I don’t know how many of my readers spend a lot of time at skate parks, but if you happen by our local one you may notice a bit of an anomaly.
There will be the requisite teenagers, talking too loud and profanely over the terrible music blasting from their cars. The boys occasionally jumping on their boards, trying to show off for the assembled girls congregating by the fence.
There will be several middle schoolers with tricked out bicycles, daring each other to try some of the tricks the older kids are doing. The ones with parents nearby or due to pick them up soon identified by the helmets they are reluctantly wearing.
What may catch your eye, the kid that doesn’t quite seem to belong, is the smallest, easy to miss if it wasn’t for the bright pink shirt and clashing Incredible Hulk helmet. It’s the six year old lunatic on a tiny scooter flying up and down the ramps and inclines, her nerve racked father wondering how the hell she ever convinced him to let her enter this fenced in orthopedic surgeon’s dream.
I really should have seen it coming. I’d let her bring her scooter to the playground, understanding that she was tired of doing circles in our driveway. She’d asked to go over to the “big kid area” a few times, “just to check it out” but I’d always deflected, seeing no reason to trek across the parking lot just to listen to a bunch of little punks acting obnoxiously. Whether or not that is what was actually happening there was inconsequential.
On this particular day last week the park was empty, not a big kid in sight. When she asked to go over and look for some friendship rocks, a new thing in our community that I talked about in my last post, I was skeptical about our chances but agreed to go search. When she asked if she could ride in there for a few minutes before we left, I admonished her to be careful but assumed that after a few laps around the outer edge we’d be good to go, perhaps with enough time left in the evening for a quick bicycle ride.
The bike has now been set aside, last month’s obsession replaced as soon as she considered herself an “expert at it.” I’d again underestimated both her desire to seek out new challenges and the need that children seem to have to constantly find newer and more exciting ways to injure themselves.
We’ve been back several times since, her courage and ability to “do tricks” increasing each time, as does my blood pressure. The big kids seem to find her amusing, earning a great deal of respect and gratitude from me by the efforts they take to not run her over as they careen from ramp to ramp. The teenage girls find her absolutely adorable.
I’ll be the old guy, face pressed against the fence, alternating between pride and terror, trying to find that balance between encouraging her to try new things, to never back down, and the hope that one day she starts to develop some sort of sense of self preservation.