Save the Pieces!

That’s what my parents used to yell when a crash would come from the kitchen.  You may be hearing such crashes  frequently if there’s someone in your house between the ages of 11 and 16.  Around this age teens seem to be all elbows and shoulders and really big feet.  They knock over glasses at the table, careen off the walls, and trip over shadows on the floor.  Parents cry out in despair, “Why must you be so clumsy?!”  And the teens themselves writhe in embarrassment.

The good news is that it’s a temporary condition with a sound physiological reason.  (Then again, isn’t that true of most of adolescence?)   The same growth spurts that keep you buying new clothes and shoes every six months (and groceries every other day) are  responsible for the clumsiness.

When teens hit a growth spurt, it begins in their hands and feet.  The arms and legs soon follow, and then the torso stretches.  This is a very good thing:  if the middle section grew first, their centers of gravity would be too high for the size of their feet, and – splat!  Face plant!

The difficult part is that they can grow as much as half an inch in 24 hours, so they can literally wake up with new hands and feet.  Want to know how difficult that makes things?  Try spending tomorrow in oversized gloves and shoes, and you’ll get the picture.  They crash into things because they do not know where their bodies end anymore.

This all happens at a terribly self-conscious age, making it all the more mortifying for your teen.  Each year I survey my class:  “Anybody finding you can’t clear a doorway without smashing your shoulder into the frame?”  Hands go up.  “How about bashing your hip on tabletops and furniture?  Falling down unexpectedly?”  This will lead to cries of “Yes!  That happens to me ALL the time!”  – and stories – “Last night I fell UP the stairs!”  When I explain the physiological reason for this, there is great relief, followed invariably by pleading:  “Would you PLEASE tell my parents this?  They just think I’m clumsy!”

My advice:  put away the valuables just like you did when they were toddlers.  In a few years they’ll get used to their new bodies, and you can return Aunt Bertha’s Swarovski  swan to its place of honor.


  1. Wow, this is too funny, I just finished returning the “good” dishes to the cupboard since it’s been almost 6 months since the last broken dish!!!! Although, you said 11-16, my 14 yo is a girl and she hasn’t been growing so much, ya think she is also past this stage at her age, you know, being a girl?

  2. Our sixth grade son had hit 6 feet tall. He also accidently hit a trophy in the office at school. It broke.

    Son to principal, “It seems that happens all the time lately.”

    Principal to son, “That is part of being 12.”

    Son to principal, “You mean it’s not permanent?”

  3. Sue thank you so much for your wonderful info pages. I’ve been sending them to my daughter in who has my two wonderful grandsons (13 and 16) up there in beautiful Alaska. She enjoys the fact that pretty much of this comes about and it’s nice to hear it’s not just her family…..Thanks again..

  4. hahaha!!! this is so true! i remember most of this from a class i took from you a while back. VERY good information. I stopped calling Alex clumsy shortly after i started, he took it VERY personally, when i didn’t intend for it to be THAT big of an insult! I think having a twin pregnancy gave me SOME glimpse into what they must be going through, i’d always catch my belly on a chair or WALL! LOL! It gave me more empathy for the kiddos. What a rough time. And what a privilege to be privvy to this info unlike when I was a kid with my huge size 10 feet. (Alex’s are size 13!!!!)

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