Friday, September 30, 2011


Addie came home from school in tears. Sometimes I feel like this is the preface for anything I say these days. “__ came home from school in tears.” I noted when she stepped off the bus from gym class that she seemed rather disappointed looking, but we all have bad days. I thought no more of it until she reduced herself to a waterworks factory 20 minutes later sitting at our dining room table. “My gym teacher, Jean Paul, screamed at me today in class because I couldn’t do a cartwheel! It was my first time ever and I flopped. He yelled so loud in front of everyone….”  “Well Addie, I’d like to know what he said specifically, because if it was inappropriate, then we must address this issue in a slightly different way. “
“He wasn’t inappropriate….I can’t remember what he said, but it wasn’t inappropriate.” Her bellowing clearly revealed that she’d been chastised in front of the class for no more than a lack of cart wheeling ability. We can argue all day about appropriateness or not, but this guy was a subtle as a sledge hammer.

Suddenly, I felt guilt pressing on me as if the weight of the world. How the heck did I forget to teach my kids to cartwheel? I have schlepped them all over the planet, have shown them wonders of the world, exposed them to cultures, languages, music and people, but a stinking cartwheel? How did I miss that? Couldn’t I have scheduled that inbetween groceries, making dinner, translating French homework, laundry, swimming and violin lessons? Most days life around here seems busier than a one-legged River dancer. Cartwheels? When I gave birth to each of my four children, no one burst through the Labor and Delivery door to remind me to teach them how to do a cartwheel someday. It’s not my fault is it? Am I a total loser mom? I mean, a cartwheel? How did I forget cartwheels? Spinning. My brain was spinning.

So, given a cup of tea and a slightly long pause, I determined to take this bull by the horns. Traipsing the girls into the yard, I proceeded to direct a lesson on how to do a cartwheel. This seemed to be as easy as putting a 6 legged cat in a bucket of water. After showing off a few cartwheel moves of my own, and then nearly missing doggie doo, I diverted lesson 101 to making everyone help poop scoop instead. Once landmines were cleared, the girls had a go. The scene that proceeded was something that resembled an octopus sucking down a starfish. There were arms and legs flailing every which way. It was, to be gentle and kind, an extremely ugly picture in all directions. Occasional moments passed when I thought someone might leave the yard in a neck brace, laying on a stretcher. (Put nothing past this crew.) Since cart wheeling apparently takes more than 5 minutes to teach, I retreated to make dinner while they continued to wave arms and legs around everywhere, nearly missing doggie landmines that remained unnoticed. Honestly, for the moment, I’d given up. Mr. Gym Jock Jean Paul was getting the best of me. I even found doo doo on my shoes. Bummer.

Later that night, feeling the task at hand , I resorted to You tube, and Google searches for “how to teach a cartwheel”. I tell you, there are some incredibly stupid videos out there under that search. Don't waste your time. Feeling further pressure, I called the first two people I knew that might help; Mom- a trained physical education teacher, and my sis, Julie, a once fab gymnast who would love, no doubt, to see Addie cartwheel past this issue and onto more important things. Mom’s advice was to tell the kids “hand -hand- foot- foot, and lay a line down for them to follow,…Then watch your face cause you’ll probably get kicked”. Great advice mom. Gym Jock Jean Paul has me heading for a black eye to boot. My sis made a phone call to Addie after school and gave her support and instruction. With a new found confidence, Addie went to bed with marks on her calendar to indicate practice days for her cartwheels. Kids are so stinking resilient. If I had been through what Addie had experienced that day I’d have gone to bed hugging Ben and Jerry’s and a Kleenex box. Gotta love the power of humiliation.
Well, here we are a week later. We’re not quite there yet. We’ll save that for another blog post. But we’re back at practice and it’s going, let’s say, …slightly better. (Less like an octopus eating a starfish and more like just a sinking starfish.) They decided to practice before swimming lessons, so they donned their swimming suits and set to work. They placed leaves in a line, following grandma's instruction, and tried to hit the mark. To increase strength in their arms I recommended head stands. Of course, the kids made me demonstrate this too. (A presentation which proved to be about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit, but it‘s good to know that this body can still accomplish a headstand with the help a 800 mg of Motrin and an ice pack).

It’s hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere, but this kid, she’ll make it.
(And hopefully without a trip to the local ER). Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned….

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