Can you do the splits?

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According to, there are nearly 5 million young people participating in gymnastics in the United States, and although only a handful ever make it to Olympic competition, their parents fork over enough cash on lessons, leotards, custom-embroidered gym bags, hair bows, grips – and other equipment my wife didn’t tell me about – to fund the entire Russian sports doping program.

Yes, all three of my daughters have participated in gymnastics at one time or another, and we gladly spent what it took to give them the opportunity to gain some balance, discipline, coordination and physical fitness (and look really cute) – while I numbed my buns in the waiting area eating Cheez-Its and playing Angry Birds on my cell phone.

I even tried my own Atari-joystick-calloused hand at gymnastics for a brief time as a youngster, but I gave it up after being traumatized by a disagreement I had with the pommel horse. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I’m pretty sure it involved a combination of my fear of heights and an unintentional performance of the splits.

Although I once thought my days as a reluctant gymnastics-watcher were long since over, I recently found myself at the Texas Gymnastics Conference Championships to watch my eldest and most expensive daughter (now in college) compete with Texas A&M University Gymnastics. Yes, this is the same daughter who, through the years, has also taken us on exciting, wallet-wringing adventures with ballet, violin, horseback riding (western and English), tumbling, and drill team dance – to name a few.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely proud of her for her hard work and for trying so many new things. I only wish I could cash-in on my finely-honed skill of sitting for up to eight hours straight while waiting to watch my child do something that lasts approximately three minutes. The sport could be called “Competitive Inactivity,” and prize money could be awarded according to the degree to which your rear end takes on the consistency of melted Silly Putty.

My wife and I began the morning with a trip to Chick-fil-A for some “Lord’s carbs” to sustain us physically and spiritually throughout a long day in a gymnasium that smelled exactly like – you guessed it – a gymnasium. Once we were seated, I was amazed at the level of activity taking place throughout the facility, but I immediately identified the most important areas of the venue – namely the men’s room and concession stand.

The first few hours of the competition involved the men’s teams and featured incredibly chiseled athletes with muscles bulging even from their earlobes. Although I was impressed with their talent and athleticism, watching the men mainly made me want to do some sit-ups, so naturally I went to get a snack.

Amid the competitions taking place throughout the facility, I also noticed several gymnasts receiving warm-up massages, and I briefly considered swiping a “big and tall” leotard to see if I could get someone to work on my lumbar region. Luckily for my wife (and everyone else), my daughter’s floor-routine competition was just getting started.

My daughter, who inherited my nervous stomach, looked almost as nauseated as I was, but she did great and, as usual, made us proud. I’m not sure how many flips she did in that routine, but it was truly impressive – especially to a guy who never turned a flip that didn’t end with a belly flop off the high dive.

Once the competition was over, we took our college girl out to catch up over some Mexican food. The whole experience was a great reminder to appreciate the precious time I still have to sit and watch my kids do the things they love–especially when the day begins with Chick-fil-A and ends with tacos.

Copyright 2022 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].