As all Moms know, first graders have tons of energy. That energy usually peaks on Thursday nights because they know tomorrow is Friday and the weekend is set to begin. Between homework, dinner, and the 100 things that happen between the hours of 5 o’clock and bedtime sometimes Mom and Dad insane.
My son would run, jump, dive, roll and everything else six year old boys do because he is packed with energy from remaining seated throughout the school day. I'm sure many Moms can relate to the constant lines of, "Please don’t run, you are going to hurt yourself, that is not a trampoline!” ...and many of like-terms we all seem to mutter throughout the “evening hours” of a day.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! GYMNASTICS!
Seems like a logical response, but for some reason I had never considered it. My nieces and friends with daughters all went to gymnastics...but I have sons, so I asked myself some questions: “Would they like it, and would it engage them enough to make them listen and not talk? Would they behave in class?”
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that gymnastics is one of the most comprehensive lifestyle exercise programs available to children, incorporating strength, flexibility, speed, balance, coordination, power and discipline.
Let me tell you: gymnastics was a great choice. I reached out to Google, as many parents do, trying to find boys gymnastics in Albany NY for a 6 year old with enough bottled energy to power a rocket into orbit. I was pleasantly surprised to find the amount of young boys in gymnastics! So, I dove in head first. Maybe, just maybe, I could cut down on the running, jumping and sliding while I am trying to cook dinner. Now, the challenge was finding the appropriate gymnastics center in the Albany area for my son to unleash this energy.
Who would have known that there varying types of classes available locally? I was shocked to see that in some locations they were building pint-sized Olympians. I became nervous because my little guy is strong and fast, but highly undisciplined. He also talks a lot, which in many cases means he isn’t listening when he should be.
I was starting to think that he could get hurt because of the intensity in some of the classes. All those worries were cast aside when I found Twist'N Flip gymnastics.
As he has progressed in his gymnastics classes, his listening has become increasingly better. Curious as to the source of his marked improvement, I queried his teacher. The answer: Visualization. Who would have known, but my little guy had to stop what he was doing - mostly fooling around in the beginning - and actually visualize his body doing what he was being taught.
Let me give you an example. A "dead man fall"...this I am sure is not a technical term, just what my little guy calls it. Cross your arms at the chest, keep your body as straight as a board and fall flat backwards. The goal is that your legs, bottom, back and shoulders all simultaneously hit the mat. Sounds easy? Not at all! I tried it! Instinctively, you bend at the waist and fall on your bottom to protect yourself! So as a six year old you have to focus intently on “falling” correctly! Almost as important, you have to trust your teacher that it will not hurt. This was a skill that took some time to master. However, my little guy and his classmates were determined and intent on mastering this challenge.
Let’s take a quick moment though to focus on the “trampoline track” - this trampoline has to be 15-20 feet long. It allows him to safely forward roll, jump, and fall from one end to the other. As a mother, I was a nervous wreck each and every time he bounced up and down. My worry was for naught, because during what seemed like fun, my son was learning to safely fall! Who would have known you could “fall safely,” let alone fall confidently!
The balance beam! How were the teachers going to make this "ballerina" exercise fun for a young boy? I learned very quickly from him that some of his favorite football players take ballet, and practice on balance beams to increase the agility of their footwork. The teachers made sure the boys new it was relevant for them to learn these skills and made it fun with the use of pool noodles as light sabers! What could the students be learning from this? Balance. How long could you stay on a balance beam when someone is hitting and swinging at you with a light saber/ pool noodle! It’s not king of the castle anymore...it's king of the balance beam.
Lastly, and one of my sons newest favorites, the uneven bars. How does a new gymnastics mother look at uneven bars? Terrified and with one of their children's limbs in a cast! I was wrong again. Imagine as a child hanging off a bar with twice the length of your body between yourself and the floor. As an adult, I firmly believe many of us would find ourselves quite scared. However, because of the trust that is built between these teachers and their students, and the confidence that these students have acquired finding success through other lessons, they are thrilled at the opportunity. Sometimes they are lifted up and sometimes they climb up, but they are always willing and able to forward roll over the top of the bar with little to no fear.
My son now runs, jumps, twist, flips, and completely exhausts himself. But, more importantly, he is learning patience, the ability to stop and listen, follow directions and to try things that seem a little scary. He is developing confidence in himself and his abilities are growing at a great pace.