I love to watch figure skating. I did a bit of it in my youth, and while I was never good enough at it to be considered a contender to even warm a team’s bench, I was good enough at it that I felt like a gold medalist–rare enough in my life. In my mind, I am a great figure skater. In reality, I stay upright, can go pretty fast in a circle, can skate backwards, and make a tiny spin, but my signature move looks like this:
The big smile is included in my move because I am always just so happy to be on ice, or the wood of a roller skating rink. I really love skating.
Recently, Thor and I have started going to roller skate at a rink nearby. We’re both loving it. It turns out, I’m still able to stay upright, can still go pretty fast, skate backwards, and manage a spin. Thor is just getting his wheels under him, and because he hates to look foolish, he’s been taking his development on the chin.
“I fall down too much!” He exclaimed.
“Know what I saw?” I asked.
“I saw you get up a lot.”
He thought about that, then said, “You’re better at it than I am.”
That has to be a bitter pill! In general, since he could walk, he’s been more coordinated than I am, so for me to be honest-to-goodness better at something because of skill, and not because of age and length of leg is a stunner. So, I explained for how long I’ve been skating, and how it was something I did for a few hours a day, every day of my life for many, many years. He considered that, then asked to go back and try again. Off he went.
The next time we went to the rink, we were meeting up with a friend of mine and her son. Thor asked, all worry, “Is the other boy really good at skating?”
I said, “I don’t know. But if he is, you should definitely make friends with him, and ask him to show you. Always make friends with people who are better at things than you are, and learn from them.”
Those two lessons, the one about paying more attention to the number of times you get up, and choosing friendship over feeling bitterness and inferiority are two lessons my mother taught me. I’m talking about how she did that in my Listen To Your Mother Austin piece.
I’ve been practicing reading it aloud, and trying not to choke up on emotion at certain passages–you know, so people can understand what I’m saying, and it doesn’t just sound like underwater blubbing. So I don’t embarrass myself with a big, grateful, ugly cry. It’s a lot like figure skating. I’ve got the staying upright, the going really fast in a smooth circle, whipping around backwards, and doing a little spin down, but then I gear up for that Triple Salchow, Triple Toe Loop combination and my insides go to water.
If I nail my jumps by making it through the passages without too many tears, it’s going to look like this:
If I don’t, it’s also going to look like that. You know why? Because missing a jump means you tried a jump, and trying is the only way to succeed in the first place.
Thanks for teaching me that, Mom.
I may not always (or ever, when it comes to a sport) win, but I always try, and I always find a way to have fun. That’s the kind of life I want for my boy.