Thursday, February 15, 2001

Physically uneducated

Talked to my 7-year-old son's gym teacher this week about the recurring "needs improvement" on his report card, and it turns out that he just flat-out doesn't want to participate in physical education activities.

Which proves that, adopted or no, he's my boy alright.

I didn't have low muscle tone, delayed motor skills, or fetal alcohol effects to blame my low phys-ed grades on. I was just short, slow, and uncoordinated. But if I could have gotten away with, say, telling the teacher I was just too tired to do all those exercises, you can bet I would have.

Severe sleepiness, apparently, is my son's current common gym state. Now, it may be that he really is awake for large patches of the night and therefore sleep deprived; he's always content to lay in bed humming and rocking and not bothering anybody, so unless we sit awake in his room all night, there's really no way to know. (And of course, if he knew we were sitting in his room, he wouldn't sleep at all.)

It may also be that, in sensory-integration-speak, his engine is running low when he's in gym. He may react to his many morning transitions by shutting down, and shut-down looks like sleepiness to him. Since I read entirely too much, I could probably map out a very detailed case for this, though it would likely not include any very constructive things to do about it.

What I really think, though, is that the sleep-deprived act is really a variation on the "spaghetti boy with limbs of lead" technique with which I am so sadly familiar. It's not noisy, it's not actively resistant, it begs sympathy, but what it translates into nonetheless is: "I don't want to and you can't make me." The gym teacher reports that he lays down on the floor, exhausted. I'll bet.

It's still an improvement over the beginning of the year, when he resisted by running around the gym screaming. But it's still not participation, and the teacher is puzzled because she feels he can do everything she's asking. It's a special-ed-only class, with just his 9-child group, and so she's not exactly asking them to slam dunk. Still, I know my boy, and until he's absolutely confident and comfortable and completely able to do a skill, he doesn't want to do it at all. It happened with walking, talking, toilet training, reading--months or years of resistance, and then suddenly complete competence, bam.

Which means that one day, one year, he'll be running and jumping and walking balance beams like a champ. And until then, he'll be fighting it in one way or another, becoming at least the third generation of gym-balkers in my family. I do want him to succeed, but I'll confess I can't be too upset about this particular avoidance on his part. It will, however, make a fine excuse to make him go to bed earlier.

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