Somersaulting Other People’s Children, and I Wonder Why They Find Me Weird

Here’s another aphorism for the parenting handbooks:

Don’t invert a toddler in front of the parents until they know your name.

One of my fans at the playground is H—, 14 months old and a new walker. I’ve known her for a few months; she and her older sister come to our playground nearly every day with a nanny. She’s sort of a daddy’s girl, I think, because she seeks me out a lot.

One day she saw me helping Boobaby perform somersaults, which we’ve been doing for months. Boo leans over and tucks her head; I support her body to take the weight off her neck and help her complete the flip. I think that all babies should learn to love being upside down, so Boo and I practice it a lot. Plus, she loves it — she sometimes won’t let me get away until we’ve tumbled a dozen times in a row.

Watching us, H— started trying to do somersaults on her own, looking for the world like she was holding the downward-facing dog yoga pose: a tripod-like baby balancing on locked legs and a head. This goaded into helping, I guided her through the somersault to her glee, and ever since she seeks me out for practice every chance she gets.

Then came the day we went to the playground after afternoon nap nd met H— with her dad. H—, naturally, sauntered straight over to me and put herself into the yoga pose. “You must be H—‘s dad!” I giggled to the man as I flipped his daughter over. Only as I saw his eyes grow huge with concern did I realize how shocking such a display would be: a total stranger engaging in spontaneous tumbling demonstrations with his daughter.

To his credit, when dad saw how happy H— was with the stunt, he realized that I wasn’t randomly flipping children. He introduced himself and asked me to show him how to spot. He even joked something about how he’d been wondering why his daughter kept doing the yoga pose over and over, and now it finally made sense.

Apart from reminding me not to overstep boundaries when I finally meet the working parents of kids I know well, the exchange also underlined how lucky I feel to be able to stay home with my child. Of course, Boobaby will have relationships with adults in her life other than me and her mom. I can’t imagine not knowing all of Boo’s tricks so early in her life.