Lessons Learned at the Roller Rink

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My first-born recently started kindergarten. Her school does what is called a “staggered start,” meaning that she only attended one day of the first week. That also meant that she got to have one day with just Mom (and Grandma, who was visiting from out of town) while Little Sister was in preschool.

I wanted to make it a special day for her–and for myself since starting kindergarten is an emotional event for moms, too–so I decided to take her roller skating. She has been asking to go ever since she first skated at my birthday party a couple of years ago (because yes, I threw myself a grown-up skating party… no big deal).

I love to roller skate and even skated with Memphis Roller Derby for a season prior to having kids, so I have been eager to take her again. This special day presented itself as the perfect opportunity.

The first time my daughter skated, I was prepared for her to be hugging the wall and/or falling down most of the time. But she did great, and after one time around the rink told me she didn’t need me to hold her hand anymore. So that was the kind of confident skater I was expecting this time around. 

I think my daughter was expecting it to be like that as well, forgetting that moving around with four wheels strapped to your feet can be pretty challenging. She slipped, she slid, and she fell. A lot. She also got very discouraged.

I tried to be encouraging in a gentle way. I didn’t push her, but I did remind her that the more she practiced, the better she would get–just like riding a bike and doing the monkey bars, two relatively new skills for her.

But I was getting discouraged, too. I was worried that our special day was turning into a disappointing one. My daughter was pouting and sitting off to the side when our angel on wheels rolled up. A little girl–who was also about to start kindergarten–paused from whizzing around the rink to check on my daughter.

She had noticed my daughter struggling and decided to offer her assistance. Magically, my daughter hopped up and began listening to her new friend. I just love the way kids can make friends so instantaneously, sometimes without even exchanging names first. I could see the confidence begin to return in my daughter as she slowly followed the little girl onto the floor.

 The little girl didn’t say anything different than I did, but my daughter responded in a much different way to her peer. Suddenly, she wasn’t afraid to fall or take it slow at first. She was ready to try again.

[Side note: This is why I’m not home-schooling my children.]

It was hard for me, but I remained on my perch off to the side as I watched my daughter slowly make her way around the rink with her new friend and then again on her own. I knew that she needed to be independent in order to learn. And I knew this was one lesson she was not going to learn from me. It was too easy for her to use me–literally–as a crutch. 

Perhaps I was feeling especially reflective as the advent of “real school” approached, but the experience was a good microcosm of things to come. I will always be there to support and encourage, teach and guide. But I also need to recognize when it’s time to step back and let my daughter go out on her own. Even with four wheels strapped to her feet.

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