Middle child DJ went ice skating for the first time on Sunday. Ice skating. On really slippery, really hard ice. With blades strapped to his feet. Can you hear my heart palpitations as I type? This post is really about how I underestimate my children. And how I am prone to wrapping them in cotton wool and how bad that is. And why it’s bad. And it’s about ice skating.
Yesterday, DJ attended his first ice skating party. He was invited by a little girl in his class and I was terrified. DJ is academically brilliant, but lacks in physical coordination. Ice skating is a deadly sport! Blades, hard, slippery ice. I was convinced that it was a disaster waiting to happen. So did my husband, who wanted DJ to wear his bicycle helmet while skating. We were both very fearful.
Watching my two sons grow up – separated by just 11 months – I see one develop physical acuity, or prowess, and the other develop in cerebral activities. This is a normal part of motherhood and a normal part of watching young children grow up, whether you’re an aunt, grandmother, or family friend.
DJ is clumsy, and falls over. A lot. (But within normal limits. I don’t for a minute mean to suggest he has any visual cortex issues, or an inner ear imbalance issue).
So we arrived at the ice skating rink and he confessed to feeling a little nervous. I calmed him by saying that was normal when you try a new activity but he should remember that I’d be there with him and everything would be ok.
Trying to appear normal while meeting other school mums is a tough gig when you’re hiding an almost overwhelming sense of fear and trepidation. I was most concerned about DJ falling over and hitting his head or his face. My secondary fear was that he would fall over and someone would skate over his fingers, slicing them off. My third fear, (ranked in order of how likely I thought they would be), was that he would spend the entire party sitting on his arse on the ice, unable to get up and stay upright for more than a minute or two before tumbling back down again. And finally, I was afraid of his classmates laughing at him because he couldn’t coordinate his feet on the ice while navigating the tricky forces of gravity.
I’d been ice skating a couple times before, when I lived in Sydney, and I knew from experience that it was difficult. I spent my teen years roller skating at ridiculously high speeds so I figured I had a leg up in getting the hang of it and still I sucked. So I couldn’t imagine how DJ was going to manage staying upright on the ice when he could barely do it on solid ground.
We strapped on our skates and made our way to the ice. As he stepped out onto the ice, naturally, his feet shot out from under him. But he was hanging onto the side and didn’t land on his arse. For the next 20 minutes he pulled himself around along the wall while his feet madly scrabbled for purchase beneath him. It would have been comical if it weren’t so tense.
An instructor glided out gracefully and gave the group a brief lesson, which, in my view, did very little by way of instructing the children. Then left them to it.
I was trying to find my own balance, while, at the same time, making sure I was on hand to catch DJ when he fell. Which he did a couple times, but I caught him before he hit the ice and we managed to both stay upright. We made our way to the edge and both of us pulled ourselves around the edge, hanging onto the wall the entire way.
Then it was time for cake and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. So far so good! No head injuries, blood, or severed digits. In fact, barely even a bruised behind.
Then after cake, it was back onto the ice. I offered the option of no more skating and DJ considered it before deciding he wanted to give it another go.
DJ made his way onto the ice and I held my breath as I skated nearby and tried valiantly to mutter encouraging words. I was waiting for that moment when he would fall and I wouldn’t be quick enough to catch him. I couldn’t think of anything else. Couldn’t look anywhere else. Just focused on him as he unsteadily stumbled and scrambled his way along, inch by inch.
Then something amazing happened. He reached out his hand to me and let go of the wall. And he didn’t fall over! We edged forward, standing on our own two (four) skates. We made our way, very slowly, one skate in front of the other, around the rink. With every passing minute his confidence grew and with that his successes increased! See for yourself in the video:
I was stunned. And amazed. And impressed.
His determination to skate, his ‘stick-at-it-ness’ dominated his physical limitations. His will was stronger than his (perceived) weaknesses.
If I had given into my fears I would have not let him go skating at all. Sure, he would have been safe. But what message would that have taught him? Keeping him home would have robbed him of the fun of interacting with his classmates at a party. And more importantly I would have taken away a huge learning opportunity for him, which was the opportunity for him to see that effort is rewarded with success. Also, equally as important if not more so, he learned to conquer his fears, learned to see that being afraid of something is no reason not to try it. And if he had given into his own fears he would not have succeeded at ice skating.
And of course, the lesson I learned was that my son is perhaps not as klutzy as I think he is! That his physical development has moved beyond that level of deficiency. And that he is very determined!
On top of that, it really was a lot of fun!