Skating on thin wood

The Review - - Opinion - Mike Todd Just Hu­mor Me You can roll your own sushi with Mike Todd at mikec­todd@gmail.com.

“I’mgo­ing to be the only one there who can’t do it!” our son Evan said with fear in his eyes, hold­ing the in­vi­ta­tion to the roller skating birth­day party in his hands.

As par­ents, you try to prepare your kids for what­ever life may throw their way, but we hon­estly didn’t re­al­ize that one of life’s pro­jec­tiles would be a shoe with wheels at­tached to it. Maybe we should have seen this com­ing and done more to prepare our kids, but we also haven’t taught themhow to joust, or use a phone book, or en­gage in civil po­lit­i­cal dis­course. There are some things peo­ple just don’t do any­more.

When I was a kid, go­ing to the roller rink was a pretty com­mon ac­tiv­ity be­cause iPads hadn’t been in­vented yet and our par­ents didn’t know what else to do with us.

“Here, try to stand up with th­ese things strapped to your feet. That oughtta keep you oc­cu­pied for a while,” they’d say. Then the par­ents would stand around and talk to each other be­cause iPhones hadn’t been in­vented yet, ei­ther.

About a year ago, on a lark, we took our sons to a roller rink, but nei­ther kid was too jazzed about it. They did a cou­ple of laps push­ing around a train­ing de­vice that was ba­si­cally a sawhorse on wheels, wear­ing ex­pres­sions on their faces that said, “Is this ac­tiv­ity meant to be fun? I thought you guys said we were com­ing here to do some­thing en­joy­able.” But this par­ty­was a rare op­por­tu­nity for Evan to see his friend Katie, the skating birth­day girl, who moved to an­other school ear­lier this year. “Buddy, if it’s stress­ing you out, we can call Katie’s mom and can­cel. You don’t have to go,” I said three days prior to the party. “I never get to see her any­more! I do have to go! But what am I go­ing to do about not know­ing how to skate?” Evan replied. And so my wife Kara and I found our­selves at the mall (motto: “When you waited so long that Ama­zon Prime isn’t quick enough, we’ll prob­a­bly still be here”) over our lunch­break the fol­low­ing day, pur­chas­ing the only pair of roller blades avail­able in Evan’s size. That evening, with less than 48 hours un­til the party, I blew the leaves off the drive­way, and Evan buck­led the skates to his feet. “What do I do now?” he asked. “Let’swatch that YouTube video again,” I replied. There’s noth­ing you can’t learn to do on YouTube. Carve a tree into a bear with a chain­saw. Roll your own sushi. Play the harp­si­chord. We could all learn so many use­ful skills there, if we weren’t us­ing it to watch the “Des­pac­ito” video in­stead. “How do you stop?” Evan asked. The video didn’t cover that. Kara shrugged. “You steer into a wall,” I said. “Re­ally?” Evan asked. “Al­ways worked for me,” I replied. Evan spent the next hour find­ing cre­ative ways to fall over in the drive­way and then hop­ping right back up, de­ter­mined to learn. “You got it, buddy, you got it!” Kara and I cheered as he fig­ured out the mo­tion to pro­pel him­self for­ward. His smile couldn’t have been any big­ger. At the party, we hov­ered from the back, just a lit­tle, to make sure ev­ery­thing was go­ing OK. As Evan cir­cled the rink with the other kids, all of them look­ing like fawns who were fig­ur­ing out how to use their legs on a frozen pond, none of our smiles could have been any big­ger. ara and I high-fived each other, feel­ing like we’d won at par­ent­ing, at least this round. Gotta rack up our vic­to­ries be­fore we have teenagers in the house.

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