"Honey, if you cry, your makeup is going to run." Whoa. Watching Bravo's "Sports Kids Moms and Dads
" is...creepy. Thank goodness, my mother never uttered the previous phrase, but I heard plenty of moms who did. Then again, it was my coach who always yelled that there was no crying on the floor unless you were injured. I was lucky enough to have a pretty good time during my other lifetime as a gymnast, but I think a lot of that is because I was always one of those kids polite people would refer to as 'precocious.' In general, I was a well-behaved kid, but I was also hard-headed and still haven't learned the art of keeping my mouth shut. So when my coach would put his face inches from mine and yell, I reacted exactly as he wanted - I got pissed off enough to have the energy to do another routine or throw a trick again or run faster or jump higher or do whatever it was he was yelling at me about in the first place. Most nine years olds don't react that way. There was a method to his madness - he figured if he was the scariest presence in our lives, then when we got to competitions we wouldn't be intimidated by other athletes or judges. Not an entirely crazy idea, and actually I wrote one of my college essays about how thanks to this man I'm not easily intimidated by anyone. Our gym was somewhere in the middle, I think, on the spectrum from nothing but positive encouragement to, I don't know, Bela Karolyi. At least we didn't have weigh-ins. But one time my coach did cross that line, made some comment about the size of a teammate's thighs, and I gasped, "Al Fong!" (late gymnast Christy Henrich's coach, who is often blamed for her death from anorexia) He immediately apologized. He was jerk, not a bad person.
And of course, my parents were awesome, but there was a small window there when Mom potentially could have become one of the parents on Bravo's show. I didn't do very well in my very first competition, and Mom reacted by giving me the silent treatment during the entire hour-long car ride home. So when we got home I laid down the ground rules. I had coaches and my own internal monologue to beat me up when I screwed up. All I needed from my parents was support. If Mom didn't think she could handle that, well, then she could just stay home from my next competition. And every competition after that until she felt like she could be unconditionally supportive. Like I said. Precocious. It wasn't Mom's fault - she never participated in sports as a kid, and as a stay-at-home Mom, she was as invested in gymnastics as I was. So she hadn't really figured out how to go through the process of training with me without being one of those
moms. I got that, but I had also figured out what I was going to need from her if we were going to be ok as mother and daughter growing up
. So I was lucky. Really, really lucky. My natural personality was sort of pre-disposed to deal with gymnastics and come out on the other side all the better for it. But I saw so many teammates who weren't. So, yeah, Bravo's latest addition to the reality circuit is dead-bang on. And more than a little disturbing.
 I always had this slightly weird, quasi-grown-up/objective relationship with my parents, where I could see them as people, not just Mom and Dad. like that afternoon in the middle of their rocky period when Mom asked me point blank if I wanted Dad to stay and I said of course I did, but I'd rather have two separate parents who were happy than two together parents who were miserable. this was also before my hero-worshipping of Dad, while we were still having the knock-down-drag-out fights of my adolescence. but even though I liked Mom better at the time, I had already made up my mind that if they did split up, I would have to go live with Dad, because I knew that his discipline would be better for me during high school, while I was still trying to get my shit together. Happily, I never actually had to make that decision and the two of them worked things out.