I spent six hours on Saturday perched in the wooden bleachers of a city park gymnasium for Kiddo’s first ever gymnastics meet.
A couple of things made it worth it. One, Kiddo rocked it. She earned some medals and a spot at next weekend’s citywide meet, where I’m sure the bleachers will rival Saturday’s for comfort (gymnastics newbie excursus here: Kiddo medaled in the balance beam even though she nearly fell. Almost falling but not falling is actually rewarded. I dig that).
Second, I got to see the city in a way I haven’t seen it since moving here. Judging by the North Side Region gymnastics league, the Chicago Parks District is a robust civic institution that represents a multiplicity of demographics in the city like nothing else I’ve seen.
Roughly 15 “parks” had teams at the meet, all of them based in a different city neighborhood. The hundreds of kids rolling and jumping around the gym were a spectacle of diversity and neighborhood identity. Gymnasts wore team leotards and marched in behind a team banner while parents from all of these neighborhoods crammed into every corner of the gym with posterboard signs and recording devices and nervous applause.
If he’s willing to stay off his phone, a newbie gymnastics dad could meet some interesting people from neighborhoods other than his own.
The park district gymnastics team costs $40 for three months. That makes it accessible to almost every elementary-aged aspiring olympian in Chicago. It’s suddenly my favorite thing.