Are you in for a treat, folks. Because my planned activity for the week had to be postponed, I invited my sister-in-law Kritter to write a guest post about her traumatic experience venturing out of her comfort zone so we could all laugh at her. I’m so glad she agreed to do it – it’s even funnier in writing than it was when she told me the story in person. And sad. But mostly funny. Take it away, Kritter:
This is a little story I like to call “The Fateful Day I Entered a Roller Skating Race, Despite the Fact That I Hadn’t Been On Wheels in 15 Years, Because I Thought It Would Teach My Son a Lesson About How It’s Good to Get Out There and Try Even When You Know You’re Not the Best… (And It Ended Very Badly).”
This is a story that, when I tell it, people ask me, “Are you crying because you’re laughing so hard, or are you crying because it’s so sad?”
This is the story that I told Kristen about a month before she started this blog, and her reply was, “See? That’s exactly why I don’t try things.”
Here’s what happened.
One day, when I was in the midst of a hard time—and not just a regular hard time, but a really hard time where my dad had just died & we lived in a new city & I didn’t feel like doing anything at all except laying in bed and watching Netflix—we were invited to a school fundraiser at the roller skating rink. I went just to get my kids out of the house, but on a whim, I entered the parents’ race. I didn’t do it because I had any kind of skating skill (like I said, I hadn’t been to a rink in a really long time) but because when the kids’ races started, I watched how my 8 year old stuck to the sidelines instead of joining in, and I realized that my own stick-in-the-mud behavior probably played a big role in his refusal to even try.
And so, fueled by mother guilt, I approached the starting line with about ten other parents, as the rest of the crowd moved to the sidelines to watch us race. I was a bit startled to realize that even without my kids hanging on my arms, I felt wobblier on the rink than I expected. I wasn’t too worried though. I had known I wouldn’t be fast, but I felt confident that when my son saw me finish my two laps, even if they were just slow and steady, my example might prick a bit of his own sense of adventure…or grit… or resilience…or what have you. In that moment, I was kind of proud of myself—I was taking a small but pretty bold move out of my comfort zone for all my family and a couple hundred other people to see, and it was going to be a positive experience.
The referee said go, and I was immediately passed by all the other moms and dads. No biggie, I really didn’t care. But I decided for the sake of my pride that I needed to pick up a little speed. It was just a few seconds in, on the very first turn, that something a lot like this happened:
At which point two of the dads zipped past me, already on their 2nd lap. Wow… some people took their roller skating races seriously! “Oh well,” I thought, and with an embarrassed laugh, I stood up immediately. Sure I felt awkward, but this was a lesson in resilience, right? Think of what my kids were going to learn when they saw me jump right back into the race. And jump right back into the race I did… just long enough to cover three more feet of ground before something a lot like this happened:
Then, while I sat startled on my butt, still just half-a-rink away from the starting line, I was lapped by every other single person in the race, all of whom were now just half-a-rink away from the finish line.
At this point any thought of teaching my children any kind of lesson about anything fled my mind. This was going so much worse than I had imagined. All I wanted to do was get to the exit and blend back into the crowd as quickly as possible. Slowly, carefully, I planted both skates firmly on the ground and gently pushed myself upright. In one horribly awkward but surprisingly fluid movement I went from something like this:
to precisely this:
Now at this point in the story, it would have been a great dramatic climax if there had been blood, or broken bones, or if I found out someone had been filming the whole thing and it turned into a viral video. Nothing like that happened.
What did happen was that when I dared to pull myself up to standing once again, I came face to face with a group of sweet 10 year-old girls who had watched the whole thing go down. “You can do it! Don’t give up!” they cheered. While I was touched by their compassion, I was mostly just horrified to realize I was the object of children’s pity. Sigh… this was more than I could bear. Holding onto the wall to avoid another public fall (which at this point was sure to lead to public crying), I began my scoot toward the exit where my family was waiting, about 20 feet away.
Now that it was clear I was not going to finish the race, other skaters started making their way back out onto the rink. That’s when the announcer started calling racers to the DJ booth to receive their prizes.
First it was, “Winners come claim your prizes!”
Then “All finishers come claim your prizes!”
I kept scooting. I wasn’t even a finisher… I was getting out of there!
But then the DJ persisted, “All participants in the parents’ race, please come claim your prize at the DJ booth… If you skated –at all- in the parents race, please come claim your prize.” Yeah, he was definitely talking about me…I had now garnered the pity of even the teenage skate rink DJ. Luckily, it was at this point that I finally made it to the exit where my family was waiting.
My 8 year-old son squeezed my hand. “You did good, Mom. You should go get your prize.” Oh boy, kid. Not a chance. “Nah, I don’t want it,” I replied. I knew he could tell I was embarrassed, but I tried to smile it off. Ugh, this was the exact opposite of the lesson I had set out to teach my sweet boy! I had to get back in the saddle! I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and reached for his hand. “Come on,” I said. “Let’s skate one more lap together before we go home.”
As we walked back toward the rink I heard the DJ make one more plea for every last race participant to head over to the booth for a prize. What was this guy’s deal? He would not let it go. We were really only ten feet away from the booth but after my racing spectacle, I was not going to do anything to draw any kind of attention to myself tonight.
Hand in hand, my son and I entered the rink.
And then the last bad thing happened.
It’s kind of a poetic irony really, that we had skated into a crowd right in front of the DJ booth (where I was not going to claim my prize) when my son, with all the power of his 45 pounds, suddenly toppled and yanked my arm so hard that I crashed directly on top of him.
There was no blood, no broken bones, but my knee had landed a crushing blow to his skinny little thigh. As I pushed myself up and cowered over him, he clutched his bruised leg and wailed. “I WANT TO GO HOME!” “Me too,” I sighed. And we did, immediately.
If I could send a letter back in time to myself on that day, here’s what I would say.
Dear Me a Year and a Half Ago,
So, tough night at the rink, huh? I can’t believe you entered a roller skating race, you nut! What were you thinking?! It makes a pretty funny story later though, and honestly I kind of admire your chutzpah even thinking that was a good idea. Sorry you’re going through such a tough time, though… and I know this really didn’t help.
But guess what? I think you should milk those staying-in-bed-watching-Netflix days a little bit longer while you can still get away with it. Because it won’t be too long before you’ll start feeling like you actually want to do things again. Nothing involving wheels though! Playing the piano, knitting socks… those are more your thing. You actually will take your family back to that roller skating rink eventually, but this time NOBODY will enter any races, and you will have no regrets about that at all.
Oh, and I think you’re going to like this part! Guess what that 8 year-old boy is going to want for his birthday when he turns 9…
And you know what? When he falls down, he gets back up every time.
Hang in there. It’s going to be ok!