Thursday, March 4, 2010

He won't make a good tightrope walker

boy balancing along beamThe other day after preschool, Mikko's teacher pulled me aside (he likes to put on his Observant Teacher hat like this) and said to me privately, "Have you noticed Mikko's balance is...not so good?"

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.

hanging on weight at science museum
These are the kinds of shenanigans we used to indulge in.
mirror room at the science museum

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!
fake broken leg skiing
A reenactment of that fateful trip (and fall)
down the mountain.

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!

Photo courtesy Stacy Braswell on stock.xchng


Anonymous said...

aww too bad you never got out of gym! I love that you all have bad balance. lol Maybe it's an inner ear thing?

That first pic up the top is amazing. :)

Rachel said...

My family's curse is abnormally large heads and abnormally large ears (even on those of us who end up with more normal-sized heads). My second cousin took her baby in for her one-year check-up, and she measured something like 10th percentile for weight, 25th for height, and 82nd for cranium size. The doctor said, "I must have mismeasured her head." My cousin said, "no, that sounds about right."

With stats like that, you can imagine that we are correspondingly klutzy, although some of us make a better go of it than others.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that my balance is particularly good or bad, but I would say that I am pretty klutzy all the same. I've broken both arms, I am constantly suffering minor injuries, and I spill my drinks constantly. Luckily, I mostly stick with water. Because I have to - who wants to be cleaning up anything more stain-y?

Olivia said...

My clumsiness comes from bad depth perception. I turned the corner too sharply while driving and hit a pole and a car on two occasions. I also droved over curbs a lot before realizing this was a weakness of mine and I needed to pay more attenttion.

I also run into doorways and bounce of the walls in narrow hallways a lot.

Lindsay said...

I have terrible hand-eye coordination. I once overheard the girls on the opposite side of a gym class volleyball game strategizing to intentionally hit it to me. Apparently I was so bad they knew I'd never be able to hit it back!

Melodie said...

I have a banana foot. Medical term deemed by my doctor some years ago because my right foot curves around a little like a banana. I have the worst flexibility in the world. I can't touch my toes to save my life. Prenatal yoga classes were a nightmare, but non-natal yoga classes were even worse. Nothing like being totally embarrassed by a yoga instructor who tries to turn your foot or knee the right way only to find your body won't coopperate (sp?). I always got picked third to last at school. Only because I was liked just slightly more than the two other un-athletic kids.

MJK said...

My husband, and his brothers all have a weird lower knuckle in their thumb. I don't know how to explain this without a visual,but if you're like most people, and you make a fist the lower knuckle of your thumb sticks out like the point of a triangle. My husband and the other men in his family (just the men) don't stick out. Their thumb stays completely flat and it looks like they don't have a joint there. They *do* have the joint, it just doesn't bend normally. My husband played piano for 16 years, so it's not like there's any lack of flexibility or reach. I was actually the first person to notice this difference in my husband when we started dating - when he was 25, hehe. Our infant son seems to have the same trait. I eagerly await to see how our future kids and his siblings' kids turn out to see if this really is some bizarre sex-linked dominant trait in the family tree.

Anonymous said...

I love those pictures. I'm sorry to say I was a jock, and I loved being able to hold my contorted limbs forever in ballet...

I did end up having a crap load of cysts in my foot (and wrist, shin, boob...) but the one in my foot messed with the tendons and ligaments so I couldn't do en pointe classes (ballet with the wooden tipped shoes). My right arch couldn't arch because of the cyst.

I was crushed. But one day that cyst got crushed in a soccer game, however, the damage to my foot was done and I still couldn't arch it and still can't today.

I am fashion-disabled and was often ridiculed for having god-awful clothes!!

Lauren Wayne said...

I'm so glad so many of you are with me! Why couldn't we all have gone to the same school?

Rachel: So glad we're not the only ones with abnormally large heads, too! "One size fits all" hats — pffft! I love your cousin's response to the doctor. That's awesome.

Amber: Exactly!

mjk: My husband has some weird thumb thing, too, where one thumb bends one way and the other a different way. I will have to see if that gets passed on as well!

geeksinrome: I will be your friend despite your jockiness since you were a fashion disaster. All is forgiven.

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