A little background – Ariel has a mild neurological condition called Sensory Processing Disorder. In layman’s terms for her it means that signals from her brain to her body can get jammed up in delivery. For example she has always been super sensitive with clothing – no tags, no scratchy stuff and things have to be soft and comfy.
Additionally it has affected her in physical activity and we did a round of Occupational Therapy to help her get more comfortable with every day chores and stimuli like loud noises, crowds, new people etc without her getting on overload sensory wise.
So that brings us to now – I am really trying to get Ariel caught up on some physical activities and sports. I know from my own experiences that having physical outlets is a big part of being healthy and also a great stress reducer. Since she is transferring to a school next year for academically gifted kids, I want to arm her with good stress management skills.
Yesterday she took her first gymnastics class ever. She is about to turn 8 in July and we had to withdraw from classes in the past as she would get dizzy doing somersaults or any activity that required her to flip around. I was more nervous I think than Ariel was walking into that class. I did explain to the teacher that she was just starting and for now could not do somersaults and why.
I watched from the sidelines and saw my girl working so very hard to do the basic movements – jumping up onto a platform, executing a full turn on a long trampoline, walking on the balance beam. I saw her struggle and it took every single fiber of my being NOT to run in, grab all 63 pounds of her in my arms and go home.
But as the 50 minutes wore on, the serious face started to soften (on her as well as Mommy here) and a smile began to emerge. She asked the teacher if she could try to walk the balance beam on tip toes and did it, landing on the mat at the end with a proud look of accomplishment.
So while it is not likely I have a future Olympic gymnast in the house, I need to step back and let Ariel decide what she can do and not do. Let her communicate with her teacher and not jump in to help navigate the class for her.
In closing, holding on to Ariel has always been easy. I love my girl with all my heart. The path of beginning to let go and allow her to find her own way in the world is so, so much harder. But I am going to be learning something every week at that gymnastics studio too by stepping back a bit.