Friday, March 23, 2012

Skateboarding (Day One)

The first time Holly brought it up, I suspected it might also be the only time she’d bring it up. “Mommy, you know how you always want me to try more outdoor activities and sports. Well, I want to try skateboarding.”

I assumed it was something she’d seen on TV or heard a friend talking about. It was mid-February and we were in the midst of the very small window every year when I’m actually not looking for more ways to spend time outdoors with the kids. So I pretty much brushed it off.

But she brought it up again – every week or two, it seemed, throughout the winter. She wasn’t pestering or whining or pleading; she was just confirming that this was something she wanted to try.

No one in our family skateboards and I couldn’t think of any of her peers whom I’d ever seen skateboard. I didn’t know where to begin as far as equipment and instruction. Is it something you just pick up instinctively, like riding a bike? Or is it more like skiing, where a few lessons to teach you the basics can really make the difference between ongoing success and a dead end?

This past Tuesday, a warm sunny day in the midst of what felt like a March heat wave, I ran into my friend Patricia up at school. As we chatted, I remembered that her sons have done a little skateboarding in the past. “How did you get them started?” I asked her. “How did you know where to begin?”

Patricia solved it easily. “Anthony is home right now and doesn’t have any homework,” she said. “Bring Holly over and he can show her a few things.”

Anthony, my friend’s 12-year-old, was waiting on the front porch for us when we arrived, after a brief detour home to get socks, sneakers and Holly’s bike helmet. He offered Holly one of his many outgrown skateboards to use and started immediately with rudimentary steps. “To get started, you just do a double push-off and then glide,” he showed her as we stood in their driveway.

On the drive to their house, I’d wondered what would happen at this point. When I was her age, I went through a phrase of fascination with motorcycles. I insisted I loved motorcycles and wanted nothing so much as to ride a motorcycle. Then one day my father brought me over to his mechanic's house. The mechanic was waiting on his bike. His wife brought out a helmet for me. I was speechless. I never meant to be taken seriously. But the wheels were in motion, both literally and figuratively, so I hopped on the motorcycle, reached around the man’s waist as best I could, and off we went for a spin around the block. It was a thrill, but scary also, doing something I’d never really intended to make a reality.

I wondered if Holly might be equally flummoxed when faced with the reality of a skateboard, but she wasn’t. She copied Anthony’s form, and the skateboard glided in a short, neat line as she balanced atop it. She turned to him for the next instruction.

Patricia and I did the most sensible thing we could at that point: we told the kids we’d be on the porch and we moved out of their line of vision. Curious as I was about what would transpire, I knew that standing there watching Holly’s skateboarding lesson would be helpful to absolutely no one.

Sitting on the porch sipping seltzer, we heard no shouts or tears or anything much at all until Anthony trotted around the side of the house after 45 minutes and said “Holly is ready to show you the three things she learned today.”

Holly double-pushed, glided….and toppled off the skateboard onto the pavement. Immediately she stood up and didn’t even dignify her new scrape with a glance. Back onto the skateboard for another double-push and glide, this one successfully defying gravity. Then a tiny turn, then a stop.

We told Anthony we’d come back next week if he’d do another lesson. He instructed Holly to wear pants instead of shorts next time for better skin protection and then said she could borrow the skateboard for practicing. As soon as we got home, she found the flattest part of our driveway and went out to work on her newfound skills.

It may be the beginning of a new passion, the very first sport she’s taken an interest in doing. It may be a passing phase, or it may be a curiosity satisfied in just one lesson, like me with motorcycling. But today she was back out on the driveway practicing again. Push, push, and glide. She’s on her way.

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