Skating lessons….a rite of passage that so many children go through. A chance for them to master a skill, to learn about perseverance, to gain confidence. Oh yeah….and to have fun.
My son’s first experience on skates was surprisingly emotional for me. My heart was in my throat, my stomach was in knots. I felt like a kid again, trying something new for the first time, riddled with anxiety and fear. Of course, I kept these feelings under wraps.
I was fully aware that my own “shit” was rearing its ugly head, but I was determined to not allow my son to pick-up on these insecurities.
I gave an Oscar worthy performance of the care-free, confident, encouraging and enthusiastic mom. But on the inside I was terrified. My head pounded with negative thoughts; what if he can’t do it, what if he hates it?
As he stepped onto the ice, I swear, it felt as if my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I grabbed my husband’s arm and braced myself. I couldn’t take my eyes off of my son, but at the same time, I couldn’t bear to watch him struggle. Even though he was padded from head to toe, each fall felt painful for me. All I wanted to do was run onto the ice and protect him….protect him from hurting himself, protect him from getting discouraged, protect him from wanting to give up. I resisted this innate urge, I let go and I just watched. And what I saw amazed me.
It took a few lessons, but he finally got the hang of standing on the ice, with the help of that wonderful red training bar. Soon he started to take a few steps and then he started to skate. I silently celebrated each small accomplishment as I beamed with pride. He skated along with that red bar with all the confidence in the world. Until the day that the instructors took the red bar away….
The impatience and frustration that I had been anticipating finally emerged. My son turned into “that kid” as he screamed and protested, his body sprawled out on the ice. The security of the red bar was gone, along with my son’s confidence. The instructors tried relentlessly to engage my son but it was futile, he was completely shut down. He had given up. His sentiments felt so familiar to me. I truly sympathized with him.
As he got off the ice, his face covered in tears, he emphatically exclaimed that he no longer wanted to skate ever again.
I felt heartbroken, so disappointed that he had given up and devastated that perhaps he had inherited my debilitating self-doubt.
Luckily I married a man who is full of confidence and determination. He took my son’s tantrum at the arena as a challenge. That same afternoon, my husband and I took my son to our local skating rink. My husband was determined to spend however long it took to teach my son how to get up on his own, without the red bar. It took about 30 minutes, but he finally got it! I had never felt such pride in my entire life. This moment was terribly significant for me as I witnessed my son master a skill right before my eyes.
I admit, I was ready to give up and collude with my son’s frustration. But both my husband and my son taught me the true value of determination and perseverance and the impact these can have on one’s self-esteem.
This experience has taught me that my son NEEDS to stumble and get frustrated in order for him to grow and learn and thrive. And as hard as it is to watch him struggle, I know that my need to protect him has to take a back seat in order for his confidence to flourish. So now when he falls……he gets right back up!