We would like to introduce you to Elisabetta D’Avenia. She is an aerialist and a certified personal trainer and acrobatics coach (for kids and adults) in Brooklyn, NY. She’s taking over our blog for three posts (have you read her first one?) and we would like to warmly introduce her to our community. This is her final guest post, hopefully you'll follow her on IG to continue the story (@elisabettadavenia). Take it away Elisabetta!
There is a little kid inside of all of us craving motion. Stop feeding him and he will turn you into a grey figure deprived of its vitality; but listen to his persisting voice and he will greatly reward you in unexpected ways. All he really wants to do is play.
I always found the idea of forcing children and teenagers to stay put on a chair in front of a tiny desk for hours to be a torture. In my school experience I was never ever able to keep a regular seated position for more than 60 seconds: I would contort and twist my body in every possible way, till my limbs would eventually get numb. It's no surprise that I welcomed PE with such enthusiasm!
I had two great teachers which I also considered my best friends: they were constantly pushing me to go past my limits using a good mix of discipline, positive reinforcement and playful attitude. I can say the same about my competitive gymnastics teacher with whom I spent most of my afternoons during middle and high school. The gym was my escape and my refugee from difficult situations I was dealing with: once there, I would pour all my efforts into the daily practice and forget about the rest.
I can’t explain what happens to my body and to my soul when I’m challenged to perform a certain athletic drill; it’s like the motor that ignites inside of me whenever a song that I like starts playing: immediately I lose myself in it while simultaneously being wholly present in the moment. As I mentioned in my first post, this state of being is a place where words are not needed: as I was a kid I had a hard time being the advocate of myself, definitely missing that readiness and way with words; spoken and unspoken words hurt me more than once. My physicality - funny to say, as I was tiny and short till at least 14 - carried my message to the world. I used to get great scores in most school disciplines, but athletic results were all I cared about, those were just for me and not an effort to please my parents or teachers. I didn't feel any pressure there, but my own.
If anything, I regret not being brave enough to try certain skills, I could have gone further; my family though, showed the best support by cheering for me without being too invested: it didn't matter what placement I would get in regional and national competitions, they were happy about my dedication and just for the fact that I was doing it.
In the past few years, while teaching acrobatics to kids in well-off neighborhoods of Brooklyn, more than once I came across parents admitting sheepishly: "I think my child needs to take a break: I realized she/he is overbooked, tired and has no time or energy for play-dates". And they were! Guitar on Monday, ballet and piano on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, soccer and singing on Thursday, Portuguese and cooking lessons on Friday. I am talking about 4 year-old kids for the record. Inevitably one's ability to focus fades and practicing the basics over and over (which is the only way to become a good athlete or dancer) gets boring. What happens when we turn into managers and agents of our children? If physical activity and sports become a job with the requirement of nothing else but an excellent performance at a minimal effort, where is the space for that kid that wants to play and explore the possibility of movement and creativity and where is the reward that comes from carving something beautiful and unique with devotion, time and patience?
I know that kid can come out and play if we let him to; he appeared before my eyes many times. He is Nicholas' surprised and contagious look when he finds out he can jump up and swing on a bar; that same Nicholas who struggles daily with hyperactivity and social interaction challenges. He is the radiant smile of Sophia the day she can finally hold her handstand, after warning me with her usual spirit: "Elisabetta, I have a good feeling about this one!"
What about you? What's the last time you saw your child within?