All it took was a few longing glances at the skateboard ramps, while playing on the Halifax Common playground, for our kids to become obsessed with the idea of becoming skateboarders.
The first time they asked me for skateboards, I laughed and said I’d think about it when they were teenagers. We have the same conversation, regularly, about getting them their own smartphones — the promised land of teenhood always seems to appease them.
But they didn’t let up this time. They wanted to do tricks. They wanted to learn to turn and jump and spin and who knows what else. They promised to wear helmets.
“You’re too LITTLE to skateboard,” I kept protesting. “Five-year-olds and seven-year-olds don’t skateboard! They . . . they ride bikes! They use scooters!”
My only skateboard experience during elementary school was sitting on one and motoring it around with my feet. It would never have occurred to me to STAND UP on that scary, skinny board with little wheels. I mean, I’d fall! Immediately!
(I got my own skateboard one Christmas, as a teenager, and used it exactly twice. It was not as easy as it had looked, and I decided I was no Avril Lavigne.)
Eventually, though, I found myself steering the minivan into the parking lot at the hardware store to check out the skateboards. The kids immediately hopped on and started testing the different models, and I was surprised by their ability to balance and coast along.
They proudly paid for their own boards up at the register, announcing they were using birthday money and allowance. I tagged behind, paying for two sets of child-sized knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards to go along with the bike helmets they already had.
They tore into everything on the short drive home and tried on their new safety gear. We have a paved driveway that’s flat-ish, so I parked the van across the bottom to act as a barricade before the street. Then it was just a matter of strapping on their helmets, tightening their new pads and nervously stepping back to watch.
I don’t know if it was the setting sun or the excitement on their faces, but they were positively beaming as they cruised down the gentle slope of the driveway. There were a couple of wipe-outs and a few tears, but they quickly got back on and kept going — with their little arms stretched out for balance and their knees carefully bent.
Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d ever seen them so happy.
A few neighbours dropped by to admire their new boards and watch them glide down the asphalt. We lucked out and even had a pro-level skateboarder stop by and show them a few tricks. They skated (or is it “boarded”?) until it was too dark to see, and went to sleep asking if they could do it again as soon as they woke up.
The skateboarding obsession waned after a few weeks, as kids’ obsessions mostly do. But it’s become a regular outdoor activity to go along with the old standbys of biking, scooting and driveway-chalking. They convinced a couple of their friends to get skateboards, too, and sometimes I’ll lay 2x4s along the end of the driveway to stop runaway boards from rolling into the street.
Sometimes we hit up the local skatepark, where they can challenge themselves on steeper inclines. I’d never been to a skate park in my life until this summer, but they’re quite fun actually. I love watching the teenagers whipping through the air and landing solidly on the metal rails, and have to keep resisting the (nerdy) urge to clap for them. (To these boys, I am literally 45-ish and the absolutely lamest.)
I always bring Band-Aids, but sometimes we don’t even need them. Our daughter usually sits down on her board for these slopes, but she’s still way more daring than I ever was. Our son is focused on perfecting something he calls “tick-tacking.”
I don’t know if skateboarding is a passing interest or something they’ll continue to do well into their teens. But for now, I’m glad I decided to let them buy those skateboards.
It’s an awesome, bizarre feeling when you see your children do things you never could — or is it “never did, but still sort of want to”?