Sunday, February 08, 2009

Chasing my youth...

Over the last year, my son has taken increasing interest in skateboarding. This is not the often passing interest that little boys can take in many things. Not the way he is into Bakugan the week before his birthday, and then when a relative buys him something Bakugan for his birthday, he's not into it anymore.

No, not like that. Now he skates every day. And he asks me to do it with him. Cool. I can do that, but I can't do that. I have this to do or that to do right now. So, he goes out on the back deck and practices his Ollie. When I can, usually on the weekends, I'll take him somewhere we can skate together.

Ten years ago, when we moved back to Wilmington (hometown of both my wife and me), I thought to myself, wouldn't it be interesting to raise my son where I was raised? To surround him with similar interests and activities as I was around? To see if those interests and surroundings shape him the way they had shaped me?

Some things are different. He went to an elementary school that pushed him harder academically, and as a result, he has made straight A's in middle school. Me? I made a B in second grade, and it was all down hill after that until I failed Trig in 11th Grade (I rebounded in college).

He plays guitar and sings a good bit. I grew up surrounded by guitars and various instruments with a musician father and I did not take a real interest in playing music until college. He already plays as well as I did at my first public performance.

His art is highly detailed and while it once held the place in his life that skating now holds, it's no longer a daily pursuit, but he does draw a good bit most weeks. He was selling his work around age 8. I was just about his age now (11) when I started to sell my work.

Gone are the days of action figures and costumes. His mom packed those away this week, as they have not found their way out of their chests and storage containers in some time. If he is not actually skating now, he is either watching it on TV and DVD, or playing at it on the Playstation or the Wii.

I worried that he might be relegated to the same experience in skating as I was. I loved it more than I was good at it. I was not bold enough to attempt what many of my contemporaries were pulling off. I could do enough to enjoy it, but not enough to excel at it. I always wanted to do more, but I feared what failing at doing more would most certainly bring. Pain, occasional embarrassment, possibly missing teeth, etc.

I took him to our local skate park, somewhere I won't even go yet, as my limited skills are very rusty. I had barely signed the waiver for him to skate, when, in the midst of skaters far more skilled than either one of us, I watched him walk out to the lip of a large bowl, and caught my breath as he proceeded to drop in. He didn't pull it off, but he didn't break his neck either. That's him in a nutshell. Much more confident than I ever was. Sure that he can do whatever he attempts. Eventually.

I stopped myself from shouting out to him. From telling him not to drop in just yet. I knew that I would embarrass him more with that warning than any fall in front of the other skaters would. I knew his lack of skill we be evident, but if he was okay with that, them I would be too. I knew that he could get up from a fall, and try again. That the trying again after a fall would earn him more respect there than never trying would.

He fell a lot more that day, but he got out there. While his skating was timid and tentative a lot of the time, getting out there and trying was the big trick of the day. Skating is a good lesson for that. It's as much what you are willing to try as it is what you succeed at that determines how you see yourself and how others see you.

On daily basis, I struggle with feeling like my kids aren't listening to me. It's a battle getting them to do or not do. There's not often a call for being encouraging, as much as there is a call for discouraging this or that behavior or action. But every once in a while, there is that opportunity to calm a fear, or point out strengths, erase a doubt. And sometimes even then, it doesn't seem like they are listening. But we have always told them that they can do it, and if they find themselves failing, that it's important to keep trying.

Watching my son repeatedly practice his Ollie over and over when I can't clear 2 inches on my own (yet), or drop in to a bowl when I know it's beyond his skill level, I know that he has been listening when it really counts. I know that he is already better at most of what he does than I was even 7 years after the age he is now.

So, I think of myself out there, riding my skateboard amongst a bunch of people half my height. I wonder, "Am I chasing my youth?" It's pretty far gone by now. I won't catch it. Riding a piece of wood with a bunch of kids won't make me young again. But for now, it's the best place to be reminded of so many things. To keep trying, to get back up from a fall, and that there comes a time in every parent's life when it's time to stay quiet and see if you've taught those things to your kids.

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