In the Man-Making book, Steve, a man now in his forty's described what it was like to endure the painful experience of adolescent clumsiness:
When I began 9th grade in September of 1962 I was 5'6" tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. By the June graduation from junior high school, I had grown to 6'1", weighing only fifteen pounds more. I recall walking into English class one day, and for no discernible reason, I just fell over. No one pushed me, I did not trip on something, as best as I can recall, I just fell over.The title of an article in a recent issue of the NY Times, Health section asks, Are Gawky Adolescents More Injury Prone? Parents of teens everywhere have felt the correct answer is a resounding yes, but it turns out that notion has been hard to prove... until now.
I apparently collapsed under the weight of my growing bones. As I lay on the floor trying to disentangle myself from my own limbs, I could hear my classmates and teacher howl in laughter. Tears burned my eyes as I righted myself and slunk toward the way-to-small desk in the last row. It was a year full of pain and embarrassment.
The Times article quotes research from The British Journal of Sports Medicine claiming that the teenage awkward phase is not just about hormones and the growing and changing body, but also that under-developed teen brain. Researchers studied the complex responses and many different parts of the brain involved as adolescents and adults manage and position their bodies. Apparently, while we adults have the luxury of relying on, "the more sophisticated cortical regions of the brain to direct and integrate movements . . .," the parts of the brain that control body movements through space are not yet fully formed for teens.
So the research is in! Tripping over your feet as a teen is pretty normal! The Times article even offers up a test you can try with your teen to see if they've hit that, "gawky phase."
If you have an awkward teen at home, you can now, with science behind you, assure them that they will indeed pass through these trying times and eventually get control of themselves. In the meantime however, they should be a little careful!
Do you have a story about a moment in time when you felt physically "gawky," uncoordinated, or mad at your growing/changing body. Send it along or put it in the comments section of this post.
If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.