At the end of last year, Annabelle's tumbling teacher pulled me aside and asked when Belle would turn five. I replied, "Well, she turns four in July..." She was shocked. I murmured my old stand-by phrase when my too-tall, too-fast-talking baby's age gets questioned, "Yeah, she's really tall for her age..." Her teacher said, "She really is! But she acts so much older too!" She then asked how I'd feel about moving Annabelle up to the next class. The five-year-old class. I cringed a little inside - my baby may be tall and smart as a whip, but she's still three. I agreed with one condition: If Belle or Miss Tiffany thought the class wasn't a good fit, we'd switch to the younger class again.
Switching classes on my girl required some preparation. Her best friend wouldn't be in the class (her friend was actually taking the quarter off) and it would be a group of new "big girls." I explained that she'd also be learning new tricks, even cartwheels. Her only question: "Well, will Miss Tiffany be there?" I replied in the affirmative, and she told me that would be fine. She just needed one familiar factor, and she was ready to start.
During her first class with the "big girls," I watched nervously. And closely. Luckily, she's taller than most the "big girls," so at least she blended in easily. But guess what? She also kept up with the big girls. I wasn't hugely surprised as I know Annabelle, and I know that a challenge is what she craves, even if she doesn't realize it. But boy howdy have I been impressed with this girl. It's a very cheesy kind of mom pride, but she has learned and progressed so much this quarter. She began the big girl class unable to do a cartwheel, a sitting somersault, or a backbend. She ended the quarter doing all three, and doing them well. She's learned form and technique, and she has really learned to love tumbling. She spends hours every day practicing.
As they prepared for their showcase performance (each child had three minutes to complete their entire arsenal of much-practiced tricks), Miss Tiffany again pulled me aside to say, "Okay, best decision we ever made. She's doing awesome." And then a few weeks later, "You've been practicing with her haven't you. She is seriously doing amazing."
Insert more cheesy mom pride. :)
These photos are from her showcase, which was huge for her as well. She's a shy girl. When strangers talk to her at the store she will not respond. Ever. I don't push her much to either because guys, strangers are weird. Also, I was the same way. It doesn't worry me because I get it. I had no idea how she'd do at her showcase. She was ready, and she was excited, but she's never performed in front of a crowd. Grandma Lichelle drove up to see her perform and some of our best friends who have just a tiny (most adorable) baby came as well.
As we watched the tumblers before her, I could see Annabelle's nerves frazzling. This was when being a three year old in a five year old class was hard. And there were several things not going for her:
1. The showcase was held at a different location (than her class). It was in a big giant gymnasium, not the small little one she's used to.
2. There were probably 50-100 people watching.
3. It wasn't just her class; it was the combined kindertumbler classes.
4. It was freezing. (Seriously - it was so cold.)
5. They accidentally sat her without her class.
When her teacher called for all the kindertumblers, she came unglued. I had to sit with her to get her to the mat. Her very sweet teachers did everything they could, and soon she settled down and sat with her class. However, when it came almost time for her to perform, she lost it again. It was heartbreaking for me. I wanted her to be brave, and I knew she could do it. But I also know that although she is physically and often mentally capable of five-year-old tasks, she's still a baby. My baby.
I stared at her and smiled at her from across the room. I locked my eyes on her, as though if I looked hard enough, I could somehow pass on some of my hard-earned adulthood bravery. I wanted to save her, but I also wanted her to know how brave and amazing she is. Her teacher was the sweetest and kept encouraging her and allowed other girls to go before her. Soon, her teacher motioned for me to come over. I sat with her, put my sweater on her to warm her up, and we talked about her options. Miss Tiffany came and offered to go through the routine with her. She said she'd even do the tricks first. She told me, "I know she's three, but she's better than most of the five year olds!"
Grandma cheered for her, Daddy's eyes did that thing where his concern for his baby is visible, and Heather (our sweet friend) gave her baby to her husband so she too could sit at the front of the line and wave and cheer and let Annabelle know that we were with her.
All the kids were done, and it was now or never. On a whim, I asked if it would be okay if I walked around and talked her through. Miss Tiffany said, "Absolutely." I love that Miss Tiffany was all about doing anything it took to get her to succeed. And it was only then, when I walked every step around with my baby, looking every bit of the mommy geek that I am, that she did it. First the jumps - straight, tuck, straddle. Then a backwards somersault. Then came the standing somersault and her perfect scissor-legs handstand. Her legs flew through the cartwheel, and as she went to the backbend spot, the final trick, she gave me a tiny grin, then bent that insanely flexible (and double jointed) body up to the sky.
With each trick, I saw the pride in her eyes return. Her form was spot on. She raised her arms after each trick toward the "judge." And she finished. She completed the entire routine. I never touched her or made her perform. I simply clapped and cheered and played the fool on the sidelines. As she was the very last girl in this "age group" to perform, the entire gymnasium was cheering for her. It was as though they wanted it for her as much as I did. Although the general rule was to hold your applause until the tumbler had finished all of his or her tricks, the audience broke form and whooped and hollered her through every step of the way. I glanced out at the dozens of moms and dads clapping and cheering for my baby, and had to look away quickly. Because I was talking her through, putting on my best brave face - tears were not an option for me right then. I was so proud.
I worry sometimes that I push her too hard because I know what she's capable of. She's incredibly smart and talented. But she's also still a little girl. I was prepared to cheer for her whether or not she finished her routine because she's accomplished so much even without a showcase, but my heart nearly burst with pride when she did it. It was hard and terrifying, but she didn't give up. Of course, after everything was said and done, she went out on the mat and did all her tricks over and over again. And she told me on the way home that she thinks next time she can do it by herself.
I couldn't be more proud of the way this lovely lady is growing up.I love that this tumbling business has become something that is so her own. I love that she was so brave, a little girl marking time with the big girls. Tumbling gives her a chance to be something awesome. And she knows it; she knows that she did something amazing. So proud.
Note: Annabelle tumbles with the Utah Tumbling Academy. We joined originally because Annabelle's bestie was taking it, but I have to say, we love it and are so glad we stumbled upon it. If tumbling is something Annabelle chooses to continue with, we feel awesome about this group. Miss Tiffany (the director and Belle's teacher, pictured above) is stellar. We can't say enough good things about the program. :)