“Mommy, I don’t want to go to gymnastics. I don’t like it.”
As my 5-year-old daughter made this proclamation, five minutes before we were heading out to the door to her weekly gymnastics class, she seamlessly popped into a graceful headstand.
“What are you talking about? You love gymnastics!”
“No, I don’t.” She flips into a perfect bridge pose. “My teacher keeps yelling at me because I can’t do a cartwheel right. I stink at cartwheels. I’m never, ever, ever, EVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO A CARTWHEEL RIGHT!”
Somehow, through sheer mama will and big sister’s help (and maybe a piece of gum, because, for real, I’m not too proud to bribe), we made it to gymnastics class on time. My daughter bounded out onto the mats, and I took up my spot along the wall to watch.
As someone who has pretty much zero flexibility, her agility amazes me. She flips, she splits, she stands on her head, she prances across the balance beam without a wobble.
I see her take a deep breath, and then make her first attempt. She leads with the wrong leg, kicking it up behind her so that her body twists at an odd angle, and she crumbles to the floor.
“No, wait. Maddy. Honey, you’re leg — wait — try the other …”
And she would glare at me and yell, “I get it! I know! Stop!” before she attempted to do it the exact same way.
I knew her gymnastics instructor had tried to do the same. Had shown her how to do it, and told her what she was doing wrong. But it wasn’t helping.
So at this practice, as the other little gymnasts moved onto to other areas of practice, I watched my daughter try to cartwheel over and over and over again. (I stopped counting at try number 30.) Each time, she would contort her body wildly, and each time she would fall to the floor.
But she’d quickly jump up and get back in position. She kept her head down. She kept trying.
Her legs spun in a graceful arc. Her feet landed with a sound thump.
She sprung up, a smile on her face, and finally looked toward me in the crowd. “Yay!” I mouthed. “Good job, Maddy!” I gave her two thumbs up. She clapped; jumped up and down.
And then she got back in position, and she did it again.
She didn’t learn because she watched her teacher, or her friends, or her mom, or her sister do it. She didn’t learn because someone finally explained it to her in a way that made sense. And she certainly didn’t learn by reading about it in a book.
Sometimes, motivation is that simple. It’s not about finding the right source of inspiration, or finding the right guru to follow, or finding the right book to read. It’s about getting down and dirty, and doing the work.
I think we often think about motivation as an external factor, or as something that needs to be sparked within us from an outside flame. But as I learned from my daughter, that type of motivation can only take you so far.
You can understand a concept all day, and rationally know how to complete a task or why you should take an action — but until you just do it, over and over again, you won’t REALLY know what it’s all about. What YOU’RE all about.
No one could’ve made my daughter learn to cartwheel. And now, no one can take that skill away from her. It’s hers to keep, practice and perfect.
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Let’s get motivated, mamas. And remember: if you feel yourself falling, just keep cartwheeling.
She adores being mom to her two little ladies and drinking obscene amounts of coffee from mugs with pithy sayings. Find her on Instagram, and learn more about ways you can collaborate with MotherHustle.
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