On Friday, J played hooky from school to go to a gymnastics meet. I’ve said before (and again) that these meets can be pretty stressful. The stress begins early with trying to get J to eat breakfast when she’s too nervous to be hungry, followed by quick little panic attacks when we can’t find the team leotard (this year is J’s third team leo, each more fabulous than the previous one, which is saying something because the first one was pretty nice) or the grips or the bag or something else. Then I work on J’s hair. My skills at braiding are passable at best, and it doesn’t help that she has hair just like mine, fine and silky-soft. That feels really nice, but it slides right out of braids. So the whole process makes me tense, and one of the things that happens is that I drop the comb. Like, repeatedly. For the last meet, J requested two French braids, and I must have re-started each side two or three times and dropped the comb at least eight times. This sounds like I must be exaggerating, but I am not. J just sits there patiently, probably wishing she could adopt another mother for fifteen minutes. But we get through it. Then it’s in the car to navigate and drive, two of my very favorite things. And that’s all before we even get to the competition!
Friday went pretty smoothly. There were yummy leftovers to tempt J for breakfast, the quick panic over the missing jacket ended when she found it in her bag, J asked for a single French braid and I only dropped the comb once, and Cute W skipped work to navigate and drive there (and watch the meet, of course).
We arrived at the meet extra-early, because that’s just how our gym rolls. As soon as J’s with her teammates, everything’s more fun for her. The first event was vault, and it was. . . fine. Which was a bit of a disappointment because J’s been extra-happy with her vault this season, and even her friends have said she has a great vault, but in her first meet she didn’t do great, and in Friday’s, she did. . . fine. Just fine. Then it was on to bars and J had a horrible warm-up, falling off and just having a terrible time. We could see her little storm-cloud face from a distance. She managed to stay on the bars for her actual routine, but it was pretty bad, anyway, and then she fell forward after her dismount, which is embarrassing. The judging seemed particularly tough at this meet, so that score was low, possibly the lowest she’s had in. . . well, I don’t know, because I don’t pay enough attention scores to remember from meet to meet, but it was low. A couple of her teammates had a bad time, too, and we moms were joking that as they rotated to their next event they looked like they were on some sort of death march, all looking very grim. Then, for beam, J was back and looking good. Many of the girls did well, too, so things were getting a bit more cheerful. And it was lovely to end on floor, because they have some excellent floor routines.
Floor was amazing. This year, J chose her own music and went full-on classical with Beethoven’s Fifth, and she just looks so graceful out there. It actually felt surreal, one of those motherhood moments when everything stops and you’re just breathing quietly with that baby on your chest, smelling her head, or you’re watching your children talking and laughing together and it almost feels like you’re levitating, watching these grown-up people who used to drool while they gummed pizza crusts. It felt like perhaps the air around J was shimmering as she danced and tumbled around the floor. I was watching her and feeling like she was the most majestic little wonder girl ever. Then I thought that this is probably how most mothers feel, most of the time. Or at least that I am deeply biased. But then her coach gushed about what an excellent job J had done, and J got a 9.3 on a day when we’d all been talking about how tough the scoring was, so perhaps she was, in fact, a teensy bit majestic.
J ended up not placing at all in vault or bars, but then she was 1st in both beam and floor, and she won 3rd all-around, which was fantastic. First because it was a trophy meet, and when she got home, she actually had to pack away a few of her less-impressive trophies to make room for the new one on her shelf. But, more important, because she was an almost-weepy little storm cloud and she pulled herself together and ended strong. Now that was beautiful to see.