I survived the roller rink, but the flamingos still scare me.

My petite 7 year old [Spunky] came to me whining because she never gets to go rollerskating with her older siblings at the roller rink. She made it clear that she is always left out. “Why can’t I go skating?” she complained. “I looooove rollerskating, it’s my favorite and I never get to go.” This was followed by pleading and grumbling about her entire life’s circumstances and the unjust nature of my parenting.

Because nothing is fair when you’re seven. *whine*whine*whine* Everybody else has things better. *whine*whine*whine* Being seven is just… the worst. 

Then and there, I made up my mind. At the next opportunity, I would take her down to the local rink for their after school skating session. I’m not often presented with opportunities to break my neck, so I figured now was the perfect time to get back on skates and take my eager kiddo to do some skating herself.

Eighteen long years had gone by since I’d skated and just like riding a bicycle, I imagined it would all come back to me. I have great childhood memories of racing around my old neighborhood on wheels and by the time I was a teenager I was quite good at it. How hard could it be for her anyway, I wondered. I loved it as a kid and I just knew my little gal would too.

Spunky squealed with glee at the news that she would finally get to do something she (apparently) loved so much. A week chugged by and off we went. We handed our dollars over to a man who was dressed in 1990’s camouflaged MC Hammer Pants, a dark zip-up hoodie and four large gold chains. He stamped our hands with black ink and gave us tickets for skates.

I escorted Spunky to the skate rental counter and they handed us run-down, smelly, overused-contraptions with wheels. 20 minutes later, after cinching, tugging and pulling, (then one last trip to the restroom) we finally had them laced on. We carefully maneuvered to the large wooden floor where highly-capable preschoolers whizzed by at warp speed, wicked grins plastered across their soft faces.

You never can tell how a young child will react after having synthetic wheels strapped to their feet. Spunky hung on to my arm and flopped towards the floor like a dying fish as her wheels made brief contact with the deck then leaped sideways. No matter how she moved, the wheels wouldn’t stay in contact with the rink and her feet went flying up into the air.

“I can’t do it,” she whined, “This is way too hard for meeeee.” Several other sentences came out of her mouth, but I couldn’t hear her over the noise of small wheeled-children and a blaring Taylor Swift song. There I stood holding her up while her legs flopped and rolled as she dangled perilously from my aching arms.  Against the thrashing, I tried not to fall over and break my neck.

The room was dark and lighted orbs gleamed out a revolving strobe of colors. Music pulsed from the speakers and vibrated through our legs. A man that could be Ray Romano’s identical twin was completely decked out from head-to-toe in safety gear. The man’s wife, also shielded in protective coverings, skated beside him. They rolled along the rink, methodically twisting their legs and skates into peculiar formations closely resembling the mating dance of flamingos. Flamingos wearing helmets.

I began having flashbacks of Uncle Fun and I as kids. Ever a proponent for safety, our mom purchased every piece of protective equipment available on the open market and forced us to wear all of it every time we came into contact with wheels.

But there Spunky was, flailing and floundering without any protective gear on, as her legs did twists and turns and she proceeded across the floor.

She was rolling, just not on her skates.

“You can do it,” I encouraged her. Normally my little girl adapts rapidly to every new encounter; learning new skills comes naturally and easily for her. Just not this one. And as her frustration mounted, I was forced to say “You may NOT quit. You MUST keep trying.” 

Because I figured a little adversity never hurt anyone.

Especially when the adversity is something you pay $30 for.

And so it was that little Spunky faced the adversity of the eight rubber wheels she was forced (by me) to wear. Eventually I caved and forked out a few more dollars to rent a cleverly designed walker-on-wheels made from PVC pipe that children pushed in front of them in order to retain their balance. She clung to it gratefully and we made our way around and around the rink.

Parents twisted and spun, pretentiously displaying their fine skating abilities to their offspring. Rink referees demonstrated spins and twirls in the middle of the floor beneath the rotating gleam of a large disco ball. Delighted grandparents on the sidelines photographed the blurry movements of their grand-kids from carpeted bench seats. Huge black speakers strategically placed in the far corners of the rink blared out “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME…”

Which was a downright lie.

Despite my pointers, I watched Spunky attempt to “skate” as she placed each wheel-bound foot up over the top of the other in an odd jog. She did this while her tiny frame twisted and flopped and her knees scraped against the floor. Her only saving grace was the makeshift plastic “walker” that she clung to desperately in an attempt to avoid being creamed by nimble toddlers wearing flame covered T- shirts that read “Hell on wheels.”

“I can’t do this,” she wailed, “I HATE rollerskating. Why did you ever make me come here in the first place?”

Why indeed.

The long minutes ticked by while we worked hard at learning basic (and important!) skating techniques such as:
-The act of skating only occurs when you’re on wheels, not your face.
-Standing in front of video-snapping grandparents is not the best time to loudly complain that your skates smell like old nacho cheese.

Little by little, Spunky chugged along with her “walker” and eventually began gliding instead of running. Her confidence elevated, her whining faded. Elsa stood on a cold mountain top and belted out “Let it Go, Let it Gooooooooo…” 

So she did.

The contraption that had been clutched so fondly was shoved aside and little Spunky spent the remaining minutes propelling herself around the wooden floors unassisted.

The session ended with some races, the chicken dance, and of course the Hokey Pokey- where numerous wobbly children gathered into a circle and tried not to topple like dominoes as they “shook it all about.” The referees cleared the floor, the lights came up and we all stepped out of our skates uttering groans of relief.

“I’m sorry you didn’t like rollerskating,” I said in the car on the way home.

“I did so, ” Spunky exclaimed “I loved every minute of it.” 

And there you have it.

Despite the ripped leggings, the bruised hip, two scratched-up knees, and a bleeding lip, she survived. If nothing else, we can take satisfaction in knowing that we overcame a challenging situation, spent time together, and ultimately left our mark on the world.

Because we photo-bombed at least 12 grand-kids’ photos.

Plus a video.