I started laughing.
I don't know if that was the reaction he was expecting, but Sam and I have the worst balance in the world ever, so I just wiped away the tears and admitted it was genetic.
The teacher said Mikko will have trouble keeping going if, for instance, he's running and another kid bumps into him. He brought it up because a previous student had had balance problems along with speech delays, and it turned out this other kid had so much fluid in his ears that it was affecting both his balance and his hearing. So I appreciated the teacher's concern and his willingness to broach topics like that with the parents.
But I will tell you a few stories to explain why I am not at all surprised that Mikko has terrible balance, considering his hereditary potential to be a klutz. I shared some of these stories at my post on Hobo Mama Reviews about a balance board giveaway from Paisley and Pretties as well as in the comments there, but I'm going to go out on a limb (carefully! I might fall!) and assume that no one but Slee and I read that post. So here they are, proofs of our physical (un)prowess, because I live to humiliate myself.
Sam and I used to love hanging out at science museums and children's museums, even before we had children. (Frankly, it was more fun then, since we got to play with whatever we wanted instead of having to share the best toys.) We once went to a science museum where they had a special exhibit where you could test how well your body did at different physical tasks, like strength, flexibility, and coordination. There would then be a chart where you could compare your scores to the average for your age and gender. So, for instance, strength required pulling down on a big weight with a sensor reading your force exerted, and flexibility was measured by stretching your legs out straight and bending toward your toes and seeing where your fingertips hit along a ruler.
The balance test was a square metal board that you stood on, not unlike a bathroom scale but anchored only in the middle, so that it would tip in the direction of either foot unless you kept it perfectly balanced between your feet, like a very small teeter-totter. There were handles to hang onto, and you were supposed to time how long you could keep the board balanced and not hit the floorplate, which had sensors on either side. Well, we failed, colossally. We couldn't keep the board balanced for more than a second, and the minimum was several seconds.
But we couldn't figure out why the timer wasn't working for us. We were just having to count the time ourselves, when there was clearly a digital readout that wasn't going. We read the directions again, more carefully this time and found out — you were supposed to take your hands off the handles! That started the timer.
Ohhhh... Doing it correctly, we now registered about a tenth of a second of balancing. Our really crappy times were the result of making it too easy on ourselves. Our true crappy times were remarkably more embarrassing.
I broke my leg on my eighth-grade ski trip, which is a balance story all in itself. I've been skiing once since then and I really want to go again, but Sam is (rightly) resistant. I cajoled him into taking beginner figure-skating lessons with me. Sam's experience in the first lesson = face plant on the ice, broken glasses, blood, swelling, possible concussion — and a refund of our prepaid lesson fees once we signed a form that said we had no intention of suing the rink. (How do you sue for a genetic predisposition to extreme clumsiness?) Sam previously suffered a head injury when he sledded into a tree as a child, so winter sports in general haven't been our strong suit. Considering all that, I haven't pushed too hard on the skiing thing, but if you live near Seattle and want to accompany me next winter and don't mind the thought of the excursion perhaps ending with an ambulance, do let me know!
But, anyway, when I got my cast off my leg, I had to go to physical therapy. The doctor wanted to see how much my balance had deteriorated, so he asked me to stand on my left (the formerly broken) leg and close my eyes while I counted upwards. I made it to one before I fell over.
"Oh, dear," he murmured. This was bad, apparently. Very bad. "Well," he said, putting on a brave doctor face, "try it on your good leg, so we have a baseline."
On my right leg, I made it to two seconds before falling over. Now the doctor wasn't as worried about my bad leg. Though I have to wonder if he remained worried, just in general.
Sam and I have tried a couple things to help us improve our balance. I've started riding bikes again, though I always make sure to select a bike with thick tires, and Sam has discovered a scooter he loves. I've been taking ballet the past several years, and even though I suck, it has definitely helped my balance. I can now almost, sometimes, stand on one tippy-toe without crashing into the mirrors. As long as I have a hand near the barre to catch myself.
You know, maybe Mikko does have some rare balance disorder — and so do Sam and I! This would explain so much. I only wish I'd known back when it could have gotten me out of gym class...
If you dare to share: What embarrassing physical defects run in your family? Has a teacher or physician ever expressed concern at your atrocious athleticism? Come on, join me over on the loser wall, where we always get picked last for the team!