Recently, I found myself flying down a hill on a skateboard at Boom Island Park, only slightly on this side of being under control. And for those of you who are familiar with that park, I feel you scratching your head as you ask yourself, “Are there hills there? I remember it being pretty flat…” Let me assure you, yes, there are hills. Because when you are closer to 40 than not and suddenly on top of a small board with very well-oiled wheels beneath, the smallest grade might as well be Everest, with every crack and pebble on the path seemingly jumping out at you. But I digress.
It was a warm evening with the sun streaming down on my back, making the breeze on my face feel like a welcome relief as I was profusely sweating through my concentration on not falling. Half from heat, half from fear bordering on terror.
But as I gently shifted my body to glide around a slight bend in the road while nearing the bottom of the path, I heard my son give a whoop of triumph as he began gaining on me from behind on his own skateboard, and I relaxed into a smile. With a quick giggle and a smirk, he cruised by me with ease and raised his arms in victory as he won our race. A moment later as I came to a somewhat graceless stop, he gave me a high five and yelled, “Great job, Mom! You didn’t even fall this time. Let’s do it again!”
And THAT is why I have picked up skateboarding as I near middle age. For my kid. Isn’t that what we do as moms from the moment we find out we are bringing a child into our families? We may take a moment or two to celebrate the impending joy of a new life in our midst be it through conception or adoption, but then we begin the lifelong process of paving the way for them, connecting with them, loving them, and supporting them in every iteration that may take.
For the initial years of my son’s life, I was able to be much more passive in his activities. I’m not a mommy-and-me class type of person. I applaud the moms who are, but I also fully accept that that is not my jam. So for years, I enrolled him in all sorts of activities where I could allow other teachers to come alongside of him to teach him swimming, gymnastics, piano, horseback riding… while I cheered him on from the sidelines, or more likely, read a book while sipping my coffee.
But as he has gotten older, he wants to do things WITH me. He is eager for connection. So when he asked if I would learn to skateboard with him, I immediately said YES as I pushed aside my worry about broken limbs and faces.
So for now, I’m a skateboarder. Am I good at it? Absolutely not. Will I be dropping into a half pipe any time soon? Please God, no. But right now, my buddy isn’t asking me to be the best and he is blind to my discomfort with our hobby. What he sees is his mom “fearlessly” trying and falling and getting back up all while in pursuit of something HE is interested in conquering.
When we both started, we were awkward and uncomfortable. But we persevered. Leading by example, I was able to show him that when you get frustrated and want to ditch to go play on the playground, if you just keep trying a few more times, it will click. Sure enough, before we both knew it, we were able to cruise around the paths at the park laughing and racing, or rolling slow as we discuss the latest level he unlocked in Marvel Universe on his PS4.
Time and again of late, I am struck with the importance of these experiences and moments with my sweet spirited boy. I’ve come to realize it’s so incredibly essential that I lay the groundwork of trust and acceptance and connection NOW when all he wants to focus on are small things (like skateboarding and video games and fart jokes) so that when life inevitably happens… when his heart gets broken… when he makes a big mistake… when he feels hopeless… he knows I am safe and will listen. He knows I will face his fears with him. He knows he can talk to me. Because I’ve already shown him I’ll come alongside him.
But if he picks up BASE jumping, I’m out.