by Mike Todd

Q: Why shouldn’t you tell jokes while ice skating?

A: Because the ice might crack up!

“I’m going to be the only one there who can’t do it!” our son Evan said with fear in his eyes, holding the invitation to the roller-skating birthday party in his hands.

As parents, you try to prepare your kids for whatever life may throw their way, but we honestly didn’t realize that one of life’s projectiles would be a shoe with wheels attached to it. Maybe we should have seen this coming and done more to prepare our kids, but we also haven’t taught them how to joust or use a phone book or engage in civil political discourse. There are some things people just don’t do anymore.

When I was a kid, going to the roller rink was a pretty common activity because iPads hadn’t been invented yet, and our parents didn’t know what else to do with us. “Here, try to stand up with these things strapped to your feet. That oughtta keep you occupied for a while,” they’d say. Then the parents would stand around and talk to each other because iPhones hadn’t been invented yet, either.

About a year ago, on a lark, we took our sons to a roller rink, but neither kid was too jazzed about it. They did a couple of laps pushing around a training device that was basically a sawhorse on wheels, wearing expressions on their faces that said, “Is this activity meant to be fun? I thought you guys said we were coming here to do something enjoyable.”

But this party was a rare opportunity for Evan to see his friend Katie, the skating birthday girl who moved to another school earlier this year. “Buddy, if it’s stressing you out, we can call Katie’s mom and cancel. You don’t have to go,” I said three days prior to the party.

“I never get to see her anymore! I DO have to go! But what am I going to do about not knowing how to skate?” Evan replied.

And so my wife Kara and I found ourselves at the mall (motto: “When You Waited So Long That Amazon Prime Isn’t Quick Enough, We’ll Probably Still Be Here”) over our lunch break the following day, purchasing the only pair of roller blades available in Evan’s size.

That evening, with fewer than 48 hours until the party, I blew the leaves off the driveway, and Evan buckled the skates to his feet. “What do I do now?” he asked.

“Let’s watch that YouTube video again,” I replied. There’s nothing you can’t learn to do on YouTube. Carve a tree into a bear with a chainsaw. Roll your own sushi. Play the harpsichord. We could all learn so many useful skills there, if we weren’t using it to watch puppy and kitten videos instead.

“How do you stop?” Evan asked. The video didn’t cover that. Kara shrugged.

“You steer into a wall,” I said.

“Really?” Evan asked.

“Always worked for me,” I replied.

Evan spent the next hour finding creative ways to fall over in the driveway, and then hopping right back up, determined to learn.

“You got it, buddy; you got it!” Kara and I cheered as he figured out the motion to propel himself forward. His smile couldn’t have been any bigger.

At the party, we hovered from the back just a little to make sure everything was going okay. As Evan circled the rink with the other kids, all of them looking like fawns who were figuring out how to use their legs on a frozen pond, none of our smiles could have been any bigger.

Kara and I high-fived each other, feeling like we’d won at parenting, at least this round. Gotta rack up our victories before we have teenagers in the house.

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