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handstand physics

August 23, 2011

So, my five year-old started kindergarten yesterday.

“Did you cry when you dropped him off?” so many of my mommy friends have asked expectantly.

My unapologetic answer?  Not even a little.

I’m not a sentimental person, really, and I felt nothing like sadness as I watched his sun-bleached head bend over a wooden puzzle in his new classroom.  I felt nothing like longing.  My son has spent the summer getting excited to start school, growing intrigued by the prospect of new friends and a new teacher, and (likely) becoming increasingly sick of me.  He was happy to be in that rainbow-hued room among other five year-olds, and I was thrilled for him.

In addition to happiness, I also felt trepidation.

Last week, my son and I went to “Meet the Teacher” night, an opportunity for new kindergarteners dressed in their shiny new school clothes to size up their new teachers and check out their new school.  The cheerful Mrs. O, twenty-plus years of teaching kindergarten under her belt, asked each of the students to find a spot at the shrunken table and to “write or draw what they want to learn in kindergarten this year.”  The moment Mrs. O spoke that sentence, my son looked up at me with huge fawn-in-headlights eyes. 

“But I can’t write it,” he stage whispered, fear shaking his voice, “I don’t know how.”

Never mind that the teacher had said “write or draw;” my son had responded to the request that most scared him.  He heard, “Do something you are unprepared to do” and he panicked momentarily.  When I told him that he was in kindergarten to learn how to write, and showed him that most of the other kids were drawing pictures, he visibly relaxed and drew a small blue book, telling the teacher he wanted to learn to read better.

That experience stays with me as he enters school.  It stays with me as I think about what I want my children to learn — that we are each imbued with unique aptitudes, that we are all gifted and talented, and (mostly) that gaining new skills requires work.  I thought of Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion in his 2008 book, Outliers, that the key to success in any given field is a matter of practicing a task for around 10,000 hours.  While I am not sure my kids will receive the achievement-requires-sweat message in school, I hope they will get it from home.

I thought about Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” as I considered my next move for this Chasing Maybes project.  I’m still thinking small, boxed up in our little apartment, and still focused (this month) on the category of Science and Nature.

In honor of my son’s headlong dive into the world of public school, I’ve decided to challenge the laws of physics.

I’ve decided to learn how to do a handstand.

© 2008 Paula Tribble

In spite of having taken gymnastics as a child, I never learned how to execute this gravity-defying move, the basis for so many other feats of acrobatic greatness (this likely explains why I was never a good gymnast).  With the help of this tutorial (and my husband, who spotted me when he wasn’t doubled over in laughter), I began my journey to handstand greatness yesterday.  Miraculously, I managed to invert myself against a wall for roughly ten seconds before collapsing into a 37 year-old heap on our apartment’s carpet.  While I had planned to post a photo of this initial foray into upside down glory, I couldn’t hold the handstand long enough to snap a picture.

I have a feeling this is going to be a long, dizzying 10,000 hours.

Today, I hope you spend at least one hour doing something that makes you happier.  Thanks, always, for showing up.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2011 8:06 am

    Love this post — reread it twice. Also would love to see the handstand.

    • August 25, 2011 7:34 pm

      i may have to break down and get steve to take some video… but i’ve got a looong way to go before that happens. 🙂 and thanks.

  2. August 25, 2011 2:20 pm

    Ahh the handstand. I crashed pretty hard the few times I tried it without a spotter. I can hold it for a long time if I have a spotter or a wall, but that’s not the same. I tried fixing that by scaling back doing a headstand instead. First, I started doing it against a wall. Then, I moved to the middle of the floor. I would alternate between keeping my legs parallel to the floor and raising them to a vertical position. I also would do some splits with bent knees. It feels really good on your hips. You’re stretching them AND they are inverted. Great blood flow. Practice practice practice and you’ll get there.

    • August 25, 2011 7:29 pm

      great advice, megan. i forgot about working up from a headstand, although I am still a bit traumatized by an unfortunate spill i took as a lancer dancer during a halftime performance to “wind beneath my wings” (a headstand and a crashing fall were involved). i think i can get over it, though. i will keep on practicing.


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