My son, Wyatt, went rollerskating for the first time last weekend. It was a birthday party for a classmate, and his whole class was there. He was ecstatic to finally get on skates and told me that when I came to pick him up after work, I'd see him zooming around the rink.
About an hour and a half into the party, I arrived at the rink to the ear-splitting vocals of Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance' and multi-colored lights bouncing off the walls. I was tired. Rehearsal had been a tough one for me; I was disappointed by my work that day, and I really just wanted to get Wyatt, go home and nurse my bruised ego. As my eyes adjusted, I finally caught sight of him, alone at the opposite end of the rink making his way around, a death grip on the outer wall for balance. His progress was painfully slow in comparison to the speeding, dancing skaters around him. Occasionally he'd let go and coast a few feet, then smash violently to the floor. Up to the wall and a few more shuffles, then down again. And so it went until, many long minutes later, he rounded the bend and saw me. The shit-eating grin on his face and wobbly thumbs-up he threw my way were his assurance to me--he was having a blast, knee pads, bruises, sweat and all. His ego was faring just fine. And by the time we left, he was making it with the other skaters all the way around the rink. It wasn't pretty, but he was on his feet and moving forward.
Parent after parent approached me that night to tell me how unbelievably hard it had been for Wyatt to just stand on his skates that first hour. "Even holding onto the wall, he fell a hundred times," one said, adding, "if it'd been me, I'd have quit." I asked Wyatt what had kept him going. Before flailing away toward a friend he'd spotted, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I really wanted to skate, so I kept getting up."