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Editor's Note: The following column was originally published in 2006.
Though I'm generally a responsible parent, I didn't really become concerned about my son's ability to get into a good college until I saw his grades in pre-school.
His academic performance was mostly satisfactory. He received smiley faces in Listens to Story Time, Holding a Pencil and Hanging Up His Jacket. His teacher wrote glowingly that my son had "stopped eating the paste" and was "very good with glitter." This made me proud — some of the most important leaders in history have had trouble with glitter!
But there was a landmine in all this good news: My son had failed Hop on One Foot.
Knowing that an unexpected drop in academic performance can be an indicator of drug use, I searched through his room, rooting underneath his Spiderman pajamas and feeling for suspicious bulges in his stuffed monkey. Though not a trained drug dog, my canine came in and assisted me by sniffing around suspiciously, eventually locating part of an old peanut-butter sandwich in the trashcan, which he ate.
Next, I called his teacher. "Are you sure this is my son we're talking about?" I challenged her. "Couldn't you have mistaken his results for someone else's?"
"He can't even stand on one foot," the teacher responded in a your-son-is-the-class-idiot voice.
I hung up feeling hollow inside. Goodbye, Harvard; hello, Morton's School of Screen-Door Repair. I went to where my son was studying his Muppet homework and asked to talk to him. "Son, why didn't you tell me you were having trouble hopping on one foot? We could have gotten a tutor."
He shrugged, showing me how his Ninja Turtle could fly. I gently took the toy from his little hand and told him to watch, I'd show him how easy it was, we could do it together. I lifted my left foot, hopped once and fell over. My son, giggling, threw himself on top of me, but I wasn't laughing.
"It's genetic," I whispered in horror.
I could stand like a stork, but the second I attempted to hop I listed to the side and launched myself to the floor like a North Korean missile test.No wonder I had trouble with my SATs!
My son had a plastic basketball set in the basement that stood 5 feet tall, though we seldom played with it because I always out-dunked him, due to my superior athletic abilities.
We got a lot of carpet burns that first month, but eventually, through grit and determination, we both became masters of the one-legged hop. The rule expanded to include football in the yard, running the bases in baseball and even playing tag. Soon, we could even dribble the basketball while hopping on one foot!
My son, I informed the other (envious) parents in the neighborhood, would be receiving a full-ride scholarship to the Ivy League school of his choice.
The next grade card gave him all smiley faces. "Come on," I said to the teacher, "don't you have something higher than a smiley face? How about a gold star?"
"A gold star is below a smiley face, actually," she sniffed in a "you're a bad parent" tone.
"But you have to agree, when it comes to hopping on one foot, he's the most gifted student you have," I pressed.
She admitted that yes, my son out-hopped everyone, even Emily, who was supposedly a genius. Emily's parents were considering holding her back a year, now that they'd seen my son's one-legged expertise.
My son graduated from both pre-school and kindergarten with honors, and I expected him to breeze through first grade. But his first report card was a shock: He failed physical education!
"How can this be?" I demanded of the gym teacher.
"He's terrible at games," the man replied. "Dodgeball, kickball, baseball — he's always the last one picked for teams."
"But why?" I wailed.
"I've tried working with him," the gym teacher told me, "but everything we do, he hops on one foot!"
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