How Gymnastics Changed my Son

Last year, I signed my son up for a gymnastics class at our local gym. He missed the age cut-off for other Fall sports and I wanted to keep him busy in something besides the preschool he attended 3 mornings a week.

He was so excited for his first session but nerves got a hold of him on the drive to class. I could tell my sweet 4-year-old was nervous when he glanced back at me in the bleachers when he timidly high-fived his new instructor and followed the other kids into the gym. A glass wall separates parents from the kids, so I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I did see Jackson shake his head no throughout the hour class when they asked him to try something he had never done before.

He was afraid of walking on the balance beam that sat directly on the floor. Too timid to hang from the bars without an instructor’s hands on his waist. He barely enjoyed the trampoline because it was “too bouncy.” For the first few weeks of gymnastics, he would work himself up in the hours leading up to class thinking about all the things he was too scared to try. Skin the cat. Balance beam. Frontwards roll. Jumping into the foam pit.

I don’t have a gymnastics background at all, so I didn’t know what he was talking about when he told me he didn’t want to “skin the cat” but I can tell you that gymnastics has transformed my son from a timid little boy to an adventurous, confident preschooler who loves to “work out.”

Nine months after starting gymnastics, he actively seeks out new things to try and isn’t nearly as timid about adventure. His preschool teacher told me that she had to change his progress report because he came out of his shell so much. I’m sure some of that can be attributed to growing up, but I give *most* of the credit to gymnastics and his fitness routine.

Gymnastics has given him the self-confidence to trust his mind and body. He has gone from a boy who refused to walk on a balance beam to one who likes to practice his frontward rolls off the couch and do ring dips at the CrossFit box when he watches me work out. Here are some gymnastics benefits that I have personally seen in my own 4-year-old (from the OSSG site):

  • Gymnastics is the only sport that works total body strength, flexibility and aerobic development.
  • Gymnastics enhances gross motor skills.
  • Self-discipline is developed due to the very nature of the sport.
  • Self-confidence is built through individualized goals and accomplishments.
  • For any other sport, gymnastics is a way of developing strength and giving athletes that “added edge”.
  • Early training results in increased kinesthetic awareness.
  • A NASA study showed that gymnasts have highly developed “vestibular mechanisms” which increase general learning, (academic as well as physical).

I’m so proud of him and grateful for what gymnastics has given us. The true gift is his sense of accomplishment and love of fitness at an early age. If you’ve ever considered putting your child into a gymnastics program, I highly recommend it!

The Differences Between my First and Second Child

Our first child was coddled. He attended”baby gym” at 3 months old and wore cloth diapers (none of which ever saw my daughter’s bum, because LAUNDRY). I spent every day working on baby sign language with him and making his organic baby food from scratch. I spent hours every week setting up a photo shoot and documented every little milestone: first smile, first laugh, I have video evidence of them all. He’s been dramatic since in utero when he had the cyst on his brain, then came into the world in a dramatic fashion with an emergent c-section and even as a newborn would he make eye contact with everyone in the room before belting out his tear-filled cries and holding his breath until he passed out. My drama king. Sensitive & sweet, those who know Jackson know he has a penchant for drama.

Thirteen months after he was born, I got pregnant with our second. Even her pregnancy was different from my first. We were in the process of selling our townhouse, building a new house and moving in between (can you say STRESS). My pregnancy hormones were totally different the second time around and I was mean (I blame it on all the extra estrogen). My husband kept saying, this is definitely the last baby. I gained close to 50 pounds and was miserable in my bloated shell of myself. All I wanted to eat were cupcakes and KFC (SO gross).  I could no longer bask in the magic of pregnancy because I was chasing around a young toddler in between visits to our build site and meeting with realtors and contractors. The bottom line was the second time around for me was not as glamorous or as magical as the first. Her birth was a planned c-section and was, thankfully, non-eventful. While her blonde brother had an APGAR of 1 and was barely alive, my daughter came into the world happy and plump with a full head of brown hair. She was laid back from the start and fit right into our family. Sidney is my tough girl, the one who never complains.

I’m now 4 years into motherhood and am sipping my coffee while brewing another pot because both kids were up at 1:30am with the barky, croup cough that woke up everyone in the house (except for my husband). The differences in my first and second child are more clear than ever when they are sick. My son, the dramatic one, wants me to call an ambulance and take him to the doctor when he has the hiccups (no, really) while my daughter will be unable to breathe, choking through her phlegmy cough saying “I’m fine mama, I’m fine.” These kids are total opposites and I don’t know if it’s because of birth order or gender, all I know is that they are hilarious together, my little odd couple.

If I were to guess their future careers at 4 and 2 years old, I would say Jackson will be an actor or lawyer and Sidney will be some sort of athlete or musician. Being a mother of 2 is really incredible. I love seeing them interact and play together, even if it consists of my son bossing around my daughter and making her carry his things (which she gladly does for him). She is his personal pack mule, trudging up and down the stairs with whatever he needs. She looks up to him with an admiration only a little sister knows and I hope their relationship is this special forever.