Prior to starting lessons with the park district, my kids had been on the ice a grand total of once. We'd gone to a family skate and--even with the skating aids to hold onto--it had been a brief adventure with me trying to alternate holding each kid up. But there's only one of me and they wanted to go home. Now we're on our 3rd week of 30 minute lessons and I'm pleased to say we're quite proud of both their progress and attitudes about it.
Ice skating was something they picked. And they could be in the same class together, which is rare, as a 4 year old and a nearly-6 year old. Our attitude as parents was they could try it, see if they like it, but the rule would be no quitting. We warned them numerous times before signing up that...there's no way around this...it's going to be hard. It's going to be frustrating. It may hurt. It's difficult. Are you sure? That was really our greatest fear was that we'd be taking them home after one lesson.
Things didn't start well. We had a customer service issue with the rink about how their discount skate rental pass works--apparently, it requires money to be placed onto your park district account while we'd assumed we could purchase some sort of "punch pass." It's a case of technology actually making things more difficult if you ask us. But we were pleased to see the class levels were fairly organized about meeting locations and student lists. Day One started with a locker room meeting for the instructor to go over a few basics about standing up and such.
99% of the first lesson was each child falling in various poses. Sometimes hard. Sometimes soft. Sometimes comically. They marched. They pushed off the wall. They picked up objects from the ice. And the students all had smiles on their faces. About 5 minutes from the end, our oldest fell--hard--on his head right above his eyebrow. It was bleeding and he was crying and I felt lucky he hadn't smashed his glasses.
The instructor quickly helped him off the ice and got a cold pack for him to use. After a few words of encouragement about how well the lesson had gone in our eyes an amazing thing happened. He asked to go back out to finish the class! There wasn't much time left and really it was just him toppling over to the middle of the rink to get a sticker. But our initial concern for his head injury quickly was replaced by being proud of his perseverance.
This week, they both chose to wear helmets on their own. Their mom thought it was a little much, but I was happy to see the extra safety feature even if I hadn't wanted to be too nervous about not. By the end, she was glad they wore them. It was one less thing to worry about even if every fall does make me wonder when the inevitable broken bone will happen. My son left his glasses off the ice, too. My daughter had on leg warmers that helped with both comfort and blocking a few bruises.
He was able to do a simple obstacle course around cones this week. She was able to make it 1/4 of the way down the ice and back only falling once. The teacher still spends a lot of time picking children up and carrying them to the wall and needed a bonus instructor. But every kid in the class has already improved from their initial stumbles in only an hour of ice time.
As I told a mom standing next to us yesterday, learning to skate is going to make you look ridiculous and feel embarrassed. You don't want that as an adult. Do it now while you're young and it's cute and you can master the skills with a fairly flexible, injury-proof body. And, most of all, it gives you valuable life lessons about steady accomplishment via hard work in the face of opposition.