Last fall, I took Lily to Disney's Princesses on Ice, and ever since she's been begging to go skating. Well, with Husband *finally* done with his frequent, very long trips to the Great White Tundra, we decided to go to open skate at a local rink last weekend. Pete got to skate with Lily and I (lucky me) got to be on chase-Maya-around-the-arena-duty. As Pete and Lily sat down to put on their skates, he explained to her that it would be difficult to stand on the slim blades of her skates and that she'd have to learn to balance. It might be hard and you might fall down and that's okay, I told her, fully expecting a fall followed by a fit. Well, as soon as her helmet was on and her skates were velcro strapped to her feet, she stood up and started running around the lobby on those two freshly sharpened, shiny, silver blades. Pete and I looked at each other with Holy S*** eyes.
Her first trip around the rink she used what looked like a blue, plastic, kid-sized walker. She tried to balance holding the blue thing, push off on her toe picks, and stay on her feet while Pete was hunched over her, making sure she didn't completely bite it. It was slow going, for sure. When they finally turned the corner I figured there was a 50/50 chance she'd either be loving it or hating it. As soon as I saw her face I knew she was totally digging it. With each lap she got braver and braver, and by the end of the session (including a very messy Cheeto eating snack break) she progressed from barely being able to push the blue chair around to tearing away from Pete without holding anything at all. She found her balance.
Balance tends to be pretty elusive--especially when it comes to parenting. There is a thin line between holding our kids up and pushing them around the rink, or letting them race off on their own, knowing full well they could trip and take a serious beating on the completely unforgiving ice. I think the best thing we can do is give them a helmet. A tool to keep them safe, while still allowing them to go off and do it on their own. The helmet can be the skills to stand up for themselves if another kid snatches their Vanilla Milk at the lunch table, or to work it out if their Bestie won't take turns with her favorite Princess dress. Or it can be helping them to develop an authentic sense of self-esteem that isn't filled with meaningless praise (Wow, you are the best teeth brusher in the world!!). It can be allowing them to learn the natural consequences of their actions--like not wiping really really well leads to poopy stink-butt, or putting the empty blow up pool too close to the grill leads to a melted blow up pool (ooops, that was Husband, not the girls.) Balance is tough. Just when you think you've got it, you suddenly find yourself skidding across the ice on your stomach, hands scraped and frozen. But that's when you pick yourself up, brush off the frost, adjust your helmet, and push off on that toe pick yet again.