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Friday, March 20, 2009

Cartwheel Conundrum

A few weeks ago my daughter came to me asking for help.  She didn’t want me to help her with a math problem, spelling words, or writing assignment--- she wanted help learning how to do a cartwheel.  I guess during lunch many of her friends spend their free time turning cartwheels in the grass and she wanted to be able to join in on the fun.

For some kids, this is a simple gymnastic maneuver.   For others, who are less athletically inclined, this is as difficult as doing a double back handspring.  Unfortunately, my daughter falls into the latter category.  Despite this fact,  she had a burning desire to learn what I thought was a simple move.  

I mistakenly thought, that given my cheerleading know-how, that I would be able to easily teach her how to do this.  I thought it would be one of those mother-daughter moments, you know like buying your daughter her first bra or teaching your daughter how to shave her legs--well maybe not to that degree but something along those lines.   I thought we would stand together in the grass and I would turn a perfect cartwheel as my daughter watched on only to replicate it moments later.  

Well, it did not go that way at all.   My 41 year old body is not as flexible as it once was, but I managed to  demonstrate a few cartwheels for her (and nearly pulled a muscle).    She then tried to do a few on her own (which looked like a cross between a scrunched up handstand and a hop) and became very frustrated.  She had a hard time straightening out her legs.  Mentally, there is something scary about turning yourself upside-down.  

When my visual examples didn’t work, I then tried my best to break down the steps for her.  I thought it would be easy to explain, but I found out that it is not.  My instructions went something like this…..  Place your right hand down first, while kicking up your legs one at a time, now place your left hand down, while twisting your body and make sure your legs come down one at a time.  I realize these are not the best directions, but it is really hard to explain.  Anyway, C. tried her best to follow these “easy” steps but couldn’t do it.  She managed to do a move that again  looked like a sideways hop.  Now she was REALLY getting frustrated (with herself and me).

My next idea was to go to the trusty internet and look-up a “how to” video on YouTube. We pulled up a video and watched as a perky teenager explained the components of a cartwheel. We went back outside with more determination and tried once again to master this move.  This time, it did look better but it still was not graceful or flowing by any means.

As tears of frustration began to well up in her eyes, I tried to remind her that doing a cartwheel is difficult and that with practice she would be able to turn with the best of them.  We decided that we would take a few minutes each day and practice.  It has been several weeks since we began this gymnastics journey and we are slowly moving along—putting one hand in front of the other---one foot at a time.


  1. This is cute -- and the youtube examples is a great idea!


  2. Thanks Mike--It is amazing what you will find on youtube!


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