Years and years ago when the girls were toddlers, local friends and family suggested that we enroll them in a Mommy & Me (which quickly turned into a Grammy & Me) program at a nearby gymnastics place. They had all had a great experience with the program and told us that it was a nice way to introduce the kids to an organized activity and sometimes it was just a way to get out of the house. The girls enjoyed their time at the gym and naturally progressed up through the preschool and kindergarten programs. And then it came time for placement into levels based on ability. The majority of kids start off in the beginner program and then move their way up.
I was always quick to point out that Anna has spina bifida to the other moms in the waiting/viewing area. I've met so many nice parents along the way but gym moms (and dance moms) very much exist. You can see them silently sizing up the competition. I suppose I make Anna's condition known with the hope that they won't judge her down for it, but instead realize how great she is doing. If you weren't told that Anna has spina bifida, you most likely would never guess just by her appearance. People that know her well can see the physical differences she has when compared with her identical sisters. Allie's and Emily's feet are within a half size of each other. Anna's feet are much smaller, about two sizes right now, and thinner. She runs a little slower and sometimes her movements can be awkward or unstable. Her overall muscle tone is lower. When I hug or hold her, she feels a little floppy, like a toddler would. (That's the best way I can describe it.)
I commend the gym for treating my kids as individuals. Allie skipped over the beginner program and Emily and Anna spent two years together in the same class. Emily's instructor maybe was remiss in moving Emily up to where she probably should have been and so now for this year, Allie and Emily are together in the same program. Anna lamented over being left behind and has made known her fear that she will still be in the beginner program in high school. Well, that won't happen, I told her. You don't see any high school kids in the little kid beginner program for a reason.
Realistically speaking, no one is going to turn into a gymnastics superstar going to the gym once a week. That's why the competition kids are there 3+ times a week. My kids practice some at home (not always practical) and I'll help them when they ask but there's no pressure, especially with Anna. I've always told her that it's okay to do what she can do. She has spina bifida! and she's doing awesome. It's okay if she doesn't move up. Anna's stubborn, which sometimes drives me to the edge of insanity, but in some situations, it helps her. It drives her. She doesn't like to hear that she may be limited because of spina bifida and made it known that her goal this year was to move up to the next group.
The gym is pretty clear that in order to move up, you need to be able to do a pullover and a backbend. Over the summer, Anna mastered a pullover on the preschool gymnastics bar we have here at home but was still struggling with it at the gym where the bars are thicker and higher. She was also close to having a better hold on her backbend at the gym. I've asked her not to attempt that trick at home because we don't have the appropriate mats. Our routine on gymnastics day (if I catch my normal train) includes Rich dropping me off at the gym to relieve Grammy. By that point, Anna's class has ended and I can watch the last half hour of Allie's and Emily's class. This week, as I walked in, Anna ran up to me and announced that her instructor had said she could move up. She was so proud of herself and she deserves to be proud. She worked hard to reach her goal. She now has a list of what she needs to be able to do in order to move up to Emily's and Allie's level.
That kid has never once said, "I can't do (insert anything) because I have spina bifida."