Annie may have had her first gymnastics class earlier this week, but she is by no means the first gymnast in our family. As a child, I too was a gymnast. Unfortunately, though I started my training with high hopes, it did not end well.

My Mom signed my sister and me up for gymnastics when I was four or five, and I was thrilled. I’d seen gymnastics on TV, and I could not wait to fly through the air like Spiderman. When I got to the gym, however, I discovered that gymnastics class was even cooler than I imagined. There… in the middle of the gym… was a GIANT FREAKING FOAM PIT!!!!! And the best part? Kids were jumping into it!

Our class began and the instructor had us do a bunch of beginner’s stuff like touching our toes. My classmates were satisfied with this, but not me. All I could think about was jumping into the foam pit. After a few minutes I couldn’t take it anymore and asked when (oh when oh when) we were going to get to jump into the foam pit.

“Not now,” the instructor barked.

Grrrrr. In the mirror I could see reflections of kids jumping into the pit, and I was about to lose my mind. I soon lost my cool.

“Can I go jump in the pit now? Please? Just once? PLEASE?”

The instructor lost her temper and got into my face.

“No! No one gets to jump into the pit until they’ve been a gymnast for years! You have to earn the right to jump into the pit!”

My heart broke. “Years” is a really, really long time when you’re four. As desperately as I wanted to jump into the pit, I wasn’t willing to put in years of practice to do it.

When my mom picked me up I told her my gymnastics career was over, which was all well and good since I ended up six foot three. Nevertheless, I’ve often thought of that foam pit over the years and drooled over how awesome it would have been to jump in.

That’s why when Heather suggested Annie take gymnastics I was conflicted. I was excited because I knew Annie would dig it (she loses her mind every time that commercial for the Dora Gymnastics doll comes on TV), but I was also worried that she might have a bad experience like her old man.

Annie Lou Retton

On Monday I stepped into a gymnastics gym for the first time in 30+ years, and my eyes went immediately to the foam pit. Heather, sensing my excitement, smirked. “Try to keep it together, Mike.”

A few minutes later class began and Annie was doing terrific – she was following instructions, proving to be pretty coordinated, and having a ball. Still, I was nervous things might go off the rails (as they had for me) once she saw the foam pit. What happened next, though, threw me for a loop. The instructor told the kids to line up… so they could jump into the foam pit!


“Inside voice, Mike.”

As the little girls jumped into the pit I couldn’t help but smile. My daughter was going to jump into the foam pit, and it would be a victory for the both of us. I heard Neil Armstrong’s voice in my head, “It’s one small step for Annie, one giant leap for Spohr kind.”

And then, right when it was Annie’s turn to jump in, she abruptly shook her head and ran away from the pit. I watched in horror as Annie told the instructor she didn’t want to go in the pit, and the instructor told her she could skip it. I just about fell to my knees and raised my hands to the sky.


Thankfully, I didn’t actually say the above sentence out loud. I just thought it.

In the end, though the little boy in me couldn’t believe Annie passed up the chance to swim in foam, the Dad in me was beyond proud with how well she did following orders and being a little gymnast.

And don’t worry. I’m pretty sure next week she’ll jump into the pit. I’ve been talking up how awesome it is in preparation for next week. Mwahaha!