Why We Stay at the Gym During Practice

Since starting gymnastics, my daughter’s weekly schedule has rapidly increased. What started as a once a week, 45-minute preschool class turned into twice a week, 60 to 90 minute classes. Then she got invited to join the competitive team it jumped to two-hour classes, three days a week.

And now, this summer, we’re still going three days a week but now her classes are 2 1/2 hours long. My not-yet 7-year-old is training 7 1/2 hours a week, and the rest of us spend just as much time at the gym.

Most of the other team parents drop off their little gymnasts and then run. Some go home, others do errands or head for the gym.

But there is a small handful of us mommies that stay at the gym during practice and we’re often greeted by the other parents with a “I don’t know how you do it!”

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering myself. Why do I sit there the whole time? And why do I make my other kids stay at the gym, too?

It’s not because my daughter is still little. Or because I don’t trust the gym or coaches. And while I do genuinely enjoy watching her practice and accomplish new things, that’s not any part of why I stay.

The most important reason is because it’s too far to go home. We drive a half hour each way to the gym (more or less, depending on traffic and how many of the 16 stoplights we miss on the way). That means two hours in the car if I drop my gymnast then go home. And we’d only be home for a little over an hour. But it wouldn’t just be me in the car, it would be two hours, three times a week that my boys would be strapped in their car seats. Twice as long as is necessary.

So, we stay at the gym.

I sometimes think about taking them somewhere else during practice. To the library or the park or grocery shopping or the mall or the bookstore. But the truth is, no matter when I take them I’ll still be dealing with a whiny 9-year-old who is bored, a screaming toddler who wants to do what he wants and needs constant supervision plus a particular 4-year-old whose legs “hurt” when he has to walk and isn’t good at leaving places when he’s having fun.

So, we stay at the gym.

Because at the gym, they have friends. They’ve become close with the other siblings who also stay during practice and the seven of them, generally, get along really well. My eldest daughter has friends her age, my 4-year-old has friends his age and all the kids love the baby.

So, we stay at the gym.

Plus, I have friends there. I’m a homeschooling, stay-at-home mommy of four. My social experiences are extremely limited. But miraculously, the group of us five mommies that choose to stay at the gym during practice all like each other. There’s literally no drama and we spend the majority of our time there talking and laughing.

So, we stay at the gym.

And the staff knows us. My toddler has literally grown up there as my girls started classes when he was merely a few days old. There is even one coach who regularly takes my toddler into the gym to “practice.” Whether or not all the staff likes us I can’t say, but they at least tolerate our shenanigans. I let my kids have a lot of freedom but I also always rein them in when necessary. Most of the general public doesn’t take so kindly to our chaos.

So, we stay at the gym.

We stay because it feels like home. There are people we love there and there are people who understand us. My kids have friends to play with and I have friends who help take care of my kids. We regularly watch each others kids and have no problem stepping in to help any child, even if they aren’t technically ours. Because we really are one big family.

So, we stay at the gym.

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