On a cold January afternoon, I had the somewhat rare duty of accompanying my daughter, now ten years old, to her gymnastics class---a task normally handled by my wife. We waited nearly twenty minutes as the management tried in vain to locate her class' regular instructor. There had been on-going confusion: Within the last month or two, the gymnasium had changed hands and management and there were problems.
This was not the first time her instructor had been late for class, but this was the first time that the instructor was so late that another instructor was assigned to handle the session. With the matter seemingly under control, my daughter and her class filing off onto the large floor where several simultaneous classes were in session, I wandered about the new construction to locate the parents' gallery.
After placing a brief call, I looked to the floor to find my daughter, but she was not to be found. Within minutes, she had found me in the gallery. She was in tears... "The teacher was mean. Please, Daddy, I don't want to do gymnastics anymore. Please don't make me go back. Please!"
We left and did not return.
I knew my daughter was mature enough to decide that she was through with gymnastics, so I respected this choice. It knew it was not the one event that caused her change of heart, but it was the one event that sealed her decision. I explained and defended her choice to my wife, but I held one lingering doubt: Was my daughter buckling to the pressure of being asked to do hard things? There are challenges in life, some of them physical---how do we handle ourselves when we are pushed to go the extra mile beyond our ordinary limits? I was willing to have her give up on gymnastics, but I did not want to send the inadvertent message that it is alright to avoid challenging or hard things.
"You know," my wife told me that evening, "I saw a flier for an Aikido class just up the block at the village center. Maybe you two can do that together. I wrote down the instructor's contact information; would you like me to contact him?"