I'm pretty friendly. I talk to whoever talks to me, and I like learning about people. Yesterday afternoon on the train I struck up a conversation with a former competitive skier. He's got eight kids and working on a collection of grandchildren. Really nice guy, beautiful family. We exchanged pictures and he asked me about Stitch.
"So, where would you rank him with other kids his age?"
"It's not really a fair comparison right now. He seems to have some talent for it, but some kids his age are ahead, some are behind. Some started earlier, some later."
"It might not be fair, but that's what you have to do. Keep watching where he is in relation to his peer group. Keep him two steps ahead."
"They all seem to learn differently," I said politely, thinking that skiing was a heck of a lot different than figure skating. (I could be wrong.) "Besides, he may love to perform and count his trophies, but he's just a kid."
"He's seven? Okay, seven. Watch him when he turns ten or eleven. That's when he will make the decision. That's when you will see a burning desire or you won't. In the meantime, push him and get him to learn the skills he needs. Give him the tools. When he decides, he's halfway there."
"True," I mused.
"Even if he doesn't decide to be competitive, he's learned a lot anyway," Man sips what smells like bourbon in a styrofoam cup. (We are all boozehounds on the afternoon commuter train.)
"And it's fun."
"Yes, it's fun. I skied until I was seventeen. Had a bad crash and said I was done."
"Don't blame you."
We wound up the conversation and I got off at my stop.
That was the first reasonable advice I'd received from anyone regarding Stitch's skating. No, "He's gonna go far" vague predictions, no "How soon will he be doing doubles" dares. No forecasting dates, no weird starry eyes from people not involved with words of, "I can say I knew him in Pre-Alpha!"
Just a straight up, "Push him to the skills, and see if he rises to meet them. Look for it around age ten."
Stitch turns eight in two months. I can't wait until he grows out of this negative phase that we've been in for the past year. My reading on children says that seven year olds are often pessimistic and moody. Boy howdy. The skating has helped tremendously, diverting him from his moods and giving him something to be happy about. Hate to say it, but he's happy about winning, and having the ability to win. In fact, I am anxious to begin a new Program. Stitch skates better with the incentive of "Trophy."
So, let's get planning for Round Four.