"Enjoy the little things in life ~ one day you'll wake up and realize they were the big things"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Daniel bug!

Our Daniel LOVES gymnastics! If you've ever seen him, that doesn't surprise you ~ he's a muscular little thing and just has that "gymnast look" about him! Then there are his back flips on the trampoline and the issue of him often standing on his hands or his head, or doing cartwheels all the time, or round-offs . . . instead of walking!

He's recently had his first opportunity to be involved in a gymnastics class. Somehow, Levi and Emily both got to do two activities/sports over the summer and he only ended up with one (track & field). So, in an attempt to be fair, we allowed him to choose a second activity. His first choice was to find a math competition . . . September didn't prove to be the best time of year to find one of those! His next request was gymnastics. We found a 'buy one month, get one free' deal at a gym close by and he's been greatly enjoying gymnastics since the beginning of September.

The "problem" is that the beginner class (where they required him to start) was too easy. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks, they moved him up to the Level 2 class. He then began telling me that Level 2 was too easy (and observing him in the class, I'd noticed that too). After his 3rd week in the Level 2 class, his coach pulled me aside and said that he noticed that Daniel is quite a bit ahead of the others in the class. They don't have a level 3 class right now and their competitive boys' team starts with Level 4. The coach had done some testing with Daniel during class and felt like he was already testing at the equivalent of Level 4 and invited him to be part of the competitive team.

This particular coach, who'd been working with and observing Daniel over the past several weeks, happens to be the coach of the boys' (competitive) team. Their first meet of the season is in December and he feels like Daniel has enough individual skills already to put a routine in place. So, now we're in a quandary . . . of the good sort.

I should probably back up. We have really wrestled in our family with how to keep extra-curricular sports in balance. A few months ago, I was reflecting on how far things have come in the past 30(ish) years in regard to children's sports, especially running events. When I was a kid and my sister and I dabbled in distance running, we were clearly the anomaly (there were times when we took 1st and 2nd place in the 12 & under age group of a road race, because we were the only kids in it!).

The opportunities (and the encouragement . . . and the pressure) today for children to be involved in sports is nearly limitless. On one hand, that's a neat thing. On the other hand, that phenomenon seems to have taken on a life of it's own. It's the typical scenario in America (especially suburban America): at some point, nearly everyone with school age children finds that their life revolves around their children's extra-curricular activities and sports.

I've been concerned about the harried pace that families (with just one or two children) often live, because of those commitments. Multiply that by any children above the standard 1.5 and it can really make your life crazy! I know that there are those who would argue that they really enjoy that (lifestyle) and wouldn't have it any other way. And that's okay. But, as I look around, it appears that "typical family life" in America is at the mercy of children's sports . . . which (though I'll be criticized for saying this) I don't think is altogether good.

When can a family sit down and connect with one another over a relaxed meal when sports practices are right at the dinner hour? How can they go to church as a family when many sports leagues schedule games on Sundays now?

So, we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Our kids have participated in a variety of things over the years (soccer, swim team, t-ball, track & field, dance, etc). We were both involved in sports growing up and know the value of physical training, commitment, teamwork, etc . . . but we still find ourselves in a quandary. We don't want to limit what God can do with the unique giftings that he's placed in our kids, but we also are desperately cautious about sacrificing family life on the altar of children's sports.

It's a tough decision.

A few months ago, we (re-)read Eric Liddel's biography and were SO very impressed with him (he's the "Chariot's of Fire guy", who didn't compete in his best Olympic event, because the qualifying heat was held on a Sunday). He struggled with becoming involved in competitive sports, his family really struggled with it and yet he recognized that God was the one who had made him fast! (and he couldn't find peace about just walking away from that). He was one of the rare few who managed to excel (really excel!) at a sport and yet keep it in a balanced perspective. I realize that it's not impossible to do that . . . it just seems about as likely as sticking your hand into a bee hive and not getting stung -- it's possible, but it really takes some concentrated focus and effort.

So, here we sit, recognizing that it's entirely possible that God has given Daniel a special talent in this area (it remains to be seen just how much of one) . . . we don't want to hinder that, but we want to proceed with great caution. We're very proud of him and we are thinking we're going to let him go for it ~ and in a few months, re-evaluate (to see how it's fitting into the big picture goals we have for our family). We realize that most of you reading this will think we're making a mountain out of a molehill even being concerned about this, but it feels (to us) like we're taking a plunge into potentially deep waters. We'd sure appreciate your prayers on that one!