Do Something Badly

Last weekend my family threw a kid birthday party for my daughter at a local roller skating rink. As her friends arrived, my first question to each guest was, “Have you skated before?” Most of the kids shook their heads, then marched off to grab roller skates. I paced around them, wondering if they would have a good time and hoping against hope they would avoid injury. I envisioned tearful kids sitting on the sidelines in frustration while my daughter sped around the rink alone. She had rolled a circular path around our kitchen and living room countless times after receiving roller blades for Christmas; she was more than ready to try out her new skills at the rink.

A second grader’s life is all about trying: learning new skills, practicing new techniques, fumbling through new challenges, falling down and getting up again…and again. They’re well practiced in giving themselves grace to learn. I watched as two of the boys skated boldly onto the rink without a second thought, grinning and reveling in the newness of the experience. They crashed and toppled over multiple times, laughing and getting up again, barely hanging onto the walls. Yet not only were they getting back up, they were enjoying the entire experience, falls and all. Everything about it was fun.

My daughter skated next to a friend who took a little longer to venture into the middle of the rink. While her friend clung to the wall and inched around the edge, my daughter inched right along with her, offering a helping hand and encouragement. She didn’t seem to mind skating slowly next to her friend while she learned.

I was left to watch them and marvel at their joy in doing something badly, cheering each other on, and celebrating small accomplishments. Their were a few squabbles and frustating moments, but by the end of the party, they were all venturing out to the middle of the rink. I remembered the phrase anything worth doing is worth doing badly. When had I lost this ability? And how could I embrace it again as an adult?

Without my daughter’s insistence, I doubt I would have been at the roller rink that Saturday afternoon. Yet I was glad to be there, skating along with the kids, who didn’t need me. And I remembered my roller rink days as a kid, speeding around with my friends, enjoying the lights and music. Maybe that’s why the rinks still play a few hits from the 80s and 90s—to remind tired parents of 2018 of when skating was just fun, and giving us a few moments to simply enjoy it, even if it’s done badly.    


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