Sunday, January 15, 2006

falling down

“It’s all part of learning to skate,” I tell my daughter, who is begging now to end what she begged for weeks to begin. “Everybody falls down when they’re learning to skate.” She looks at me as if she is trying to determine if I am merely feeding her a line. To emphasize my point, I direct her gaze to three children sprawled out flat on the ice around us. She smiles, and we continue to advance around the outer wall.

I must admit, I am fairly nervous myself. Fifteen years since I’ve last been on skates—and while she is made out of rubber, I feel as if I am made out of porcelain. The last thing I need is a broken _______ (insert any breakable bone here). I do my own fair share of clinging to the wall until my ankles finally cooperate with my legs, which takes longer to accomplish than I’d like. But I am in no hurry—neither to let go nor to leave her side.

She is an oxymoron, my daughter. Fearless, yet timid. Bold, yet cautious. This adventure is clearly not what she bargained for. Her eyes are wide with concern as her feet refuse to obey her, landing her, again, on the cold, hard surface. She struggles like a cat trying to get out of the bathtub to regain her footing and put herself upright before asking, again, if we can go home now.

We have only been at it for a half of an hour. I am finally able to let go and allow my legs to support me for short periods of time. Hand in hand, I encourage her to continue, partially out of principle, partially because we shelled out cold, hard cash to make this little ice skating dream come true. I can see it in her eyes—she longs to go out in the middle, but she must let go of the wall to do so. She tries, and falls. Tries, and falls. It will take more time and practice. I know she can do it, but how hard and how long do I push?

We continue for almost another hour at our stop-start-stop-start pace around the rink, mopping up ice as we go. She perseveres, giving it an honest try, and I am immensely proud of her efforts. Her ankles gain strength and her confidence grows in small increments, but she is getting tired. And then, she finally hits a wall. Literally, and figuratively.

Face down on the ice, she begins to sob. “I want to be done now, Momma!” she cries, a mixture of pain, embarrassment, and fatigue in her voice. I gather her into my arms, as several very maternal middle-school girls check to make sure she is okay. I reassure everyone, my daughter included, that she will be fine. I escort her to the exit gate, her dream, for the moment, forgotten.

There is a time for letting go of the wall. That time will not come today.

Today, it is time to go.

1 comment:

Krista Fox said...

Last year, I took Madeline, who would have been 6 at the time, ice skating for the first time. It was the SAME SCENE!!
It was a Girl Scout "event", and let me tell you, it was NOT FUN!
There wasn't a girl in there who wasn't either sobbing, falling, tense, hanging onto the wall, hanging onto another girl who SHOULDN'T BE hung onto, and they all were MISERABLE!
This year, Madeline's Girl Scout troop wised up and took them roller skating!!! MUCH BETTER!
Ice & hell... who would have thought?