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LIFE ... WITHOUT BUMPER PADS

Facing fears one skate at a time

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.

My oldest son bounded into the house with breathless excitement, threw his backpack on the counter and looked at me earnestly.

“Mom, there's a skating party,” he told me. “I just have to go!”

I suppressed a chuckle and nodded.

“Sounds like a plan,” I told him. “When is it?”

“Tonight!” he exclaimed.

I closed my eyes in consternation. I wasn't sure how I had missed this information up until this point, but with the breakneck speed of our lives, it didn't surprise me. Then I looked down at the exuberant little face in front of me and smiled.

“OK,” I told him. “We'll make it happen.”

Before I knew it, I was paying for admission as my son bounced with excitement next to me. We walked side-by-side through the door, and entered a parallel universe that was all bright lights and big sounds. We paused in unison and tried to take it all in. Skating, snacks, arcade games, friends … my son was in nirvana.

I, however, had a slightly different reaction. As I watched the people circling the rink, the memory of my last skating party came back for a visit. It was admittedly a few decades ago — and had ended with me having knee surgery. It wasn't exactly a scenario I wished to relive. I inadvertently shivered.

As if on cue, my son looked up at me.

“Are you going to skate Mom?”

My eyes darted around, and I was relieved to see that most of the other moms were warming the bench. Seemed perfectly reasonable that I should do the same.

“Can I sit here and watch you?” I asked him.

He shrugged.

“I think I just want to play video games first anyway,” he replied.

I couldn't help it — I was relieved. I happily pushed a $5 bill into the token machine and watched my son's delighted face as coins poured out like he had hit the jackpot. We spent the next hour as truck drivers, astronauts, dancers and basketball stars. We talked with friends and ate junk food. We were having a fantastic time together.

And then my son pointed out one major omission.

“I haven't skated,” he said hesitantly.

One look at him told me what he was thinking — he was afraid. There was a big part of me that wanted to tell him there was nothing to fear; but even as I wanted to offer him that reassurance, the only thing I could see was my own skating party injury. It had been a fluke, and an extreme circumstance, but my knee had never been the same.

I took a breath and looked out at the skating children. I had a choice to make. I could give in to fear and prevent my son from having this experience; or I could reassure him and let him go.

So, I asked him one simple question.

“Do you want to skate?”

He watched the other kids carefully, and I could see him deliberating. Finally, he turned to me.

“No, I don't think I do,” he said.

I nodded, knowing he truly wasn't ready — and when he was, he would tell me.

After a few more games, my sleepy boy was ready to go home. He was quiet in the car, and I could tell he was reflecting on the evening.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Next time, I think I want to skate,” he said.

“Sounds good,” I responded, winking in the rearview mirror.

“Will you skate with me?” he asked.

I remembered my earlier thought process and smiled.

“Yes,” I told him. “I think I will.”

And I was rewarded with a giant grin.

This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. Jill Adams blogs at http://lifewithoutbumperpads.blogspot.com.