My daughter, Layla (6), is obsessed with roller skating. She’s been dying to find “her thing.” Her cousins on both sides of the family are accomplished golfers and equestrians, and being the Type A, competitive sparkplug that she is, she’s been longing to find a way to make her mark on the world.
“Mommy, mommy, mommy. What’s my thing going to be?! Everrrrrrrrrybody has a thing!” No pressure, right?
So, yesterday I took her roller skating: the two of us out on the rink, rounding corners, skating backwards, holding hands and even “shooting the duck.” You roller skaters will fondly remember that move from 1989, which was—of course—much easier to do in 1989.
The rental skates were uglier than I remembered, but the rink hadn’t changed one bit: the shiny shellacked floor, the shag carpeting and the dusty, cheap prizes you “win” if you collect enough game tickets from the overpriced arcade all seemed to have been frozen in time. But we had fun. A lot of fun. It was a fascinating juxtaposition, feeling like a good mother while simultaneously escaping motherhood and acting like I was 14 years old again.
By the end of the “open session,” my thighs were killing me and I was so thrilled I hadn’t broken a finger, elbow or knee cap, that I was ready to take off my skates and call it a successful mother-daughter bonding event.
And then, they announced the races.
Layla burst onto the rink when they called her age group. Despite her extremely limited roller skating experience (this was only her third time), she had no fear. She enthusiastically took off, but was quickly passed by 90 percent of the pack.
She hobbled around with bent knees and a hunched back, but with the vigor of an Olympic champion. Just before reaching the finish line, she fell on all fours and the entire rink listened to the skin being scrapped of her precious little knees. (Note to self: bare knees when roller skating are a bad parenting move.)
She didn’t finish the race and she was devastated. I did my best to console her. This promptly reminded me that I was indeed not 14 years old anymore and that I was 100 percent Layla’s mother and 100 percent responsible for getting her to pull it together so we wouldn’t be politely asked to leave.
Once Layla was finally doing more breathing than screaming, I was ready to go. Enough skating. Enough tears. I needed a nap.
And then they announced the “12 and up” races. And this happened: Layla looked up at me with her red-stained, tear-filled face and said, “Mommy, why are you not doing the grown-up skate race?”
I looked out onto the rink and saw seven guys on the starting line, shaking their limbs in preparation for battle. Four of them looked like 16-year-old hybrids of Justin Bieber and professional hockey players. There were also three dads who were significantly less fit, but had their own skates. Which means a lot: it means they can skate.
So, I quickly shut down the conversation by acting “really busy” trying to get all of our stuff together and said, “Because they’re all guys and they’re really fast.”
To which Layla responded, “You would tell me to go do it, anyway.”
Oh man. A six-year-old using my own lessons and irrational arguments against me. I immediately had a flashback to three weeks earlier when I talked her (read: forced her) into staying on an all-boys soccer team. I think my words were: “Just because other girls didn’t join, doesn’t mean you get to quit.”
So I went. I joined the men, and I raced. I was humiliated as I squeezed my mom jeans into the lineup, insanely conscious of what everyone must have been thinking. And in that moment, I promised I’d never make Layla do anything she didn’t want to do. Ever again.
But as soon as the DJ yelled, “On your mark. Get set. Go!” from the shag carpet-covered booth, I took off and turned 14 years old again. It was only one lap around the rink, but it was exhilarating. I forgot I was a mom, I forgot how bad my thighs hurt, and I forgot I hand’t even want to race in the first place. I chased that shaggy-haired middle-schooler in front of me like my life depended on it.
I never caught him. I came in last place. But I didn’t care. It was so fun and so freeing.
And I wasn’t embarrassed: I was proud.
In the end, it was a fascinating experience to be on the receiving end of my own life lessons served up by my six-year-old child. And it turned out to be the right advice served up at exactly the right time.
And, in all honesty, I’m thankful Layla was wise enough to throw it back in my face.