The opposable thumb of our family

Buster and Big Man got into a debate, separate and apart from the many outright fights they have over LEGOs, somebody calling somebody else Butt Cheek, or the billion other potential provocations. This debate involved no hitting or kicking, probably because I intervened before it had a chance to run its normal course.

The debate revolved around the fingers of the hand as they related to our family structure. We happen to be a family of five, which means each person gets to be represented by a digit on the standard human hand.

They agreed that Daddy was the middle finger, because of its relative length, not because of its proclivity to become rude when left unattended. Mommy was the ring finger, because in our family, ring fingers run slightly taller than index fingers, just like Mommy is still slightly taller than Big Brother. Conversely, Big Brother was the index finger.

The point of contention was over which of the debaters was the pinky finger and which was the thumb. Each boy claimed to be the pinky finger and relegated the other to the distant position of the thumb.

The thumb is set apart and stands on a lower pedestal than the rest. This is what they saw when they looked at their hands. It was different and apart. Nobody wanted to be either of those things.

Our family hand print as debated by Buster and Big Man. Image Credit: Buster’s right hand.

They went on casting each other in the role of thumb, without a thought to its uniqueness or value.

Because the debate was becoming annoyingly monotonous, somebody had to step in and tell them who was right and who was wrong.

“You’re both wrong,” I told them. They looked at me with incredulous faces. How could they both be wrong? There were only two positions in question, and between them, they had all the possibilities covered.

I held up my hand and pointed out the fingers. Daddy was the middle finger. Big Brother was the ring finger. Buster was the index finger (although there are certain properties of the middle finger that suit him best). Big Man was the pinky, and Mommy was the thumb.

They stared at me dumbstruck. How could Mommy be the lowly thumb, the digit nobody wanted to be?

How little they understood the miracle of the thumb, the digit that brings all the fingers up to their potential.

“It’s true,” I told them. “Mommy is the opposable thumb of this family. She’s the one who makes it all work. She is what separates us from the animals. Without her, we might as well be a family of skunks.”

Somebody farted.

Well, Mommy does her best to differentiate us from a family of skunks, but she has her work cut out for her in this house full of stinky boys. Sometimes I think she should move away to someplace nice and let us revert to our natural state, but a good thumb never abandons the hand.

Lots of mammals would kill to have my thumbs

This summer I want to see if I can get the four-year-old interested in sports. We signed him up for an introductory sports class at the YMCA last fall. He enjoyed all the running around, but he was not great at the parts that required him to do something purposeful with any kind of ball.

dunking practice

Learning the one-armed slam dunk. Who needs fundamentals when you can power slam?

If he turns out not to like sports, that’s fine. But he probably should have the benefit of the exposure before he makes his final decision. That exposure should probably include more than seeing his dad watch sports on TV.

His favorite sport from his class was soccer. Of course it was. Let’s just say I don’t love soccer. Evolution gave me opposable thumbs for a reason, and I don’t think that reason was to award the opponent a free kick every time I try to use my special thumbs during a game – oh, sorry, I meant match, not game.

Oh well, if he wants to play soccer, we’ll play soccer. But we may also sneak some basketball in as well, so I can really shine the spotlight onto my awesome thumbs.

I love basketball, which is not to say I was ever great at it. I gave up playing organized basketball after 7th grade when it became clear that I would always be one of the guys who gets to play the last 30 seconds of a blowout.

Basketball is a game requiring self-confidence, and once you become the player at the end of the bench nearest the exit, it’s hard to imagine what self-confidence is, or to be able to pronounce it. That last half-minute of a lopsided game is ample time for you to dribble the ball off your foot and miss three layups. Even if you play competently in pick-up games, you will shoot the ball off the side of the backboard when the world is watching.

dribbling practice

Learning the double dribble technique that will earn him a comfy spot on the bench. He’s got all his daddy’s thumbs.

I did make a last-second shot in one game, though. I caught an inbound pass and hoisted a 15-footer that bounced around the rim before falling through at the buzzer. My teammates, all of them who weren’t already in the locker room, mobbed me. It was quite a celebration. We won that game by 27 points, but it would have been a measly 25 if not for my late heroics.

My wife ran track in high school. Her race was the 100 meters. This was the only distance she ran because she couldn’t figure out how to run and breathe at the same time and that was as far as she could go without air. I think she also tried out for the swim team, but her breathing techniques and water didn’t mix.

Neither of his parents are in any shape to coach the boy to stardom. But, he doesn’t need to be a superstar. He doesn’t even need to love sports. All he really needs to do is quit asking to watch Cartoon Network when I’m fully involved in a college basketball tournament game.