Monday, January 23, 2012

The Top and Bottom

In acrobatics and other forms of two person gymnastics, there are two types of people, the top person and the bottom person. The top person, as the name suggests, is the guy on top, the flyer. They are the ones who catch our attention. They balance precariously on their partner. They perform somersaults or contortions. They perch gracefully on top of their partner's hands or feet. They are, quite literally, raised up on a pedestal.

The bottom person is the base. They are the support system of the two-high. Everything that the top person does is possible because the bottom person is fully supporting them. It's almost better if the bottom person is hardly noticed. You might see them tap the top person before a tricky move or bobble slightly as they help bring the top person back into balance, but other than that, they are in the background.

I tried both positions when I was into circus arts. I always preferred the bottom. It's not as glamorous, but it is so important to a good performance. Also, I have trust issues. I'm always afraid I will be too heavy for my partner, or that they might drop me. Standing on top means you can fall, and I have. In fact, one of my highest falls happened when I was trying to learn how to stand on my husband's shoulders. I wasn't hurt, but it did add a certain amount of worry when I found out the following week that I was pregnant with Chase. That was the end of my stint learning how to stand on shoulders.

That is not to say that I shouldn't try to fly every now and then. I'm simply more wary of the position. I have never been comfortable with the spotlight on me. I tend to waver and not trust that my support will be ready if I need help or if I will have to figure out how to fall gracefully. I feel much safer on the ground, supporting others and able to see where I am needed. If I were ever to try the feet to shoulders again, I would definitely want a spotter. A spotter is an extra support person. They usually stand off to one side and keep an eye on everything, stepping in to help give an extra push or lift to a weak somersault, or steadying the flyer when he falls.

Performing acrobatics requires a lot of trust and the ability to communicate effectively. The bottom person needs to know when to help the top person recover balance and when to decide it's time to let them go so they can land safely on their own two feet. Top or bottom, hold on too long and you might cause your partner and yourself injury.

 This holds true for life and raising children. All parents are bottom people. I'm comfortable with that. I shift support as they need it and try to remember not to hold on too tightly. After all, falling is another way to learn. I want my kids to always be able to land on their feet.

And if they can't land on their feet, it's good to have another family member or friend nearby to act as the spotter.


Inner Elder said...

What a wonderful analogy! So wise you are, so proud I am. Love, Mom

Stephanie said...

That is a lovely metaphor. :-) My problem is I never know when to let them fall and let them learn to land on their feet. Or I accidentally let them fall without meaning to.

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