Ice, ice baby

Lily had her first ice skating lesson on Sunday, and I had no idea how it was going to go.

We signed her up after Joe took her to an open skate session one time this past winter. At that point, Lily was experiencing some serious cabin fever, and it was ugly outside – so we were scrambling to find a way for her to burn off some coke-addict-like energy.

She and Joe went in the early evening, as I was preparing to put Neve to bed, and when they returned, Joe said she’d had a ball, and that once they’d rented a walker-like device for her, she was speeding around the rink like water-bug.

So after her art class concluded, we looked into an ice skating class and signed her up.

On Sunday, I drove her to the nearby arena, where herds of young hockey players swarmed around two rinks. We got her rental skates, put them on, and waited to figure out what happened next.

Near us, a girl Lily’s age wore a fancy, searingly white pair of hockey skates – and I began to worry that we were in over our heads (this despite the fact that the class was called “snowplow” for preschoolers). So I tried to have a heart-to-heart with Lily. “Now, sweetie, if you fall, don’t get discouraged. You just have to get back up again, OK? Because falling is part of learning – a really important part.”

Lily nodded distractedly, while my sense of apprehension spiked.

The teacher soon arrived, looking blond and lithe, and on the carpeted area surrounding the ice, she checked each little skater’s skates to see if they fit tightly enough. This was also the moment when I realized we should have brought a helmet (they let us borrow one) and gloves (ditto). Rookie mom mistake on my part.

Anyway, two teachers start leading the kids onto the ice, and at the start, they’re all sitting down together. When all the kids get to the same general area, the teacher tells them that if they’re going to fall, they should try and fall on their butt; and then she has them get on all fours and shows them how to stand up. She splays her hands on the ice and pushes herself to standing. I hold my breath, realizing I’m surely more nervous than Lily is about how she’ll do.

And while I’m biting my lip, Lily slowly, carefully stands up. And stays up.

The teacher shows them how to hold out their arms and flap them like a bird, and march their feet to move forward. And while little ones everywhere are flopping onto the ice like Bambi – and Lily certainly has a couple of butt-falls, too – she makes her way all the way across her end of the rink. (At this point, I struggle to squelch the nearly reflexive “proud mommy” thought, “She’s the best one in the class!” Why, hello there, hyper-competitive mommy. Where did you come from?)

Besides a boy who’s pulling himself along the wall much of the way, Lily is the only member of the class that does so, and the teacher instructs her to turn around and go back the other way. She follows instructions, and I’m so awed and moved by the bravery with which Lily stands in the middle of the ice, on metal blades, with no support whatsoever.

I realize then that Lily doesn’t fear failure at this age, because she doesn’t quite grasp what it is. To her, every picture she paints is a masterpiece, every step she dances is ovation-worthy, and everything she wears looks beautiful on her.

This is unsustainable, of course. Inevitably, she’ll come to realize that she has weaknesses along with strengths; and she’ll grow self-conscious, like the rest of us, and worry about looking foolish or failing.

But right now, she’s a fearless adventurer, up for anything. And I’m so happy to tag along.