I am not what you’d call a “pushy parent.” I’ve watched that “Toddlers and Tiaras” show on TLC, and some of those pageant moms scare the crap out of me. The idea of forcing my kid to do something, of making her miss out on birthday parties or other activities because she’s got to practice, practice, practice – it’s just anathema to my character. So when my daughter announced that she wants to start competing in ice skating this year, I felt like Red Foxx in Sanford and Son: you know, all clutching at my chest and yelling out, I’m comin’ Elizabeth! I’m comin’!
Lest you think that my daughter’s desire to compete is indicative of her level of talent, let me just say: yeah, no. In the year and a half that she’s been taking skating lessons, she’s basically mastered how to skate without killing herself. She can also do that spinning thing that professionals do so fast that they appear to be blurry, except that hers looks more like the slo-mo, replay version.
Now, to be fair, she’s only been taking one half-hour lesson each week – with her best friend – and most of their time on the ice is spent hugging each other. But my daughter is fairly coordinated and extremely driven, so it’s very possible that she could become a good skater, if she were to actually have lessons by herself, as well as several hours of practice time each week. But that would require her to commit whole-heartedly to this ice skating thing, and the very thought of it just makes me itchy all over. I see the ice skating moms sitting under the heat lamps while their kids practice, and I don’t want to be one of them. One mom I spoke to told me that her daughter has lessons at 6:30 am before school, and then again for an hour after school, not to mention four different skating coaches. She doesn’t do anything else – she just goes to school and skates. And though her kid looks amazing to me, apparently she’s barely even good enough to qualify for some of the competitions. Ugh. It makes me tired just thinking about it.
The problem is that I’m just not convinced that my daughter is ready for that kind of a commitment. There’s definitely a sneaking suspicion on my part that she’s only in it for the pretty costumes. It would be one thing if I could see that she had a natural gift, or even if I could see that skating was her one, true passion. But I don’t see either of those things. My daughter loves to sing, and she has a beautiful voice. She plays soccer and basketball, and she really enjoys them. She loves to horseback ride and to write stories. But if skating becomes her whole life, then what happens to all of those other interests? And how can I let her give everything else up – how can I become an ice skating mom – if skating isn’t something I even believe is best for her?
At the same time, though, I don’t want to be discouraging. We’re told that as parents, we should let our children pursue their passions, and follow their dreams. We should support them in whatever they choose to do. We should bankrupt ourselves to pay for private lessons and expensive equipment and competition fees. As it is, my daughter feels like I don’t want her to compete because I keep asking her if she’s absolutely sure that this is something she wants to do. And I keep having to explain to her that it’s not that I don’t want her to compete (which is a total lie, because I really don’t want her to compete). It’s just that I want to be sure that she understands the sacrifices she’ll have to make if she chooses to compete. It’s a hard distinction for a nine year-old to make, and it’s even harder to pull off as a parent without sounding like The Grinch Who Stole Ice Skating.
For now, she and I have agreed that we’ll take it slow. I’ve upped the ante to two half-hour lessons per week, plus a practice day, as long as she promises to continue with singing lessons and to play a team sport. It’s going to mean missing a lot of birthday parties and cutting back on a lot of playdates, and it’s going to mean that she’ll have to learn to manage her time really well so that homework and chores still get done, too. But I feel like it’s a good compromise. She gets to try out the life of an ice skating competitor, and I get to put off becoming a full-fledged ice skating mom, at least for now. Secretly, I’m hoping that she’ll hate it and just go back to skating for fun. But if she ends up loving it and wanting to do nothing else…well, as the mom whose daughter has four coaches said to me, at least it’s better than beauty pageants.