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But It's What The Big Girls Wear!

The first time Maddie went to gymnastics
class, we discovered that the training school’s team
practiced at the same time. And when I say “team”, I
mean the girls who are hoping to compete in the next Olympics
– remember, this is the home of Nastia Liukin and Carly
Patterson. The team coach is a former Olympic gold medalist
herself. So Maddie watched the girls in wonder as they went through
their flips and leaps and spins around the bars, and couldn’t
tear her eyes off of them. Uh-oh, I thought.

And I was right. As we left, Maddie turned to me with stars in her
eyes and said, “Mama, where can I get one of those sparkly

Yes, my daughter is a clothing fanatic,
and she is obsessed with the fancy leotards. You know those
leotards the girls wear when they compete – the shiny ones,
with glitter and silver material and velvet all over them? Well,
did you know that they wear the same kind of leotards for practice
EVERY DAY? Did you also know that those leotards are SIXTY BUCKS?

I looked at Maddie firmly and said, “Honey, you don’t
need a sparkly leotard. You’ve got your own onesies and
leggings, and that’s just fine.”

“But Mommy, it’s what the big girls wear! I have to
wear a sparkly leotard to gymnastics practice or I won’t be

I held firm for several weeks. I mean, sixty bucks for a leotard
for a three-year-old is ridiculous, right? But then Maddie hit what
we refer to now as her Fearful Period, and decided gymnastics was
too scary and wanted to quit. I had to find a way to entice her
back to gymnastics, to face her fear. So I did what any
self-respecting mom would do –

I caved, and hit the consignment stores.

I reasoned that since our gym was so close by, our local
kids’ consignment store would get more than its fair share of
gymnastics leotards. And boy, was I right. I found four sparkly
leotards around her size, for five bucks apiece. I hid the others
for another time and dragged my prize into Maddie’s room. One
look, and she was begging to be back in gym class.

This obsession has not gotten any fainter; if anything, it’s
simply grown as it’s spread to Cora. Cora now has her own
gymnastics leotard, and is, I dare say, the only person in a diaper
to sport such a professional leotard. At Open Gym, no less.

For of course, Maddie is not content to wear her leotard just to
her class – she must also wear it to the more casual Open
Gym, when the kids are set loose on the equipment for two hours.
And whither Maddie goest, Cora must follow. Which means that every
Wednesday, both girls get up and choose a sparkly leotard, solemnly
putting their hair up in their “practice” hair-dos
before jumping in the car for the gym.

As the girls, hit the floor, we’re often the focus of many
Mommy Stares. Yesterday I got an eye roll, no less, and I can
completely understand where she’s coming from: while the rest
of the under-five set is dressed to move in sweat pants and
leggings, my girls come marching on to the floor as if
they’re already under the scrutiny of the West German judge.
Heads scraped into pony tails – sometimes fancifully
embellished with feather scrunchies or Cookie Monster bows (trust
me, I don’t accessorize them either) – the girls
diligently make the rounds of the equipment, and as most kids throw
foam blocks at each other and do hiney bounces on the trampoline,
Maddie is practicing her backwards rolls and sideways walking on
the balance beam. Open Gym is her independent training time, in her
mind, I guess.

So it’s no wonder I get stares – I’m sure half
the moms think I’m the one picking their outfits, that
I’m one of those CompetiMommys who have my girls on a
twelve-year track to the Olympics, and don’t think Open Gym
is to be squandered with something so trivial as playtime or fun.
I’d probably stare, too, and silently judge. I want to wave
my arms in the air apologetically and say, “It’s all
their idea, I swear it!”

For all the stares and silent “Bless her heart”s that
Maddie gets, I’m sure Cora’s sympathy is doubled;
here’s a kid not even two years old and she’s in a
training leotard, with a Pebbles ponytail sticking straight up off
her half-bald head! But to the teachers who know us, Cora’s
become the unofficial mascot of the place, and they think
there’s nothing cuter than the sight of her little diapered
bottom struggling to Monkey Up on the parallel bar. Or the sound of
Cora going, “Hey, Maddie! Watch me! Watch me do cartwheel,
Maddie!” before she puts her hands on the ground and pushes
her tushie up in the air.

I think my favorite Cora training move is the forward roll –
she starts at the top of a mat, does the “ta-da!” sign
with her arms up in the air and her chest thrust out, runs down the
mat, then does another “ta-da!” to top it all off.
“See me, Mama?” she’ll ask every time.
“Cora roll!”

The girls don’t have to be at the gym to wear their leotards,
and apparently they can’t practice without them – when
at home, the urge to exercise will come over them and they’ll
demand their sparkly leotards. Which will then stay on the rest of
the day. Something about the lycra and glitter, I guess, gives them
that extra edge.

I know they’ll outgrow this eventually, but meanwhile
I’m hitting the consignment store every couple of weeks; you
never know when another batch will come in, and they get snapped up
within twenty-four hours. And I’ve got birthdays coming up.

Those things are expensive, man.


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