Remember roller skating? Perhaps those of us parents-aged will recall spending various summers atop eight wheels, outfitted with sparkly helmets and cumbersome elbow pads. It was a great way to spend the warm days once we mastered the art -- and science -- of staying up.
I spent a lot of time on my bottom, both indoors at the skating rink and outside on our street, before I mastered the ability of sailing through the air effortlessly. Our children, however, may not even know what roller skating is. To them it might be altogether obsolete, like something they'd read about at a museum concerning things people used to do for fun before electronics took over our lives. There is something about roller skating that is easy, simple, and a little safer, something that appeals to adults and should appeal to their kids, too. For one thing, roller skating is something we can do together. Doing something together is not only fun (and allows parents to keep a safe eye on their children), it's also especially important for the smaller children who are doing things for the first time. From a little kid's point of view, if it's safe enough for Mommy to do, it's OK for the little one to try it.
Before we head out, however, to the roller rink or the driveway, it's important to be properly outfitted. Roller skating is a physical challenge, after all, and the best way to successfully take on a challenge is to start out with the right gear. Gearing up is fun, and it's also an opportunity for those with fashion sense to apply it to safety. Seriously? Kids love being able to pick out their own helmets, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist pads, which, these days, thanks to rollerblading and other trendy sports, come in every shape, size and color you can imagine. Oh, and if you're asking yourself about all the equipment, mainly because you got away without using some or any of it when you were a kid and you remained intact? Well, you need it. Sure it's a little expensive at the outset, but you'll thank yourself later when your wee one does a face plant onto the asphalt...for the seventeenth time. See, the thing about rollerskating is that it's actually kinda hard. Once you've mastered roller blading and ice skating and whatever X Game-themed sports challenge becomes the thing to do for the summer, roller skating can seem like peanuts, but to someone lacing up their skates for the first time, it can be really tough -- especially wearing all that padding!
So what's the best thing to do once you and your kid are all geared up and ready to go? Several things come to mind. First, do it together -- hold hands, just like you would hold the back of your child's bike the first few times he or she took off the training wheels. Move forward together, walking at first, left foot, then right foot, then left foot again. Really, even before that your child should learn to be comfortable just standing in the skates. It can be scary to know that the floor could move out from under you without much of your control, so some children do best using their first effort to simply stand up on the skates. Many a time have we seen kids sitting on the bench at the roller rink get up and then sit down, then get up, then sit down. The other thing that comes to mind besides doing things together is to do them slowly. Practice and patience are paramount to being successful with any physical activity, especially on that requires balance. Rather than pushing off and spinning out on control into the center of the roller rink, why not stick to the sides and work your child's way around the strobe-lit circle? It's slow but it's also easy, and, after a few rounds -- or twenty -- your child may have the confidence to go a few rounds alone. And, really, confidence is the only thing other than patience and practice a kid needs to master something. Confidence isn't something that comes naturally to many people, child or adult. But patience and practice, which we can do, will lead to confidence. And, being able to make it around the rink just once -- just one time -- can give a child all the confidence necessary to keep trying, and to make it around a second time, and a third, and so on without falling.
It should be made clear, however, that we all make mistakes and cannot be perfect every time around the rink. I've seen experienced kids and adults fall while wearing rollerskates. It happens. Kids should know this and be told that it's OK. Everyone has setbacks and your child will too. Falls just need to be taken into stride like anything else. What happens, after all, when we move our roller skating out of the roller rink, which has a safety wall around it, to the driveway, which has nothing to grab onto but the pavement? Even a kid who's mastered the indoors can be a little standoff-ish when it comes to hitting the road. The road isn't smooth like the shiny glazed wood at the roller rink. It's bumpy. And there could be cars, bikes and pedestrians popping up at any minute. For someone who only recently mastered being able to roll herself around, the outdoors can be downright scary.
Just remember the two main things and all will be well. Do it together, and take it slowly. It's really best if there are two adults on hand for rollerskating outdoors: one to hold the hand or serve as guide for the child, and one as an additional set of eyes to identify vehicles or people headed in your direction. Truly, a child might just be more comfortable skating indoors. After all, the scariest things in the roller rink are generally bad disco music and neon strobe lights. Remember, too, that for both parent and child there will come a day when those roller skates end up at a yard sale or passed on to some other lucky kid. The rollerblading, snowboarding, and electronic games will take over at some point when your child (gasp!) grows up. And they'll do it right out from under you. So why not enjoy the simple -- if a bit nostalgic and old-timey -- pleasures of an activity like roller skating? It'll give your child the confidence to try the new things that will mold him into the grown-up version of himself he wants to be someday and gives mom and dad the chance to lace up again. Just make sure you wear a helmet this time! And your elbow pads. And your knee pads and your wrist pads. And maybe a mouth guard. (Just kidding.)
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