I thought I was doing a pretty good job at this mother/role model thing. I walk my daughter to school and back, take her to the park when it’s warm, laugh and dance around the house with her, and in the summer we go swimming at the local pool. We’re active, we’re happy, and so I told myself I had done as much as I needed to.
Until a few weeks ago when we went to the skating rink, and I found myself standing there watching her skate with my husband, while other moms were out there having fun with their kids. I looked at them wistfully. It seemed effortless. Why was I watching from the sidelines? Why wasn’t I out there, too?
I tried to shake it off. You do so much with her, I rationalized. Why can’t this be something she does with her dad? But the feeling nagged at me.
This wasn’t the first moment where I let my fear of embarrassment get in the way of doing a sport with my daughter and she had started to notice. Worse than pestering me about it, she had just accepted it. “That’s ok, Mom,” she’d said innocently, of things like teaching her to bike, play soccer, throw, even something as ordinary as tetherball, “daddy is just better at those things”.
I watched my daughter, smiling and waving from the ice. It had taken her some time to get confident; there had been many, many falls, and tears and “I can’ts”, but now she was gliding by me, clearly so proud, and I knew it was time to get over my fear and lace up.
More than just being scared, I clearly remembered I didn’t like skating as a kid, or I should probably say I didn’t like the humiliation of falling on my butt over and over.
But our school’s family skate night was coming up soon, which gave me a goal: I was going to be there, not just for my daughter, but for myself.
Before I could change my mind, I pitched it as a story idea; writers will do just about anything for a byline, and once it was approved, I went for it. I hired a private instructor, bought the equipment, including a helmet with face cage, and got ready for my first lesson.
Trembling with nerves, wobbly and unsure, I took my first tentative steps, and a funny thing happened — the world didn’t explode. By the end of the session, I had done more than just walk on the ice, and I was ecstatic.
When I was able to get myself up from falling on the ice without holding on to my instructor Alla’s hand, I couldn’t stop smiling. “I did it, I did it,” I kept saying. That smile stayed on my face for the rest of the day and into night. I could hardly wait to get out on the ice for my next lesson.
Four lessons later, it was suddenly skate night at my daughter’s school. It had been sooner than I realized, but my daughter was proud and excited, telling everyone Mommy had learned to skate. There was no backing out now.
If this happened in a movie, the mother would be skating like a champion, doing crazy eights and pirouettes and dazzling everyone.
But this is real life. I was far from perfect, I didn’t go very fast, and I stopped a couple of times to steady myself, but I was on the ice, alongside my husband and daughter, and it was amazing.
Two days later, still feeling triumphant, I overheard my daughter talking to her friends: “I’m scared to learn how to ski, but if Mommy can learn to skate, I guess I can try.”
Yeah, that’s better than mastering a figure 8 any day — but you better believe I’m still going to try. And after I’ve conquered skating, who knows? Rock climbing, anyone?