Family life

Learning to skate at 38

It was something she was afraid to do but, this weekend, Tracy stepped on the ice. Do you have a list of things you still plan to learn?

By Tracy Chappell
Learning to skate at 38

In a few weeks (or never), this will be me! (It's really Sasha Cohen; photo by Queen Yuna via Flickr.)

I don’t know if I ever told you exactly how I old I am, but there you go. Thirty-eight. I remember reading a quote along the lines of 'Why didn’t anyone tell me in my twenties how much better my thirties would be?'
For me, the 30s have been a bit of a blur. I got married and had babies and worked and bought a house and raised babies into young little ladies. I don’t mean that it’s been unfulfilling, just sort of all-consuming. When I think about me as a person, outside of a wife and mother, I think my 30s have taught me a lot about priorities and about valuing myself. When you have a family, other things do come first and I am cool with that, but I realize now how detrimental it is for all of us when my wants end up at the very end of the priority list — after clipping the girls’ toenails and re-organizing the filing cabinet.
I have a group of awesome women that have been my friends since high school. Most of us have kids around the same age (though one got started earlier). While together one weekend, one friend dubbed this year as our “Take it Back” year. We were discussing how we give so much of ourselves and put our wish lists on the back burner, so we needed to make a declaration that this year — as we sail into the big 4-0 next year — is a year to start lighting fire to some passions or filling spaces we feel are empty. For some of us, it’s about taking back our bodies, adopting healthier habits (or quitting bad ones), pushing out of our comfort zones, reconnecting with people from our past or making time for the things (and people) who make us feel good, or just making sure that what we want and what we do are a little more in sync. In the words of Elvis: 'A little less conversation, a little more action.' In the words of some other brilliant person: 'You ain’t getting any younger.'
This is a long preamble to tell you that this weekend, I got on ice skates for the first time in 20 years. I remember vividly the last time I laced up: I was 18 years old and had asked for a pair of skates for Christmas because I hadn’t skated in years. I was so nervous. As I took baby steps and wobbled to find some balance, my four-year-old nephew asked sweetly, “Want me to hold your hand?” as he skated circles around me. I didn’t, but I probably should have. I fell on my knee and hurt it badly. I had to limp off the ice and couldn’t walk on it for a couple of days. And that, my friends, was the end of my skating career.
Over the years, the skates were lost and I used that as my excuse not to embrace this particular sport. A few months ago, I got a pair of skates, but we spent so much time at the arena between Anna’s hockey twice a week and Avery’s skating class, that we didn’t attempt public skating as well. But I picked up the summer skating schedule, determined to conquer my fear of the ice this summer. (You may notice that I timed it perfectly so I never had to do those back-breaking parent-and-tot skating classes!)
Today, as we went to our first public skate as a foursome, the kids were so excited that I’d be on the ice. They sort of thought it was cute that I couldn’t skate and enjoyed the role reversal. I told Anna I was a little bit scared of falling and nervous to step on the ice. “You don’t have to be scared, Mommy,” she told me with an encouraging smile. “If you fall, all you do is get back up and try again. I’ll show you!” And she made me practice on solid ground. She was full of adorable “At least you’re trying!” notes of praise.
So I stepped out. Being on skates is such a scary sensation, all that wobbly uncertainty, all that hard, cold surface beneath you. I did a round holding onto the boards, nervously stepping around to pass the little kids doing the same. Then I found the courage to leave the boards. And I did it. I skated. I was stiff and nervous and slow, but I went around and around, feeling more and more confident unless someone (like Anna) whizzed by me or someone (like Anna) veered in front of me or someone (like Anna) wanted to hold my hand. By the end, I was even gliding a little bit.
“Mommy, you did really, super great!” Avery exclaimed as we came off the ice. And I did. I didn’t even fall once. I felt like I did when I started running — it was something I’d always said I just didn’t do. And now, it’s something I do. I told the girls that next time, we might even be able to hold hands.
Do you have a mental list of things you want to learn in your adulthood a skills bucket list of sorts? I’d love to hear it!

Photo by Queen Yuna via Flickr

This article was originally published on Jun 04, 2012

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