Today, I decided to share with my blog readers a true story about a quest undertaken by a father and his two young daughters. That is me and my five- and three-year-old girls embarking on our first-ever ice skating experience. Now, I must admit that I am not exactly the most graceful person on the planet, so you can imagine how this went. Nevertheless, despite my humiliating debut, I had a great time and even managed to stay upright without falling or tumbling for a little while. Did you really believe the title of this blog? Well, that is something I definitely wasn't. So come along for the ride and laugh with (or at) me as I recount my hilarious first ice skating adventure.
As we waited in line to get our skates, I couldn't help but feel slightly excited about our family ice skating adventure as it seemed fun to try together. We all couldn't wait to get out on the ice. We waited for a while in the line leading to the main desk, time seemed to crawl by, and I eagerly encouraged the children forward, not wanting to lose our place. I kept glancing at my watch, knowing that our session had started 15 minutes ago, and we were losing valuable skating time. After much waiting and encouraging the girls forward at every opportunity, we edged toward the counter. At last, it was our turn to get the skates and hit the ice. Or, at least, that's what I thought. Little did I know, the real fun (and embarrassment) was yet to come.
I quickly handed my shoes over to the skate rental lady and enthusiastically took the skates from her. Single-bladed, I noticed. "Uh, do you have any double-bladed skates?" I asked, hoping for something a little more stable. "Nope, these are the best ones if you want to learn," she replied with a smile. Great, I thought—just what I needed: a more brutal way to learn. But despite my reservations, I determinedly sat down on the bench and started struggling to get the skates on. It was a battle, but after some pushing and heaving, I got the skates on and was finally ready. My daughters, who already had their skates on, were standing next to me, eager to get to the rink. They wandered around on the black rubber matting, pleased to have skates on for the first time. As we were ready to hit the ice, I wondered what awaited us.
Ok, I thought this should be fun. I mean, how hard could it be? I stood confidently, ready to take my daughters' hands and lead them to the rink. Well, fathers are heroes in their daughters' eyes – or at least this is what I hoped for on that day. Anyway, as soon as I attempted to stand up and exit the shop, I realized I had no balance and was suddenly four inches taller (thanks, skates) but completely unsteady and wobbly on my feet. My daughters, already confidently wandering around, beckoned me on. "Come on, dad! Let's go!" they urged. But I couldn't go. I literally couldn't even stand up! Everyone else was wandering around as though nothing had changed, confidently maneuvering past one another while I stood tottering and anxiously grasping anything in reach to steady myself.
I made it to the handrail by the shop’s exit with difficulty to balance, hoping to catch up with my two young daughters. Why couldn't I balance and walk like everyone else around me? I was conscious that I might not even get to the rink without falling flat on my face. After eventually exiting the skate rental shop, I saw a bench outside. Bliss, I thought and hobbled across as onlookers in the queue stared in astonishment as I clumsily ambled across the matting. Their faces said it all: He's not even on the ice yet! I collapsed onto the bench and breathed a sigh of relief. The skates felt loose. Perhaps if I tighten them, it will help. I retied the laces; this must be where I went wrong. I regained my confidence and proceeded to the rink. No difference, really. I wondered why this rubber matting was so challenging to walk on and what it would be like on the ice.
After some more awkward steps forward, and what I can only imagine must have resembled a new lamb finding its feet for the first time, I got to the rink entrance. All my eyes saw were the handrails, and I clutched the side with relief. Now for stepping onto the ice. I stepped forward, staying glued to the handrail. Well, if I thought the rubber matting was hard to stand on, the ice was impossible. I couldn't move. I felt frozen. Others joined the rink, casually urging me to move across so they could enter. Move, I thought on this ice, I couldn't move my feet in any direction. I ushered others to move past me. They could clearly see I had no plans to move. I was rooted to the spot.
Then, I caught sight of a snowman aid for young children. I need that, I thought. But it was out of reach. I stood steady as my daughters confidently moved along the handrail. I cautiously glanced around and saw a steady stream of people gliding quickly around the rink: smiling and snapping photos of one another. I got more confident and shuffled a few steps along the handrail. However, I was not confident enough to let go of the handrail under any circumstances. I then noticed others outside the rink smiling and calmly sipping coffees. Another father observed my struggles and shared his similar experience explaining why he was now not IN the rink. That’s where I needed to be. Perhaps, ice skating wasn’t for me. People are born with different abilities. I guess better to retreat now with some dignity (if any!). But only then I realized my mistake: by moving along the handrail I had moved further away from the exit.
I glanced around, looking for another way out. The whole rink had perspex screens around it. I kept my place and stood firm I didn’t want to lose the security of the handrail. I couldn’t move to let others pass as much as I wanted to, so I became an extension of the handrail for young children who needed to pass.
I wasn’t going to move; I couldn’t and had no plans to. But then I saw it. Just a few meters away, there is a missing piece in the perspex screening. My heart lightened, and my eyes brightened. There was a way out for me. I wasted no time. I cautiously moved across the ice gripping the handrail as tightly as I could. Slowly, I made it there. I crouched down and awkwardly managed to maneuver myself through, skates first. While halfway through and somewhat struggling to fit through the small gap, my wife glanced over. Had enough?, she said. I quickly clambered up, fearing she might draw me back onto the rink. I felt a sense of pride, I'd made it. I breathed a sigh of relief and began unfastening the skates. Never again, I told myself. Never.