Sunday, February 3, 2013

Acceptance on Ice

Parenting has challenged me to find acceptance for what is actually happening in a given situation even if it is different from what I expected. When we signed Clara up for ice skating classes last winter in January 2012, I envisioned her white ice skates gracefully gliding along the ice and her classes ending with triumphant spins. I'll admit I come from a family of high achievers.

Instead, what happened was that Clara was scared. She was scared of falling, and that meant she was scared of doing virtually anything on the ice because of the potential that she might fall. To try to ease her out of her fear, I wrote and illustrated a hand-made children’s book for her, “Cautious Clara” to help teach her that it was OK to fall, that even though nearly everyone falls when they are learning to skate, that they can get up and keep going.

Fast forward to January 2013. Clara and I went ice skating after a year's hiatus, and we were both delighted to see that she was comfortable on the ice. She triumphantly skated around the whole rink by herself three or four times. She begged for ice skating classes because she loved it so much, and a trip to see "Disney on Ice" helped to reinforce her new passion.

Between last year and this year, Clara advanced from the “Snowplow Sam 1” level class to “Snowplow Sam 2” class. My husband brought her to skating classes and seemed disappointed when he came home that the teachers had split the class in two and Clara ended up in the “remedial” class. I figured my husband was being overly critical. Hadn’t I just seen Clara confidently skating on the ice with me a couple of weeks ago?

Fast forward to class three of Snowplow Sam 2. I went to take a look myself. It was true, Clara was lingering behind the others. Once again, it seemed that her fear of falling was preventing her from fully participating in any move that involved lifting one of her feet off of the ground. She was talented at doing the “swizzle”- moving her feet simultaneously back and forth in a V-shape, but as soon as the teacher asked her to lift one foot or balance on the other, she froze.

My husband and I were not star athletes when we were children, and so why this feeling of disappointment that Clara was not excelling on the ice? For my husband, it was the idea that she wasn’t giving her all by fully trying. For me, it was the idea that perhaps she was learning to be fearful from us and that she might hold herself back in other parts of her life by not believing fully in herself.

Before I could get too wrapped up in my thoughts, Clara skated over to me with a big smile on her face, “Wasn’t I so good today?” She was proud of the improvements she was making. Even though she wasn’t near the top of the class, it was true that she was getting better during each class.

Clara’s ice skating adventure proved to be an opportunity for me to re-examine my expectations and to strive for accepting “what is” whether Clara is at the top of the class or the bottom. From the smile on her face, it was clear that Cautious Clara was turning into Confident Clara despite my hesitations. Now, I just have to find some time to start writing a new book, “Confident Clara,” for my little skater and to remind myself that a happy child is the most important goal I can hope for.


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