Talent really does skip a generation or a.k.a. How NOT to be a Psycho Dad

So our daughters are closing in on the end of the first cycle of Cheer Class for them. And I am in utter amazement every week. For Annabelle, since she is still young, it is a time to run, play, and flip her way right to a nap. And please don't let me sarcasm take away from the fact she has improved leaps and bounds since the first class, and the smile on her face for a personal job well done is well worth any amount of money being paid for the classes.

But Ayanna is the one, who after the first class the teacher made a point of stopping me to ask how long Damary and I have had her doing gymnastics. I told her not at all, and that this was her first class, formal or otherwise. She kept telling me how much of a natural she is and how talented she is. We tried telling Ayanna, but she's just happy to have fun.

Now here we are 9 weeks later and Ayanna is well ahead of the curve. I will admit, as a proud, but grounded Father, I am skeptical when people give the girls compliments. Simply because I want them to have a better appreciation for themselves than people telling them how pretty, smart, talented they are. I want them to know it because they BELIEVE it internally, not needing anyone else stamp of approval. I know from experience how that screws with your psyche. Plus I want Ayanna to live in that purity of the moment (for anyone that has ever played an instrument, sport, mastered a hobby, etc….remember that innocent joy of when you were learning it….well before the “fun” of expectations??).

But, I, as her Father, owe her the right mixture of direction, push, encouragement, and discipline in this, because I have to admit she is blossoming exponentially now. She can do a front tumble on command. On the mats, she does a front flip and hands and head never touch the ground. She is learning the mechanics of a back handspring, and tried to do it at McDonald's play land yesterday. She has the right mixture of innocence and fearlessness to be wildly successful at this and not even blink.

So I have her practice at home, sometimes…because she just turned 5, and I don't want it to not be fun for her. But I know we are coming up to the age where repetition is key (I started the Flute at age 9, and as good as I was/am, I wouldn't say I was talented…Ayanna has talent that she hasn't even scratched the surface of, and she has inherited my stick-to-itiveness, or stubborn, attitude).

For example, a couple of weeks ago, when they were doing stations, and Ayanna's was the incline trampoline and to do a front flip into the mat, she did it over and over. Well, one time, she didn't tuck her head into her chest and kind of, well…anyway I describe it, it'll sound worse than what happened. Anyway, she started crying, and I ran into the gym, and she ran to me. Knowing enough about sports injuries (if you need a list of the ones I've had email me and get comfortable, you'll be a while), I did the quick test, and assessed she was just scared, but not hurt. The tears weren't even dry when she asked me to go back and continue. I bit my tongue and said yes. I know, as a parent, I can't hold her back, but as an ex-athlete and ex-coach, I know I have to be weary. I watched/analyzed every little movement she made, to see if she was hurt and I needed to step in. She was fine. Not only was she fine, she was determined. She was NOT going to let the trampoline/mat win. That was the moment I was enlightened.

I realized the path we have started on. Damary will be the first to tell you, she wasn't that competitive, nor did her parents really push her to evolve her swimming talents. I am more of a self driven person, who a long time ago resolved I am not a natural at anything, but my will is unstoppable, regardless of physical limitations. So I know that Ayanna has seen me, with a huge migraine, still playing with the girls outside, giving them a bath and making sure everyone was okay, because Damary was sick. She has asked me why I don't take it easy, and I tell her, because I can rest later. Mind you, my parents have talent that is unreal. My Mom's seamstress skills are immeasurable. And my Dad and an organ, keyboard, piano was absolutely beautiful. No I am not speaking out of bias, I work with a lady who remembers my Dad playing at her church…over 30 years ago, and her congregation still talks about it.

Damary and I talk about how we won't be “those parents”. The ones we see at the facility who usher their kids in (while on the cell phone) and stay on the call the entire time they are there, and you can hear them on the view level, shouting instructions to their kids (isn't that why there are coaches?? And as someone who is an ex-coach…THAT DROVE ME CRAZY).

But I'd be lying if I didn't have a moment of wonder/fantasy where I think about where we will put the trophies, plaques, and ribbons in the upcoming years. Will I be like my Mom and show them to my Grandchildren and tell them how their Mami won them?

So….anyone got any plans for the 2020 Olympics??


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