08/14/2012 01:05 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

My Son Sucks at Sports and I'm Trying to Care

Written by Cassandra Barry for

I fear that I won't relate to my son. Like, what will I do if he gets brainwashed by Scientologists? What if he registers as a Republican? Or, God forbid, he's a jock?

Luckily, I just found out that last one is not going to happen.

Laszlo just finished his first month at his new preschool. One of his teachers told me she wanted to talk to me about something. I was hoping that she was going to tell me that she noticed that Laszlo has an amazing artistic talent or that he's the sweetest kid she's ever met. I should have learned by now that it's never good when someone says they want to talk.

She told me that Laszlo's "gross motor skills" need developing. She suggested that we practice "Simon Says," "patty cakes," walking on low balance beams or on a straight line, try swimming, catching a ball, and skipping. I had no idea that kids were supposed to skip by age 3 these days.

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While I'm so grateful that the school noticed he needs help, I'm having trouble forcing myself to be concerned. I suspect that, like his parents, Laszlo just isn't very athletic. He has the genes of two parents who never could accomplish anything with any physical skills. It's amazing that Joel and I even managed to get penis into vagina to create another human being. When Joel and I were kids, we were both totally uninterested in playing sports. Or moving our bodies, ever. We were "sit on the couch and read a book" kind of kids. Neither Joel nor I could skip in kindergarten. Even at age 5, there was a part of me that felt like knowing how to skip was pretty stupid. Being sporty was not in my genes, and I was okay with that. I was an ambitious kid who believed in getting excellent grades. Since then, I've learned how to skip. And I've lost my drive to succeed. I absolutely blame my increased physical abilities for my decreased intellectual abilities.

Laszlo doesn't have much of an interest in "gross motor skills" activities either. But I value his teacher's input because I'm completely in awe of this preschool and its teachers. I respect what they have to say and am grateful that they noticed this. So, I will try a few things with Laszlo and hopefully find some activities that he likes to do. But if he doesn't want to do them, so be it. I don't see the point in pushing sports -- or patty cakes -- on my kid. We've tried throwing a ball with him, riding a scooter, riding a balance bike, and many other things. He's just not that interested.

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I'm also not that into pushing it because I suspect that part of the "gross motor skills" issue is just psychological. Laszlo is not a confident kid. He does okay around small groups and people that he knows, but he gets insecure in big groups or around people he doesn't know. He likes to suss things out for a long time before he delves in. Last year, the teachers at his old preschool told me that at the beginning of the year, he didn't really climb on the play structure much. Instead, he would stand off to the side and intently watch the other kids doing it. I think he felt like he needed to watch how the other kids physically accomplished things before doing them himself. And that he needed to figure out which kids would be safe to climb around and which kids might push him out of the way or cause him to fall. He's a cautious kid who's afraid of getting hurt.

But within a few months, he had sussed it all out and was climbing around like crazy. By the time he finished preschool last year, he got a check mark next to the box "mastered" on his Progress Report under "gross motor skills." Either last year's school made a grave mistake, or it's just going to take a little while for him to warm up to his surroundings.

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Two weeks ago, in an effort to inspire Laszlo's desire to improve his gross motor skills, Joel let Laszlo stay up late for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I heard them talking about sports and Laszlo seemed actually interested. The next day, Joel tried some more Wiffle T-ball with him. And Laszlo was actually kind of into it. Within a few tries, he was actually pretty good at hitting the ball. By the time preschool starts up again in September, Laszlo's going to totally impress his teachers with his gross motor skills. Or at least, he will stop causing concern, I hope. Maybe the Olympics will somehow inspire Laszlo to improve his gross motor skills. I had no interest when I was a kid. Athletes like Mary Lou Retton scared me (That psychopathic grin! Those enormous thighs! That ridiculous height of 4-feet short! That ridiculous bowl haircut!)

While I'm sure it would be good for Laszlo to improve his gross motor skills, I don't want his preschool to focus on that at the expense of any development of his talents and his ... you know, brain stuff. (Skipping has also hurt my vocabulary.) I mostly just want Laszlo to improve his gross motor skills so that the teachers can move past this soon and we can all focus on what really matters: getting him into Stanford.


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