Confession: I am not a jock.
It didn’t start with me. I never saw my mother so much as quicken her step, and my father, while active enough, was into climbing mountains and splitting wood — not skills that are in much demand at a Chicago recess. I was picked last in kickball, not just because I couldn’t kick or catch, but because I didn’t even know the rules. “Tag up!” the other kids would yell. “What?” I said. “What does that mean?” “You’re out!” they said, and I trotted out to my position in right field, wondering what I had done wrong.
I was determined this wouldn’t happen to my daughter, but by the time she was four I noticed that I wasn’t playing catch with her. I made myself do it a few times, but then I forgot, and frankly she didn’t seem to miss it. I signed her up for soccer lessons. She hated them.
I was sure it was different in other fathers’ homes. CJ’s cousin, only one year older, could throw a football with a spiral.
Someone at school taught her to do a somersault, and when she came home she asked me to teach her a headstand. “Um, okay,” I said, realizing this was a major opening, and not sure if I was up to the challenge. “Let me think. Here, kneel on this yoga mat. Put your head and hands in a kind of triangle, and then kick up. Harder. Higher. Oh, my God.”
I ran into the living room to tell my wife, then came back to get CJ, who ran with me. “Mommy, mommy,” she said. “I did a headstand!”
“You did?” Her mother looked at me. My grin said it all. I’m sort of blase about how cute and bright my kid is, but the fact that she could do anything physical just blew me away. If my pictures are blurry, it’s because my hands were shaking.
I was proud of myself, too. “I can’t believe I taught you to do a headstand!” I told her. “You know what?”
“I can’t even do a headstand myself.”
A few days later, she took the next step. “Look, Daddy,” she said. “I can lift one hand off the floor.”
I was kidding, totally, but she did it.
We signed her up for gymnastics that night.
I think she might be a mutant.