Nov 27, 2012

Taking it for granted

We're going to start this post from the premise that middle school girls, even the good ones (and they're all good ones) are little shits who believe that the world was invented specifically to honor their wonderfulness, and that good things, like figure skating lessons, are actually the universe trying to keep them from enjoying themselves.

That said, high level figure skating is a lot to ask of a 12 year old.

Under the eagle eye of the gossip brigade in the stands, your 12 year old (or 9 year old, or 16 year old) is, mostly, working. She knows she'll catch hell on the ride home if she spends too much time at the boards when you're watching.

A lot of parents feel like they have to be in the stands every minute, and fear that if they aren't there, the kids will just fool around.  And I'll say this again-- if your child legitimately wants to achieve her skating goal, be it making it to Nationals, getting a solo in the ice show, or passing tests, fooling around will be a self-limiting strategy.

The thing to watch for is not whether she's using her practice time effectively, or paying attention in lessons, or even if she's falling short of the goals. The thing to watch for is how she reacts when she falls short of the goal, especially if the reason is that she hasn't been working hard. If your skater goofs off and then blames everyone around her when she fails, she's not all that committed to skating, and may in fact be taking it a little bit for granted. If she goofs off and then doesn't care when she fails, you may want to rethink how much you're spending on skating.

If she works hard and fails, even if she doesn't take it well, you can be pretty sure she's not taking it for granted.

In a way, we all take it for granted. Kids, for one, never understand how lucky they are. I hated school until I had to work full time and realized how unbelievably awesome it is be able to spend all day learning and hanging out with peers. I have to remind myself regularly what an incredible gift it is to have the amazing job of teaching figure skating.

I think you have to remember that if you've chosen skating for your child (with the child's help of course), it's not really any different than anything that you feel your child is taking for granted-- the pile of presents at the winter holidays, regular meals, indulgent parents, enough money for treats.

Don't you take it for granted either. Your kid can land an axel, or will. Do you know how hard that is?


  1. Um sure, most dedicated parents know how hard it is to land an Axel, as they have been watching their daughter learn several years of skill to get to that point!

    Yet we should also keep in mind that nearly all competitive skaters are, to use a somewhat old-fashioned word, precocious.

    I grew up a precocious child myself (in maths, not skating) so I could immediately recognize the competitive skaters who were uniformly the same. Okay it's possible to be precocious in different ways, but still.

    It's quite a challenge for an "average" parent to raise a precocious child, and there's shelf-loads of books on the subject.

    Whether or not an intelligent gifted child "fools around" or not is somewhat irrelevant: we are objects in *their* psychic and spiritual universe, not the other way around.

    Love, Jeff

  2. Hm. I need to disagree with your opening premise. By middle school my expectation has always been that my own kids had figured out (with help) that they, while loved to death by their family, are no more important than the other people in the world. If a pre-teen child doesn't get that they aren't the centre of the universe, something has gone very wrong in the parenting department.

    As for costly endeavours like figure skating being viewed as an imposition instead of the privilege it is, the simple solution to that attitude is to take them away. If they aren't missed, then they weren't particularly valued by the child. In which case, why waste family resources?

    I see a couple of themes play out at our rink (and yes, I get that there are shades of grey and things aren't quite so binary):

    1) Kids who skate because it's something to do and they enjoy socializing with the other kids at the rink. It doesn't seem to be so much about the skating itself; another activity could take its place and replace its purpose.

    I think sometimes that's exactly what should happen, particularly when the child signals in all kinds of ways (wasting time on the ice, coming on and off for a drink or bio break, forgetting items or dawdling) that s/he isn't that invested in skating any more. In my daughter's age cohort, there are a bunch of kids in the learning axel/early doubles stage. I'm not a skater myself, but it seems to me that they've now gotten to the stage where hard work is required, not just ice time and some coaching. Those jumps are difficult and falling over and over isn't much fun unless the child truly values achieving the goal for him/herself. For some at our rink, I can see that the end is near, and fair enough. We all try activities/hobbies on as we grow up and they don't have to be a long-term commitment. Some parents openly say that they're now having to nudge child to skate and this may be the last year the child skates on Team X or in Program Y. In some cases, it's clear that the parent is far more invested than the kid, and that's unfortunate.

    2) Kids who are out there day after day because they love it. When they get on the ice, they generally don't need to be prompted to focus because they already have that. They have goals that are theirs (or that they've bought into) so it's not about whether someone is watching.

    I'm not sure it's a matter of taking skating for granted (although kids are as guilty as the rest of us for not really being aware of how lucky most of us are); I think it's more an issue of whether the kid truly loves skating itself or is there because s/he gets something else out of skating (that lessons might interfere with, like having fun with friends).

    If it's the latter, I'd try removing the skating without taking away whatever other thing I thought my child was getting out of it. For instance, if I thought it was about the desire to spend more time with friends (common in that age cohort), then I'd try to provide that without the skating and see if the skating itself was missed.

    I see lots of parents complaining about how much time/money they're spending when Bundle isn't even working at it. Sometimes it's just discouragement and it can/should be worked through, but sometimes it's just that the kid only skates because that's the only time s/he gets to see friends in an over-programmed life.

    Just my (more than) two cents. :)

    1. The opening statement was meant to be tongue in cheek, of course. And as to the rest of your very undervalued 2c, yes exactly!

  3. Good point about the school thing. I should really be doing bio homework right now, but reading your blog is so much more entertaining... =D

  4. I think the skaters attitude is often a reflection of the parent's attitude. We value hard work and choosing how money is spent. I expect my children to value hard work and how money is spent as well.

    Maybe it's different for families who can easily pay skating bills. But for us, it's a true sacrifice and if I felt she was no longer interested, I have no problem taking her off the ice.

    I think that if the "social" time is important (it is for my skater), time should be built in - whether they skate a public session with friends just for fun once a week or if the last 10 minutes of an occasional freestyle is playing ice games with their friends.

    She skates because she loves it. She took her skills and the ice for granted. She lost ice due to an injury for over 4 months. She has more respect and love for it now that she knows what life is like when it is gone. And getting those skills back is an arduous task.