My older daughter is in roller derby. Yes: my sparkly-loving, skirt-wearing, pink-EVERYTHING, tender-hearted, gentle-natured, sweet baby is now a derby girl.
Well, she's been one for several months now. Honestly, I thought it would last a few months and she'd get over it. I thought that the first time she fell down, she'd want to sit on the sidelines and not feel like getting back out there.
So she fell... then she smiled, and got right back up. When she fell for the tenth time, she grimaced and got right back up. When she wobbled, slipped, and bumped into everything in her path, she gritted her teeth and sharpened her focus more so she could get better. And that was before she was able to hit or get hit.
I'll never forget the first practice when she "got to" practice with the big girls during a scrimmage. She came over after a few rounds with a twinkle in her eyes, glowing from top to bottom, and absolute excitement in her voice as she exclaimed, "MOMMY! Did you see that?! Coach let me scrimmage with the girls. She told them to not hit me. And that's okay. I'm still learning. But I got to scrimmage with the big girls!"
I was so excited for her. But I'll be honest. I was still thinking it was going to be a phase. I thought that the first time she was hit, her tender heart would take it personally and she'd want to quit. The first time she fell as a result of another person causing the fall, surely she'd want to go back to a more "tender" sport like dancing, or triathlons, or synchronized swimming. (Please note: I fully understand exactly how hard core these "tender" sports are. But nowhere in synchronized swimming is there another swimmer at the bottom of the pool, trying to pull you under to throw you off your game.)
The next practice... the very next practice... they scrimmaged again. I looked up from my homework assignment to see a glowing 8 year old coming over for a water break. There was no skating happening at that time. Sure, her skates were on her feet, and she was moving toward me... but she was so elated that it wasn't possible for her to be skating in my direction. "MOMMY! Coach didn't tell the girls to not hit me this time! She told them to not hit the crap out of me! Am I allowed to say 'crap'? I'm so sorry I just said a bad word!"
How in the world can I continue to think this child's love for derby would be a phase? In a scrimmage where the big girls were allowed to hit her, but not hit "the crap out of her", she was more worried about saying a "bad word" because she was repeating her coach's instructions. They hit her in that scrimmage. Many times. And she fell. Many times. But never once did her ego get hurt. Not one time did she cry, or let her tender heart get in the way of having fun.
Oh, her body has had some bruises on it! There was a span of three weeks where she couldn't sit down properly. She was avoiding the large round bruise that was exactly the same shape as a roller skate wheel. And it was a beauty! The girls on the team (with encouragement from the coaches) call those their battle scars. They're proud of them! Don't be shocked if you show up to practice and clothes get lifted/lowered/shifted to show the most recent patch of blue/green/purple flesh that was a result of a "good bout".
Yesterday was my baby's 9th birthday. When she showed up to practice, every girl on the team came over to high-five, hug, dance with, or sing Happy Birthday to her. When she started derby, she was the youngest person on the team. There has been a new wave of Fresh Meat to come on the team, and I'm not sure if any of them are younger than my baby girl. But know this: her team ranges from 8-18 year olds. When she hits the wood on her skates, she'll be getting knocked around by (and trying to knock around) girls more than twice her age. And she loves it.
Just because she went outside of her normal behavior to join a sport doesn't mean she has completely abandoned her "sparkly-loving, skirt-wearing, pink-EVERYTHING, tender-hearted, gentle-natured, sweet baby" attitude. Her derby name? The Glitterator. With her purple and pink skates, and her hot pink helmet, she takes to the rink with giggles and hugs for every girl out there. On bout day, she high-fives the other team just as enthusiastically as she does her own team. And when somebody falls down and is slow to get back up, that child stops for a second to send a quick prayer up to God, asking that He heal her quickly so she can join the fun again.
Roller Derby... the coaches, the teammates, the referees, the other teams... they have all been a very big blessing for our family. One that I'm ashamed to admit that I was hoping would be just a phase. Now that I see it for what it is, I'm excited for the coming year!