up 'til now, the girl's foray into gymnastics has been fun. and games. and mostly stress-free.
but this season things have been changing. incrementally, imperceptably, until suddenly, today, it occurred to me that this sport eats its own.
the past several weeks there have been injuries on the team. there has been crying and no-fun-having. there has been concern by the parents for the health of these still very young girls.
the risk has been there all along, of course. earlier this year a girl from another gym innocuously fell from the uneven bars and broke her neck. she's now a quadriplegic.
anything can happen to anyone, any time. we all accept this, or deny it, every day. but throw a vault or a beam or uneven parallel bars into the mix and a gymnastics parent either learns to tolerate risk or raises compartmentalization to an art form.
during a meet when a child, obviously hurt, stands crying on the other side of the gym, things get complicated. which is worse, the injury, or the embarrassment of a parent rushing over to render aid?
so you stand there, on a hair-trigger. watching as the coach does what she does ("are you okay? shake it off.") and teammates do what they do (hug. encourage. hug some more). the crying slows, and, improbably, two runs at the vault follow. it's not kerri strug at the olympics, but it's courageous just the same.
the girl is fine. at the end of the day, all the girls walked away no worse for the wear. heading to the car, smiles were everywhere, and tired girls complained they were "starving."
everything was good.
also, everything was different.