she jumps, our bouncing Josephine, all grins and glee and baby cackles.  it’s contagious, that laugh.  she’s a bouncing demon.

we held off on the Jolly Jumper until the up-down of her stout legs every time we grasped her hands made it clear that she was more than ready and would run off with a trampoline soon if we didn’t get her into something bouncy already.  now she gazes longingly at the apparatus from across the kitchen, trying desperately to scoot towards it.

she only crawls backwards. she is not deterred. yesterday she spun around, then slid across the floor until she was directly under the Jumper. she rolled over and beamed up at it, like a lover.

i had a Jolly Jumper too, one of the originals. i did not jump. there is a picture of me circa 1972 slumped over in the little seat, hanging from my mother’s doorframe. i look for all the world like i’d prefer to slit my wrists.

i mastered the withering stare early, it appears. the fact that i spent junior high banished to the hall, leaning against lockers with an eyebrow raised? destiny.

Oscar was like me, if less morose.

in his babyhood, he tolerated the Jumper as a place to sit, briefly, whilst mummy bustled about the hot stove or chopped things. luckily for him, my culinary ambitions are limited. the fact that he never used the Jumper for jumping didn’t seem terribly strange to me given the lore of my own disinclination; he occasionally gave a heart-hearted bounce but mostly saw the contraption as i did – a Baby Jail designed to keep him from interesting things like inspecting the inside of the cat dish or the laundry cupboard.

he’ll jump, i figured, when he’s ready.

ummm….he’s still not ready.

the poor kid is three, and he can’t jump. or won’t, i’m not sure which. he does this cute little half-hop wherein he shuffles his weight from one foot to the other, but even my mother-vision will not allow me to construe that particular action – adorable as it is, my mother-vision wants you to know – as a jump.  looks more like he has to pee, if anything.

we’ve been pretty chill on the jump front at home. about six months ago, we went through a momentary fit of laying things on the floor to jump over and hopping about the house, but that got old when we realized that Oscar was leaning back against the wall looking at us with exactly the same contemptuous eyebrow arch that got me sent out in the hall all those times in junior high. we were doing the bunny hop, he was listening to the Smiths in the corner. no go. we canned the jumpstravaganza.  we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves him.

lately though, Oscar’s started gymnastics, his very first organized class of anything, ever.  he loves it. it’s a toddler class, led by a fabulous British woman in her fifties who makes me think of Mary Poppins, and the little darlings run amok and sit on mats and learn to stretch and point their toes and climb and walk on a beam and, uh, jump off things. and on things.  and over things. jumping is big in gymnastics. it’s a basic skill, expected and foundational, on which they are intended to build.

we’re having a little trouble.  or rather, Oscar avoids the jumping stuff where he can or does his little i need to pee! hop off the trampoline without any of the other kids appearing to notice.  it’s no biggie to him, so far as i can tell. it’s me.  i’m having a little trouble.  i’m having to confront all kinds of childhood insecurities for which i have no coping mechanism other than the afore-mentioned eyebrow arch. gymnastics is stressing me out.

i figured one of the good things about having kids with an ex-athlete was that they’d have an even chance of being moderately coordinated, seeing as they weren’t going to get such bounty from my gene pool.  i figured these mythical, agile kids would surpass me in grace right about the time they started walking, if not before. so far, Josephine’s right on target, bouncing her way happily along the curve of averages to a toddlerhood of gymnastics prowess and a bright future as Tigger in the Ice Capades.

but Oscar’s looking more and more like me every day.

watching my kid struggle with things i struggled with, watching him flail and avoid and go circling off to climb through the rolly tube again rather than try to focus his physicality and do what just doesn’t seem to come naturally? shit, this is hard, people.  i don’t mind that he can’t jump.  i mind that watching him not jump, and trying gently to help him learn to jump, makes me feel like a sweaty-palmed bewildered gym class failure who could never even use the damn Jolly Jumper properly.

i don’t want him to feel that way, don’t want to indicate in any way that he should feel anything but mild interest in learning a new and useful skill.  a large part of me knows that he’ll jump eventually and probably just fine, thank you very much, and that me continuing to be chill on the outside and offer chances for him to practice are likely the best thing i can do to help.

so why do i want to lean against that toddler gym wall and raise my eyebrow and my collar and light up a smoke?  oh yeh, your kid jumps. mine? too cool. nothin’ to see here. (blows smoke ring).

sigh. maybe i’ll get Josephine to teach him to jump.

have you watched your kids struggle through something that pushed your own buttons?  did you respond like an adolescent, too, or do you have, erm, actual helpful strategies i can try?

(and no drinking before gymnastics…that doesn’t count. i have to drive.)