“But she’s so beautiful”, says the mother of another girl at the rhythmic gymnastic practice.
This is what almost every parent we meet says about our daughter.
But that’s what she needs to hear. Nor is it what I want people to say to her.
She is growing up and the words she hears are very important.
It is almost four years since Francesca stopped going to rhythmic gymnastic practice.
The memory of the last event is etched deep in my mind.
I sat there, on the cold concrete floor, hundreds of non-seeing eyes across the hall from us. I was rocking her in my arms, trying to console her, to comfort her, to give her confidence. At least she was in my arms at last. No longer screaming and shrieking, as much at herself as at me. Scolding herself for her self-imagined inadequacies. Desperately trying to hide her inner fear. Control her inner demons.
A few minutes earlier (actually, thinking back, the incident had lasted close to 45 minutes) I had been torn apart with emotions as I stood there and watched her screaming aggressively at her fellow gymnasts who attempted to comfort her, encourage her, to calm her. These were the girls she so loved to practice with. They encouraged and supported here all the way. They knew she knew her routine. She had practiced religiously. She was to be the mini-star of the show.
But, when she was like that, only one person could console her. These were demons she had created. And only she could tame them.
I simply had to be there, ready to step in as soon as the opportunity arose.
Our hard-working, determined little girl was not ready. She was too young. We decided to walk away.
As a toddler, it was heartbreaking to see her scold and even hit herself when she thought she had upset somebody. A slightly raised voice or a change of tone would cause her to erupt. It was soul destroying.
How could this angelic looking child appear to hate herself so much? Why wouldn’t she let us comfort her? For us, a hug could solve everything. It had worked for our son. What a lesson we had ahead …
Today, in my eyes, she has grown so much and in so many ways.
Yet, as she stood there, amongst the other girls, before her first practice session in years, she had never looked so petite and fragile. But she was beaming from ear to ear. She wanted to do this. And when she wants to do something …
In no way do I mean to be rude when I say this, but, next time, when you see a young girl making a big effort to do something, congratulate her on what she is doing, not on how she looks. And watch how she smiles back at you.
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