Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Parental Lineup

Three weeks go by. It's the first Saturday of skating class. I dug out a pair of gloves from the closet, and shoved them in K's coat pocket.

K was excited but nervous.

"Why are you nervous?" I asked.

"I don't know. Do I have to pick up the girls?"

Good lord, how much skating had he seen? "Not this week. Next week."

He saw I was joking with him and laughed.

"You won't have to pick up the girls if you don't want to. Ever," I assured him.

Off we went. We parked the car, and trundled in. We went through the double doors, and to the counter. "Hi, we need to rent skates for the class."

"What size?"

I stopped. Size? K's shoe size is ten. I think. "Child's ten."

The attendant handed me an impossibly tiny pair of skates. Should skates even be made this small?

I tried to shove them on his feet, but they were clearly too small. I went back for two sizes up. A Child's twelve. What kind of mother doesn't even know her own kid's damn shoe size?

The chaos was intense. Children, small ones, were everywhere, and all of them were tromping around with at least seven inches of sharpened steel on their feet. Signs were posted everywhere, "BEGINNER CLASSES FULL. REGISTER FOR NEXT SESSION." I had forgotten that the Olympics had finished up the month prior, and Evan was everyone's new hometown hero.

It wasn't too hard to tell the beginners from the pros. Snowpants and coats versus tights and leotards. Wheeled suitcases everywhere, and parents just as confused as me were all milling about in the noise.

Eventually I got his skates on, but I had no idea if I'd done it right. I looked around. There were two rinks. Shit. Which one? I didn't know anyone to ask. The smaller rink made more sense. So we trundled off to the small rink and sat on the bench. Girls in tights and leotards swept, careened and twirled on the ice, and I sighed. Their lesson was just finishing. Adults were filing in, putting on skates and giving us dirty looks.

"Oh, the kids go in the main rink," someone shouted from the door.

What? The Main Rink? Wasn't that too big? So we trundled to the Main Rink.

The doors opened to a wide sheet of ice and a large herd of children in various sizes. They were all taking off across the ice. "Where is Pre-Alpha 1," I asked some other grownup.

"I think they're meeting outside," she snuffed at me.

So we trundled back out. Sure enough, a woman in skates and a pantsuit was holding a clipboard and trying to take attendance. Children in winter gear were in a lineup against the wall, and the parents stood back expectantly. I remembered Karate class, and took my place. Shit, I forgot my camera. "My name is Coach L," she told the children. "Does everyone have mittens? Okay, now I'm going to check skates."

She went to each child and stuck her fingers down between the tongue of the skate and the ankle, apparently to gauge tightness. Most kids passed. K failed. Rather, I failed. "Not tight enough," Coach L pulled back. "Needs to be tighter."

I dove in, eager to get out of the gaggle of ridiculous parents, and tightened up the laces. As I was finishing, the kids were heading into the rink. Through the double doors. K caught up, looking at me in flashes, going where I couldn't follow. Beyond school, this was the first time he was leaving me.

I think all parents harbor some visions of their child being a "natural." It would be nice to see a new kid zip off across the ice like Michelle Kwan on the first day. It doesn't happen that way.

The new kids clung to the walls for dear life, their arms trembling with the effort. K included. The other kids, the ones who could skate, were crossing the ice lengthwise, doing an assortment of tricks as demonstrated by another adult. The new kids were encouraged to "get the feel of the ice" by pulling along the wall for awhile.

So off they went. K and some other little girl pulled ahead of the crowd, eventually winding up on the far side of the rink. I watched them move further and further away from the coaches, and I was getting more and more nervous. I stood up, tried to get someone's attention, but the glass between me and the ice was an effective barrier against parental interference.

K noticed what was going on, and began moving, on his own and off the wall, towards the rest of his class and Coach L. *bam* Down he went. He got up, marched forward, *bam* down again. He gets up, marches forward, slip *bam* down. Lather, rinse, repeat. Do this for half an hour. It was hard to watch.

Hell with this, I would have quit.

After a half hour of crossing the ice, falling down most of the time, the kids were ushered off the rink. Parents stood by the door, gathering up the bundles of winter clothes and mittens. K was all smiles.

"You did great," I said, wondering when the call from DCFS would come through for the bruises I was sure he had.

"What happens now?" he asked.

"um, we go home."

"What? Why?"

"Class is over. Time to go home.”

K was not pleased. He groaned and whined.

“Should we come back?”

“Yes. I like skating.”

Okay then. I resolved to find the public skating schedule and we would come back.

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