I've never NOT known how to ice skate. Does that make sense?
When I was a young one, living out in the country, there were ALWAYS, and I do mean always, a pair of roller blades strapped to my feet. I heard it a thousand times- "Libbie, take your roller blades OFF before entering the house!" Yes, mother.
Our house had a fairly steep driveway in an "L" shape. It took me all summer, but one year I decided, I was going to skate the driveway. I'd start at the top, and little by little I'd go down the driveway on my 'blades until I was confident enough to ride the entire thing. When I was confident enough with the incline and the sharp bend in the driveway that I could execute it without falling, I went faster and faster. No fear.
Last night Andy was feeling sick and so I took Liam ice skating. Liam was beyond excited. When we got there, the older boys were playing hockey and he just stared at them. And then was scared when the buzzer went off. And then stared at them. He was enthralled. He had never seen anything like that before in his tiny life. So of course, he decided he was going to be awesome at it.
We got his skates. Size 11- too small. Size 12- perfect. I laced them as tight as I could. Popped a helmet on his head. Slipped some hockey gloves on his hands. He was ready.
Then he got on the ice and he wasn't so ready. "I'm falling! I'm not good at this! I want to go home!" I bent my body over his and held on to him under his arms from behind. "You've never done this before," I whispered. "You'll be good at it in a bit." After a few laps, I was sweaty and he was more confident. Not great, but more confident.
We rest at his request. "Let's do it again, mommy."
This time my sister grabbed him under the arms and together we held him up. Another lap. Another rest. "Come on mommy, let's do it again."
This time I held one of his hands and he held the wall. "Hold me up, mommy. I'm going to fall." You won't fall if you listen to my instructions, Liam. Keep going. Keep skating. Left foot. Right foot. Glide, baby, glide. There you go! You're doing it!
Rest. "Okay mommy, I'm ready. Let's do it!"
My friend took one of his hands, I took the other. Clip clop clip, glide, clip, clop, glide, stumble, glide. But we made it the full way around the rink. "Again, mommy, again."
Again we went around. "I can't" became "Look at me mommy!" He wasn't ready to let go of my hand, but he was ready to go around again and again. We got off the ice and took our skates off. He cried. We loaded into the car. He cried. "Mommy, I am sad you are taking me home. Can we come tomorrow?"
I got home exhausted. I foam rolled like mad so I wasn't sore the next day. (I was fine, actually. Hooray for the MS Fitness Challenge!) And I just sat back and enjoyed the memory I had just made with my little boy. It wasn't natural for him, but he wanted to learn. He was inspired and he felt safe enough with me to fail...and then try again. Like, isn't that what we're supposed to teach our kids? You can fall, but I'm here to catch you. You're not great at this yet, but let's learn together. I'll teach you.
I was looking at all the guys at the rink. Big buff dudes, skating fast and spraying ice. Ugh, thugs. Boy in the very center of the rink- ear buds in- spotted him wheeling in his own suitcase for his skates- spinning circles with his eyes closed- amazing. Eh, too complicated. Too much money invested. Spied some jocks along the wall. Too good for everyone. Girls swooning. Gag. No. Then along skated the most understated boy on the ice. Short and small in stature. Skating well enough to hold his own. Hand in the hand of the most adorable teenage girl- long braids, slouchy hat, smiles from ear to ear. Immediately I loved them.
"See that little girl and boy? That's why you need to learn to ice skate, dude."
Liam teaches me on a regular basis. He schools me on not giving up and pressing on and determination in all things. And then I'm like- wait. He's learning that from...me. I'm teaching him you're good enough and you're strong enough. And you need to not give up, no matter the adversity. He sees me getting up for the gym every day. He sees me slopping through the mud to get to the finish line. He's channeling that little girl who taught herself to roller blade down the driveway.
I worry that I won't be there for him when he's older. I worry that I'll be in a wheelchair before then. That I'll be sitting on the sidelines instead of running sprints with him. I worry that I'll be too tired to get up to take him to practice. I worry about all that stuff. But I shouldn't. Because he's learning all this stuff today- right now- at 3 years old. Do I care if he never learns to skate? Nah. But I'll take that determination in his little eyes all day long.