Let’s face it. No one is a fan of Mondays, and anyone who says they are should not be trusted! No matter how much you love your day job or how excited you are for whatever may be looming during the week, no one in their right mind wakes up on Monday wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Really. I mean, they even have a plethora of songs dedicated to this very issue.
Take The Carpenters’ rendition… “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down…” What a true duo of horribleness all wrapped up into one. Not only are Mondays the dumps, but rip open a rain cloud and you are doomed. And The Bangles knew best when they sang that “it’s just another manic Monday.” I couldn’t agree with them more, and boy do I still wish it were Sunday too!
When I was in high school, the only good thing about having English on a Monday was the fact that our teacher was determined to own all that the day was going to dish out and have some fun with it. In fact, she would break our class up into sections and challenge each to sing at the top of their lungs with as much enthusiasm as we could muster one of these iconic Monday songs. It became a tradition, and while it was tough ramping up our energy, we tried and laughed in the process.
Laughing is medicine to the soul if you ask me, and whether I like it or not, each Monday I’m destined for a healthy dose of it. Because it’s gymnastics day. I may despise the moment when my eyes become unglued and reality sets in, but for my daughter, she has a pep in her step because she knows that when the week starts, she gets some one-on-one momma/daughter time tumbling into the ball pit, teetering on a balance beam, and chasing hula hoops for an hour that evening. The day I dread, but the evening is a delight.
I guess when the rest of your life is so prescriptive some unstructured free play really is something to celebrate. I mean, as a little girl just three-years-old, she doesn’t get the opportunity to choose her dinner or determine her daily schedule. So when it’s gymnastics day, she can’t rip her shoes and socks off fast enough as she bolts to the gym where the spring in her step isn’t just from her attitude, but rather from the floors themselves. She was made for this place! She’s in her happy-zone.
Lyndi is my little hoarder, collecting items throughout the day that I have to peel off of her as she runs to the play mat. And she’s also a girl who loves herself some traditions. So much so that I know each Monday gymnastics session has to start with me chasing her down the trampoline and tickling her at the end. She then returns the favor, chasing me to the other side as giggles echo from the warehouse walls. Once our gym routine takes place, she’s off to whatever adventure is in store that evening, with me by her side of course.
At her age, she’s not quite ready for independent gymnastics sessions, so myself and parents of the other littles follow the class as their coach teaches them the basics of each station. Some the kids love, like the foam pit filled with square blocks that absorb their energy and weight when they plummet into its abyss, but only for a brief time until they break from its hold. And hanging rings are always a hit, allowing the kids to swing like monkeys and fall onto a massive pile of fluffiness when they opt to let go.
But not all sessions are greeted with such enthusiasm. Like the uneven bars. If they can dangle for a few seconds, great. But when their coach has them flip, it’s like the gymnastic curse is released as all of the kids leave in tears. And some kids are not too fond of the balance beam, although it’s one of Lyndi’s absolute most-favorite.
This particular Monday, we started as usual. I chased her; she chased me. She jumped on the trampoline and swung on the rope. Just getting warmed up for the obstacle course, a station all kids light up for. Over a tunnel, down a slide, and a few forward rolls and cartwheel attempts tossed in. Some Ninja Warrior jump attempts and a crab walk on a balance beam wraps it up only for the kids to repeat the obstacles yet again.
She loved it. The coach chuckled as she heard Lyndi’s mouse squeaks. The more excited she gets; the higher octave her pitch. So when the squeaks appear, you know she’s busting at the seams. She did her donkey kicks to prepare for the cartwheel, which she has not yet perfected. And did a forward roll only to follow it by a backward roll, her favorite because she puts her hands up by her ears and calls them “pizza hands”, like a pizza maker tossing his dough. She made it through the tunnel and was up next for the balance beam.
Another kid in her class was ahead of her, and while Lyndi breezed through her other obstacles, she was forced to pause until her friend made her way from one side of the beam to the other in one piece. Lyndi stood there contemplating if she was going to follow the rules and shuffle sideways like a crab while imitating with her fingers its pincers. Or would she hold her arms out like an airplane and do air kicks high into the sky? Or her new favorite, the tippy-toe walk. It’s a toughy, but a goody.
For many, the balance beam is a quick obstacle, but for the girl ahead of us, it was taking her much longer than Lyndi had patience for. But as antsy as she was, I watched. And the more I watched the more patience I gained. This girl in her class is a sweet one, and she always tends to follow directions. I can’t say the same for my little one, that’s for sure. And while I accompanied Lyndi each week, her fellow classmate was always joined by her dad.
There is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, in my book, I think it’s beautiful and that moment as I watched her and her dad work together on the beam, it confirmed it for me. Her dad reminded me of a football player in stature but not in height. He seemed like someone you wouldn’t want to pick a fight with if you had hoped to win. His exterior was tough, but as I watched him help his daughter attempt to conquer the beam, I realized he was like most dads of little girls. His insides were mush. He was smitten. And there wasn’t anything anyone could ever say to him to change his belief… his little girl hung the moon.
His daughter couldn’t get the hang of the beam that night though. He placed her on the narrow walkway and straddled it behind her, so that she knew that there would be no falling on his watch. He braced his arms under hers and together he held them high as they attempted to soar like an airplane to make it from one end to the next. Despite his attempts, the mission was unsuccessful. His daughter wasn’t having it; she wasn’t up for it that night.
Lyndi’s antsy dance must have got the best of them, and the dad peeked over to me to apologize, and took his daughter’s uncoordinated moves as a sign that it was time to toss in the towel on that obstacle. As Lyndi took to the beam and gracefully opted for airplane kicks, the dad looked me in the eyes and, while holding his daughter tight, with a sheepish grin he said that he guessed tonight just wasn’t her night. I smiled back and told him that they weren’t alone…just a few weeks before Lyndi was in the same boat, struggling with the same challenges, and wanted to give up too.
But we didn’t. We kept trying. And after Lyndi made it from one side of the beam to the other and swiftly crawled up the slide for the next obstacle, I glanced back and noticed that the dad placed his daughter back up on the beam to try again too. She didn’t make it much farther, but she tried. And once she did, he picked her up and while hugging her, grinned like every dad should.
We finished several more stations that night before the kids corralled around their gymnastic coach with their legs and arms outstretched, begging for the four stamps they get each week once they accomplish their session. Each station, I secretively would glance at this dad and his daughter, and I noticed that while other parents would converse with one another, he had his eyes on his prize.
While others would overlook a little tumble as one of the kids would misstep, he never did. He wasn’t there for the social hour. He wasn’t there for the glory. No, I realized that night that he could have probably been anywhere else, but he chose to be there with the love of his life. With the one little girl who gave his life meaning. For him, this wasn’t just any Monday, but it was a day that he got to spend with her. And he wasn’t going to let one step go unnoticed, one trip go uncaught, or one hug request not be fulfilled. Even as the kids got tattooed by stamps of Disney princesses, he didn’t abort his mission. His gaze never subsided.
In a warehouse filled with leotards, gymnastic chalk, and more estrogen than many men could handle, this dad was there for a purpose. And while his small gestures were meant to help shape his daughter, he was teaching me in the process. He wanted his daughter to know that no matter what, no matter how many times you try, you can do whatever you set your mind to. Sometimes you will have a tough day, but you shouldn’t let that stop you. You’ve got to shake it off, get a hug, and try again. You don’t have to be perfect or follow the rules completely, but you have to try. If that means that a sideways crab walk isn’t in your deck of cards today, that’s alright. Settle for airplane kicks. And as you take each step, know that you’re in it together. Someone’s always got your back and I promise if you stumble, someone will be there to catch you.
A lucky little girl, she is. So much taught on a day that I dread. And while The Mamas & The Papas weren’t a fan of it either, I couldn’t help but find myself with a new outlook as I held Lyndi’s hand a little tighter that night and we walked out to the car to head home. “Monday, Monday. So good to me. Monday morning. It was all I hoped it would be.” Well, actually so much more!