The Quintanas, Week 7: Cartwheels and Confidence

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

chloe quintana picture

So much to smile about! Credit: Victoria Michelle Quintana

It's amazing how far a little encouragement can go.

One morning about two weeks before beginning the Healthy Families Challenge, Chloe, my 9-year-old, and I were sitting in the car outside her school. We were waiting for the perfect moment for her to make her entrance when her P.E. teacher walked by. She made a don't like face. There are few people in this world that Chloe expresses dislike for, so I questioned her about these feelings. Her answer was simple, "In his class, we have to run a lot. I just can't do it."

Things change.

One of the first locations to hop onboard this ride with us was The Little Gym of Doral. This facility is run by Bill and Xiomara Goodman, a husband-and-wife team with a goal: They want children to get a healthful dose of exercise and feel accomplished and encouraged. Chloe spends an hour here every Saturday, learning to say, I can do it.

Every class has a theme. One was "Inside Out," and every student wore their shirt outside-in. The message was that perfection is not so important -- just be comfortable, even if you're a little different. Sessions begin with a warm-up of stretching, cartwheels and flips, just bodies waking up while super-loud music plays. After that, the kids learn feats on equipment like the uneven parallel bars or the balance beam. Parents watch the action from a viewing room and are encouraged to cheer loudly.

The students, both girls and boys, are guided by the instructors with care and positivity. They are never pushed or made to feel inadequate. Teachers make it clear that there is no competition -- do your best. Maybe if grown-up gyms had this magical theology, we would all like the StairMaster more.

Before, Chloe was not moved by the thought of exercise. On our way to her first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class at American Top Team Doral, her face showed misery and terror. (Much like my face after my first class, but that's another story.) But, as the weeks pass, Chloe can't wait to hit the mats. It's powerful for a mom to see her daughter walk across a balance beam with an ear-to-ear smile; the first time she did it, she caught my eye and pointed to her toes as if to say, "Look, Mommy! Look what I'm doing!"

She even waved at her P.E. teacher one morning recently. She tells me that with every class, running those laps gets easier.

Today, I think the pressure to fit in, whether it's because of your looks or accomplishments, overwhelms many girls, even at Chloe's young age. Unlike her big sister, Beth, who could not care less about what anybody thinks, my little girl's confidence wavered. But suddenly, she walks with her head a little higher, and she doesn't seem as concerned with what the girls at school say. She begged for her first skinny jeans the other day; I congratulated her positive new self-image with two pairs.

The Little Gym's good influence rubs off. David, my hubby, joined a "Cartwheel Experience" at a recent class. David has no fear of humiliating himself -- I'm sure nobody has figured this out through our video diaries -- and came out wearing a big grin. Beth, who is like a magnet surrounded by smiling metal kids whenever she walks into the place, has been helping out with the children, and I've never seen her smile so much.

Next week's theme is "Bring a Friend," and Chloe has invited one of her classmates to join her for some play time in the gym. She is hoping it will make her friends feel as good as she does, and be contagious.

Unlike the common cold, it's fun!

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.



How is the Quintana family doing? Check in on their progress!

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.