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But Mom, It’s Too Hard!

Parenting is full of hard choices. But when kids want to quit because it’s too hard, that becomes an even tougher line to walk.

I’m not one to push the wee ones into sports or activities they don’t enjoy. Mister Man found tae kwon do and loves it – he’s determined that he’ll be a black belt one day. They both enjoy their Scouting, and we’ll see how long they stick with it.

We tried t-ball and soccer, but they weren’t for us for a lot of reasons, so we didn’t continue them. Little Miss found gymnastics and fell in love.

And so we continued gymnastics for her. She’s my monkey, constantly climbing and running and tumbling.

She is strong, and it’s amazing to me what she can do without even realizing that it isn’t normal. Whenever we go to an open gym for fun, she climbs up the metal pole – ten feet straight up, with nothing to hold onto but the pole.

Little Miss Cover PhotoNeedless to say, her gymnastics teachers recognized this and invited her to join the preteam. I was a little taken aback because I had no idea how these things worked.

What do to before you make a commitment as a parent

Before we signed her up, I talked to friends who had kids on various gymnastics teams (I had no idea I knew so many) about the experiences and what they liked and didn’t like. I talked to the gym about their program.

  • How many hours do they practice and what do they do?
  • What are the coaches’ expertise and backgrounds?
  • What are the expectations of the girls?
  • How many girls are on the pre-team versus how many coaches?
  • What if this isn’t for her?
  • How much does this cost? Does the cost vary if you pay monthly versus paying upfront?

I was amazed by how many gyms have the girls practicing 20 plus hours a week within a couple years of joining the team. The last thing I want is to burn her out – either her body or her mind.

We actually ended up switching gyms to join a different team where the hours were fewer but a little more intense when they were there. It was also a gym where the parents told me their girls learned new skills, unlike the one where we were currently.

And most importantly, they were very hands on to ensure that the girls were doing the skills properly so that they lessened the chance of injury.

Little Miss was thrilled to be a part of the team and go to gymnastics more often. She learned more in the first month than she had in the previous year at our old gym, and she loved it.

And then… she moved up to the next level. She’s seven years old and in second grade, so I’m happy that she isn’t competing – yet – and still at “just” six hours a week (which compared to the football and baseball schedules around us is actually nothing, sadly).

“I want to quit because it’s too hard”

She came to me a couple weeks after starting the new level of gymnastics and told me she wanted to quit. I looked at her in surprise and shock, since this had been what she wanted to do and she had loved it.

Before responding to her query, I asked her why. I wanted her to tell me why she wanted to quit.

If she had decided she didn’t like gymnastics anymore or there was a problem with the gym or the coach or something, I wanted to know about it.

Mommy, they make me work.  It’s too hard.

Oh. Well. This comes from the girl who has never had to work at anything in her life because it all comes easy to her – athletics, academics, friends, you name it.

And now they’re challenging her. I looked at her square in the eye and told her to suck it up, though not in so many words.

Sweetie, life is hard. Anything that’s worth doing is hard, and learning to work hard to succeed is important. You are not quitting gymnastics or anything else simply because it’s “hard” now.

She looked at me, and I think she almost cried.

Is it the right decision?

At that moment, I wasn’t sure if I was a really good parent or a really, really bad parent, but I stuck to my guns. I watched her at gymnastics and made sure we still did fun things she enjoyed with it like the open gyms.

I watched her grow in skill, and I saw her ripped arms – more than mine ever have been or probably ever will be.  And I listened to her complain from time to time that she didn’t want to go to gymnastics but then love it when she was there and tell me all about what she had learned when she got home.

And I think I made the right decision for her.

If she decided she truly didn’t like gymnastics anymore, no problem. I want both the wee ones doing some sort of sport, and we can find another one.

If she was in a place where the coaches were tearing her down and not being productive, we can address that. If she weren’t learning anything and was frustrated by that, we can fix that, too.

But wanting to quit simply because something’s hard? That’s a life lesson I want to teach her – don’t do it. You’ll regret it.

So when we went to an open gym last weekend, she pulled me with her. Mommy!  Come watch what I learned how to do. This is so cool!

And I watched, amazed at my little monkey.

I’m still not sure that what I did was 100% right, and we may not have her advance to the next level next year where she’ll compete and increase her hours at gymnastics. But I feel a little better about it.

Gymnastics Girl in the Rings

Update from years in the future:

My daughter continued competitive gymnastics for another three years. It got harder, and she started to fall out of love with it.

She wanted to try other sports, but gymnastics is year round with just a two week break. 

As she moved to another level, the practices – in mid-April of fourth grade- became Monday to Thursday from 4pm to 8pm. That left no time for homework or relaxation or even dinner on every single school night.

That’s when we decided to move on. She lost her joy, and the sheer number of hours became more than my child was ready to commit.

I don’t blame her for that decision at all.

She ended up trying lacrosse the week after we left gymnastics that April, and she found her new love. She is in high school and still playing, both for her high school and a club.

She wants to play lacrosse in college and knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort to get there. Did she learn that lesson partly because I didn’t let her quit because it’s too hard?

Maybe. Maybe it was from somewhere else.

Looking back, I feel good about the decision. We reviewed how she felt about gymnastics and her team regularly. In the end, it worked.

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  1. […] going to gymnastics and trying new skills, but that started to change in the last year. She told me she wanted to quit gymnastics. I didn’t let her. While on the surface, that sounds like awful parenting, I didn’t let […]

  2. Tiaras & Tantrums says:

    aww – such a hard position that was. All my kiddos took gymnastics for a long time. My son was asked to join the team but we declined (he really was not good, the class was more for exercise) and as soon as we said no the teacher refused to include him any longer. We stayed there for a couple more months b/c the girls coaches were FAB! But we moved gyms due to this male coach(came to a point where he was swearing at my son) The new gym was different – not great coaches like we had previously for the girls. They took the love my girls had for gymnastics and cut it from their hearts. I was so sad too. Now, they refuse to take gymnastics at all. I keep suggesting it though b/c my middle daughter was really good(she was on team as well and yes, 3xs a week there)

    • Michelle says:

      Yeah, it’s not easy. It’s another of those moments where I wish I could fast forward four or five years and see how the decision turned out. I’ve heard SO many horror stories about gyms and coaches and the like. We moved gyms when Mister Man finished the parent and tot simply because of how the coach treated boys v girls. So sad that your daughter doesn’t want to do it at all anymore. That’s exactly what I’m hoping to avoid. If we move again, definitely interviewing coaches and parents and observing before we sign up for that reason (we did it for the gym we’re at now, too). Poor girls!

  3. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

    That IS a hard one. And so many activities – especially gymnastics – seem to require SO much from our kiddos (and us) so early on! My daughter is just 5 but I’ve seen family and friends go through this. And we’re actually debating it from the other end of things at our house. My daughter loved gymnastics, but isn’t good at it AT ALL. So I struggle with whether to let her keep doing it or to make her try something new that she might be better suited for. Parenting is never simple, is it?

    • Michelle says:

      They really do require so much so soon. It was not like that when I was a kid at all. No, parenting is never simple. But I lean to the “if you love it, do it” no matter how good you are at it. It’s important to find what you love and stick with it. But when you know there will be a point where it will become a point of frustration and social awareness of her skill level, it’s hard, isn’t it?

  4. I think you did the right thing. It’s good for children to be challenged and try something even when it’s hard. I’m sure you watched your daughter to make sure she wasn’t truly unhappy. Which was she wasn’t because she showed off her new skills to you later. 🙂

  5. tracey says:

    Corinne is in gymnastics too and has a similar experience. She just said, for the first time, that she didn’t want to do it anymore and I reacted the same way. I am hoping that it’s a passing phase because she is SO good and enjoys it SO much. If she was crying about going or didn’t do cartwheels ALL DAY LONG, I would think that she really didn’t like it, and she could quit. But she adores it, so I think it’s just that it’s not super easy anymore and she felt discouraged…

    • Michelle says:

      Yes, I’m hoping it’s a phase. I’m glad she doesn’t say it all the time or every day, but there’s always that niggling fear. I think, too, that many kids have a hard time identifying and labeling their emotions. Everything negative gets bundled together in their minds, whether it’s frustration, anger, fear, challenge, etc.

  6. Samantha says:

    I think this is such a delicate balance for us as parents. We have to learn to listen to our kids, but also teach them about life and quitting is a valuable lesson that I think every parent faces. I think you did the right thing by encouraging her, but also affirming that she couldn’t quit. I love the fact that you are willing to revisit the issue for next year’s class and she’s no worse for the wear now – she actually liked it! I would have done the same.

    • Michelle says:

      And yes, we’ll keep revisiting this. I don’t necessarily see her doing gymnastics her whole life (though wow wouldn’t it be awesome if she got a college scholarship for it? See – there’s always that parental emotion, too!) 😉 She is learning a lot and one teacher is now using her as a model, so she’s excited about that.

  7. Patty says:

    I think you did the right thing! My parents never let us quit (piano, tennis, swimming, etc) unless we were truly over it. Never ever because it was hard…you gave her a truly valuable lesson. She will remember this later on in life.

    Miss you too! 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      My mom let me quit piano eventually, but part of it was that it was a long drive to get to the teacher’s house (20-25 minutes each way), there was a lot of theory homework in addition to practicing, and I had a horse where I rode daily, so I didn’t have free time to practice, which frustrated my teacher and me when I didn’t improve. But I sorta wish that she’d made me keep up with it just a little longer – maybe with a different teacher though!

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