shannon’s frantic mind spinning it’s wheels for an idea, some shred of hope or optimism to only come up empty. Luckily for us (or was it?) Mom dug down deep and found her top gear. She closed the distance in the next 2 paces and reached out to grab her bounty.
Shannon’s singular focus was to stop Olivia at any cost before the child ran out of the room, into the hallway, and ultimately into the busy parking lot beyond. The detached observer (me) could see what the laser focused parent could not in the moment: Olivia was quickly approaching the metal doorframe that dramatically narrowed this high-speed team’s path. Oh, No! One wrong grasp could result in a terrible outcome for the Family Smith…
“Hold o…!!” was all I got out before Shannon reached, made contact with, but did not fully grasp Olivia. The missed contact sent our child careening sideways while still moving quickly forward. The doorframe was a half-step away…
“THWACK!!” …Oh my… The flailing body tumbled through the doorway and out of view.
Was it a head? A shoulder?? Only God knew as we waited for the passing of those magical 2 seconds that every parent understands. The time when the child runs their self-diagnostic check. ‘ALL SYSTEMS REPORT!! AM I HURT?!?!’
Unlike the foot chase, Shannon scooped up Olivia before the neurons reported back and attempted to muffle the cry with the standard, “You’re alright, Olivia.” Which can – at times – be designed to put the parent at ease more than the child (it is typically accompanied with a frantic but softer back pat).
Fate would spare Shannon on this occasion, as Olivia must have made contact with a strong and sturdy shoulder because the cry was focused on Olivia’s capture rather than her pain… Dad, on the other hand, didn’t make out so well as Shannon gave the ‘where in the he!! were you back there?’ look that no man wants to see. The look was followed with a ‘get over here’ finger wag. Bad combo.
To this point I hadn’t realized the female due was accompanied by any other family members, and I thought mom had made a go of gymnastics on her own with Olivia. My thought now was, ‘well, man. I see where mom is coming from here if dad was just chillin’ in mid-conversation or with his iPhone in hand. That’s not a solid team play. How ‘bout helpin’ a sister out?’
As Dad walked through the door I expected the most muted and one-sided tongue lashing session a team could have at the gymnastics mat waiting area, but guess what? I was wrong again (don’t assume, kids). Dad walked though the same door frame that caused us onlookers much consternation and he was followed by not 1 but 2 other children also dressed in gymnastics clothes. The look on his face and the hand gestures he made said it all.
“Hey. What do you want from me out here? I have these 2 under control and you want me to help you deal with 1 Olivia? I know it’s been a rough day, honey but come on. Let’s work together here.” – Dads motions and body language.
“I know, dear. It’s just been a terrible day and she just won’t listen to me. She never does! Can we just go home, put these kids to bed and watch Netflix?” – Mom
“We can, honey. But we need to gut out these last few minutes. Come on. You can do this!!”
“Thanks, dear. Good talk and wish me luck.”
The two turned and walked back to their respective mats with their respective children in tow without uttering 1 word to each other. It was amazing. A marvel of spousal communication. The fight was had, diffused, and resolved with no words. I took many notes.
This was a win all around, and with Olivia secure back to the mat, gymnastics resumed in full for the remaining 10 minutes of the session. At the conclusion, we were getting Clara rehydrated and prepped to head outside when I saw Olivia and Shannon flash by us again toward the door. I didn’t think too much of it at this point because the team had been through this exercise once already and mom didn’t seem too far behind…
We bid our adieus to the front desk fella and made way to the hustle and bustle that is the gymnastics parking lot. With our car’s location identified, I noticed something off to my right. At first it was a sound that caused my head to turn slowly toward that direction, and then it was the visual that widened my eyes and dropped my jaw. Like a fugitive on her last stand that refused the constraints of the lock and key, Olivia’s run continued! Through the parking lot and toward the street she charged with Mom in tow. And it was after some miracle that Shannon finally found her 6th gear, closed the gap, and this time grasped Olivia securely before the somewhat unoccupied street became her playground.
You heard it here first: Parenting is hard and you never know when leg day may come back to get you. Luckily for Shannon, Dad, and Olivia – no one was harmed during the witnessing of this story… Whew.
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