Learning backflips

This year, I crossed the threshold of 40.  I understand that transition to be fairly traumatic for many people, but I must be in denial.  I don’t feel like 40 is much of a big deal.   I do, however, distinctly remember when 16 looked mature, 20 was fully fledged adult, 30 looked middle aged, and 40 was near death.  There didn’t seem to me much space for development between 40 and death.   Life and experience have taught me how warped my perspective was back then.

One thing I have loved about getting older is having kids who are old enough to have interests and hobbies I can share with them.  There is something pretty cool about having philosophical discussions about great books, or talking about some of the more interesting experiments from psychology with Sydney.  It’s a lot more rewarding than taking about fairies or random other “little girl” things I’ve never really understood or wanted to be a part of.  Those moments were precious, but I have to admit I like the more mature discussions better.

Lately, Isaac has started to cross that threshold where his interests and hobbies are more interesting and engaging for me.  For a little more than the last year, Isaac has been deliberately and diligently training in Par Kour (sp?).  True to form, I got tired of just watching, and for the last few months I’ve been training too.  Once a week Liz and I attend a class taught by Isaac’s trainer where we learn to do things like vault over obstacles, run up walls, and jump off of high things without hurting ourselves.  About half the class (Liz and I included) are parents of the kids who are in Isaac’s advanced class, so it’s almost comical watching a bunch of middle aged parents act like kids on a playground, but all of us old farts in the class LOVE acting like kids — even if we can’t jump as high or move as fast as the kids do.

One day several weeks ago as I was watching Isaac and his cohorts doing their weekly flips and areal training at a gymnastics gym, I got bored and asked Isaac if he would mind if I trained with them.  His smile said it all.  I informed him he was my coach for the night, and we walked out to the gym floor together.  Within a few minutes, he had me doing flips on the trampoline and into the foam pit.  By the time the night was over, I had tried my first backflip over solid (ish) ground.

Three weeks on, and I’m still working on consistently landing backflips.  They’re getting better, but it’ll be a while before I try one over concrete.  My body is old and broken enough that training sessions with Isaac or his coach sometimes get cut short.  But even when it hurts a little, it’s fun to see the look in Isaac’s eyes when I jump in and participate in something that he really enjoys.  He smiled as big as I did when I pulled off a flyaway (doing a backflip swinging off of an elevated bar) last Tuesday.

I have to say that I’m grateful I have the energy and strength to jump in and do these things.  I get a few odd looks from the younger crowd at the gym sometimes — I probably look like a dinosaur to them — but I’m well past the point where that will change my mind.  About the only thing that slows me down is when my neck, shoulders, or back get particularly angry about the renewed assaults on already worn out body parts.  For the most part, though, I’m amazed at the things I can do.  I’m also pretty stoked that my aggressiveness and stupidity haven’t made my broken body worse.  It helps to have a coach who learned how to do things right and do them without getting hurt.

I can’t say that I would have ever tried to do a backflip or vault a six foot wall had Isaac not started it all, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to spend time doing things with my kids for any of my self-motivated hobbies.  I only hope I’m still fit for enough to do the same with Michael – whatever hobbies he decides to get into.

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