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Cartwheels were a problem. The kids in our Girl Scout troop could do them. The kids at the beach club did them. Random kids at the park did them. Big Girl, however, could not. This fact drove her nuts. It embarrassed her. She shied away from groups where cartwheels were being turned.

About a year ago, hoping to help her cure this cartwheel phobia, I signed Big Girl up for a trial gymnastics class. Her 5-year-old sister was enrolled and simply loved it. Big Girl, however, came out of that first class dejected and turned off. No, she told me. Gymnastics was not for her.

And then I started working on changing the way we thought about challenging things. We talked about how hard work trumps talent. And so, at the beginning of last month when I suggested, because the summer is coming up, that Big Girl should give gymnastics a try again if only to get her cartwheel, she said yes.

That was seven weeks ago. This week, on our way to class, she told me she was being tested on her front pullover on the uneven bars. I was so excited for her. It was amazing to me that she went from hating gymnastics and saying she couldn’t do it to loving it and being tested for medals.

After the girls went into the gym I sat at the back of the waiting room peeking in, hoping to catch a glimpse of the test. She was working on floor exercises during the ten minutes I was there. Over and over she tried to do a backbend from a standing position. Over and over she fell. I watched for a while, but finally decided that I shouldn’t stay. I might do more harm than good hanging around. She might get nervous, so I left.

About an hour later I was excited when my husband texted me from pickup that she passed the test. She got a medal for her accomplishment. She was thrilled, too. But I must admit I was more excited watching her fail at her backbend. I loved that she had the tenacity and drive to get back up and try again fall after fall.

If that sounds mean, consider this: I figured that the coaches don’t ask the kids to test until they are completely ready. I could be completely off-base, but these are still kids after all. I sort of expected her to succeed at that test. But those collapsed backbends? Those came out of left field. They were amazing, awe-inspiring and wonderful. I look ahead and know they will help her in the future. Today it’s backbends. Tomorrow it might be running for student government, trying out for the lead in a play or, eventually, applying for a job she really wants but may not be completely qualified to do.

Yes, she may fail. She may fall down, but at least I know she’s going to pick herself up again. And to me that’s worth more than a million medals. Even if they were gold.

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