Stretching to Grow


Description (What is being performed): 

When by brother was a kid my father would stretch him out by pulling on his legs as He held onto a pole we had in our backyard. He did this to stretch him out with the expectation of growing taller if it was done every day.

The Informant (Background info about performance from informant):

Me: “How did you come to know about this method of growth?

Dad: “Your Gramps did it to me, and my gramps did it to him?

Me: “But we don’t know what it actually works, right?”

Dad: “Some days I seem to think so (laughs)”

Me: “And why did you feel the need to aggressively pull your sons legs? (Laughs)”

Dad: “It’s all about basketball. You got to be tall in that game.”

Me:”So what you’re saying is you really wanted your son to be tall enough to play basketball and would do whatever it takes.”

Dad: “Pretty much, yeah.”

Me: “What does it mean to you?”

Dad: “What does it mean to me?”…”It’s a fathers way of not accepting things as they are. Maybe it’s arrogance, thinking we can shape our sons into what we want even if it’s attempt to defy the reality.”

Me: “That’s an interesting thought. In a way it’s a very micro version of boiling down the dilemma of man vs nature.”

Dad: “In a way, except we were also unsure at the time whether or not it worked. It started out as experimentation, then as time went on it was wishful thinking when we realized no one grew.”

(closing words)

The Analysis (My Thoughts):

The informant brings up an interesting perspective regarding what the belief means to him. He states “It’s a fathers way of not accepting things as they are…thinking we can shape our sons into what we want even if it’s attempt to defy reality” this I notice is a long standing trope between not just fathers, but parents and their children. They’ll go as far as to practice an unproven method of getting their child to be who they want them to be. Also so long as it can’t be disproven, they’ll continue to utilize it to simply feed into that desire. This seems to be something we can see along many folk beliefs, not so much in the parent child situation, but people hold onto and live out these notions through generations because of a traditional/long standing desire that these long standing tradition beliefs satisfy. Additionally a component of both this stretching out to grow belief and folk beliefs in general is that they become a bit of identification for lineages who pass whatever it is down. As my father states he knew that it didn’t work but his father grandfather did it to his father, and his father to himself, and subsequently he did so to his son.