Eight years and three sons later, and I am still surprised at how much I am the student, my kids are the teacher. The life lessons I get to learn from being their mom, is one of my absolute favorite parts of parenting.
Take hockey lessons, for example.
Lessons From the Ice
A group of some 40 kids, ages 4-8, brave the ice with the Little Penguins Learn to Skate Program. Most of these kids are brand new to putting skates on their feet. It’s cold and they’ve got mounds of awkward padding everywhere, making it difficult to walk, much less try to balance on a single blade.
But to the ice they go. Shuffling their way to the side board to take their place in line.
The teachers effortlessly skate around them as if they came out of the womb wearing tiny laced up hockey blades. Gliding and turning, moving at race car speed forwards, spinning backwards. It seems they must live here at the rink. They are completely at home on the ice.
Behind the glass, we parents can’t hear what the kids are instructed. But I think I speak for us all when I say we’re certainly thankful for the ridiculous amount of padding, as every few seconds, a kid or two falls just standing there.
When it’s just about time for the kids to leave the safety of the side boards, all eyes focus on the instructor who is showing them what he wants them to do in their first pass across the ice. He takes a few exaggerated gliding steps toward the middle of the ice – right skate, left skate, right skate, left skate. But then, suddenly, he all-out falls, full belly flop, down to the ice. Splat.
No one moves. Did he trip? I can’t tell. But he then picks himself up and repeats the pattern.
It takes me a moment, but I finally realize it was not an accident. He is not teaching the kids how to avoid falling. He is teaching them how to get up.
I quickly realize, when you are learning to skate, it’s not a matter of “if I fall,” it’s a guarantee: when you are learning to skate, you will fall. Period.
The truth is, each and every time they take to the ice, they will fall.
It’s a part of learning to skate. It’s a part of playing the game. And it’s actually how they will become better. After all, if they don’t fall, it likely means they are just standing there, holding onto the side boards, not taking any risks.
Teaching them right from the start to expect to fall makes it just a normal part of skating in their minds.
What’s more, I see no kids crying when they fall. Not one tear.
It doesn’t seem embarrassing to them in any way either.
And there’s more.
Against every parenting knee-jerk reaction I know, when these kids do go down, the instructors don’t pick them up. Instead, they get down on the ice with the kid, talk to him (put this foot here, and your stick there) and they show them how to get up. They teach them, so they can learn how to get up themselves.
Life Lessons From Watching Them Fall
So, all of this has got me thinking.
We grown ups tend to get to a point where we are so afraid to be a beginner. We become so fearful of falling that we hold tight to the side boards.
How amazing would it be if, like these young skaters, we remembered that falling isn’t to be avoided. It’s to be expected! Our “falling downs” in life are how we will know that we are learning.
If only we could erase the fear of embarrassment, like these kids. If we could take more risks, let go of the side boards, fully expecting to fall. But also know how to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward.
Because I’ll bet, in a few weeks, months or years, with thousands of falls under out belts, we’ll be skating at race car speed too. And that will be an awesome feeling.
Cheers to more life lessons from our kids!