Mama Madison: Ice breakers

Time to sharpen your skates -- Madison's rinks are open

I am what you might call an inside person. I'd rather hang curtains than plant window boxes. I'd much sooner take a city than a beach vacation. I've been camping once - enough said. But there is one very clear exception to this rule for me, and it took moving to Wisconsin for me to discover it. Ice-skating is better outside. Cliché as it may sound, if you've never taken a spin (or even a tumble as I am far more apt to do) across a frozen lake as the sun is setting you haven't experienced the ultimate haiku moment. It is perhaps the only thing that, year after year, keeps me looking forward to winter.

Growing up a child of the mid-Atlantic region, skating was never a big part of my life, indoors or out. My suburb housed one public indoor rink, which I went to once, for a birthday party, in second grade. I was terrible. Wobbly ankles, miss-tied skates, and terrible boredom and bruises from going around clockwise -- then counterclockwise (the dreaded "reverse skate") -- to the sounds of the Captain and Tennille. The closest I ever got to ice-skating again was a very poor attempt at a Dorothy Hamill haircut in fourth grade. (Note: the "Hammill" doesn't work for curly-haired girls if you aren't willing to blow dry--or in my case, even brush). No skating in junior high or high school. No skating in college. No skating first dates like Rocky and Adrian. I would have been more willing to lace up boxing gloves than to attempt lacing skates again.

But the move to Wisconsin has changed my view of ice in some very profound ways. First, my oldest son got involved in hockey. While initially against my will and better judgment, it didn't take long for me to learn to appreciate the game's fast pace and what amazing skill "putting the biscuit in the basket" requires. But joining the West Madison Polar Caps club didn't actually get me on the ice, only behind the concession stand. No, it took a group of dedicated ice-o-phile neighbors and the constant urging of my skate-happy kids to get me back on the blades.

A few years back, when the temps dipped below freezing, a small fraternity of committed (or should be committed -- they do it at 3 AM) "hosers" froze the softball diamond at our beloved Hillington Green park for the first time in years, creating the most Norman Rockwell-esque patch of ice even Scott Hamilton could imagine. The rest of my family couldn't wait to get on. But while I appreciated the rink as a thing of visual beauty, I planned to remain a conscientious objector to actual skating. It just wasn't my sport, especially outside, where all my friends and neighbors could see me. But my kids were persistent that I participate and eventually melted my resolve. So one evening in early December, we all headed out to the rink. As the sun began to set I tentatively laced up my new heavily padded "comfort" skates -- a marked improvement over figure skates for those who don't actually skate figures. And, wonder of wonders, I stood up, and with one of my children helping me balance on each side; I made a very slow circle around the ice. Not only did I not fall (too dramatically), but with their help, was able to experience some pretty wonderful things. I glided under starlight and made swizzles and snowplows -- skating-style. I now finally understood the reason why so many folks in this community are so passionate about their outdoor rinks.

But the most amazing thing I discovered was the beauty of letting my kids help me. It was a genuine role reversal -- a different kind of "reverse skate". I didn't embarrass them, as I do more often than I'd like to admit to. I didn't even really embarrass myself. Instead they encouraged me, were proud of me -- in some ways parented me.

They taught me the benefits of getting outside-- of both the house and my comfort zone. What kinds of things have your kids taught you? Have you had any "reverse skate" moments brought on by the urging of your children?

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