My daughter is nearly four and has been doing gymnastics once per week for a little over two years. It was my idea. I like gymnastics as it teaches my daughter coordination, increases her strength, and develops physical confidence. I am under no illusions. My daughter will likely never be a world champion. However, gymnastics is an activity that develops physical and mental traits that I value thus why I encourage her to participate.
Two weeks ago after the warm-up portion of the class my daughter approached me in a calm manner, looked me in the eye, and confidently said “Daddy, I don’t want to do gymnastics anymore.” Not wanting to have the discussion there and distract the rest of the class I said “Okay,” and we left.
On the drive home my mind was racing. Of course my first panicked thought was that by allowing her to quit I was setting the conditions for future repeats. I could see her now dropping out of school and living in a van down by the river telling others “It would have all been different if my dad hadn’t let me quit gymnastics.”
Then of course my mind retreated to what made me who I am — the United States Marine Corps. I wondered if I should go Gunnery Sergeant Hartman on my daughter…
“Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of shit! Get the fuck off my obstacle! Get the fuck down off of my obstacle! Now!”
Checking my unjustified panic I spoke to a friend who both knows me well and is an experienced parent. After about 20 minutes on the phone I came to the following conclusions.
1. My daughter approached me in a calm, rational, non-tantrum manner and told me her preference to not continue gymnastics. As far as communication with a three-year old goes this is a big victory.
2. My daughter knows that I love that she does gymnastics and she had no issue communicating a dissenting opinion. This is another communication victory.
3. Through me accepting my daughter’s desire to quit I was able to show her that I have her back. I need to establish this now and reinforce it whenever possible so she knows I have her back when really important issues arise.
4. Reality check — SHE IS A THREE YEAR OLD! At this stage extracurricular activities are like a salad bar. She is going to try a little bit of this, a little bit of that, maybe eat a lot of this, maybe spitting out a lot of that.
I would like one scoop of Gymnastics, two scoops of Soccer, and a tiny spoonful of Ballet.
Overall, though the internet is filled with endless memes about never quitting, and having a never-say-die attitude will likely lead to success in certain endeavors in life, as with most things context is key.