Ice skating: an adventure in embarrassing the kids

SUNRIVER, Ore. (AP) — “What did you think about ice skating?” I asked my daughter Lucy.

“Eh. It was OK,” she replied, distracted by her reading.

We — including her twin sister, Lilly, and their mom, Catherine — had gone ice skating at Sunriver’s covered rink the day before. Now, on Sunday night, I was rooting around for a theme to help shape an article about the experience.

I thought about going current and tying it into the Winter Olympics — but we were far too amateurish to pretend anything resembling athleticism was involved in our skating.

There was always “the nature of going in circles as a metaphor for the human condition,” but that seemed too contrived and depressing.

“Would you go again?” I asked Lucy.

“Maybe,” she said. Thinking about it a little more, she added, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Do you think you would have more fun if we went a second time?”

“Mmmm.”

I’m not sure what that meant, other than I’d lost Lucy to her reading again. As our conversation started and stopped like a wobbly ice skater, a theme emerged: Seize the chance to hang out with your children while they’re still somewhat willing to be seen with you in public.

We opted to go to Sunriver, but there are a couple of other ice skating options in the area.

During the recent holiday weekend, Sunriver’s rink was more crowded than it had been the week before. There were lots of families, a group or two of teenagers, some 20-somethings showing off in the center of the rink, several tiny tots pushing equally tiny walkers that helped them remain upright (I looked around for grown-up sized ones, but no luck.)

While it may be embarrassing to hang out in public with your parents, it’s not like the skaters who can skate circles around us beginners are paying any attention, other than steering clear, especially when you start doing the telltale “I’m about to fall” move, your arms gesticulating wildly as you lose another round with gravity.

Prior to that Saturday, I’d ice skated just two other times in my life. The first was about 12 years ago at Seventh Mountain Resort with Map Guy and our deceased colleague, Jim Witty.

The second time was earlier in February at Sunriver, with Lilly. Once I’d laced up those narrow little shoes and stepped gingerly on the ice, I marveled that anyone had ever bothered to invent ice skates. Ice is more slippery than a watermelon seed to begin with, and then we have to go and put nothing under our feet except a thin metal blade.

For the beginner, ice skating is more about “oh no” than being like Apolo Ohno, he of speedskating fame from some other Winter Olympics. Think about the physics of the thing too much and you will probably soon find yourself lying humbly on the ice, a fate all of us avoided.

Though awkward at first, ice skating starts to feel pretty natural after a few minutes. Try doing a couple of laps, and you’ll go from a sort of clumsy, toddler-like wobble to short little pushes and eventually the occasional glide that hints that this could be fun, at least if you ever dare let go of the wall.

Before we headed to Sunriver, our oldest daughter, Caroline, 13, bowed out in order to hang out with a friend instead of ice skate with her (embarrassing) parents.

Then, while Lilly, Lucy and I sat in the car waiting for their mother to join us, Lilly said, “Wait! Mom’s going?” This sparked a discussion between the two of them about who’s more embarrassing, me or their mother. It was a split decision, fortunately. Although if they read this, and the subject ever comes up again, I’m sure I’ll be crowned Most Embarrassing Parent.

Personally, I’m proud of the title, coming as I do from a long line of embarrassing parents. In seventh grade, soon after I transferred to public school after seven years of Catholic school, some new friends I’d made in the neighborhood knocked on my front door inviting me to come play football with them.

This was a new development for the Spider-Man comic-reading, Lego-playing loner that I had been up to that point. My dad was as shocked as I was, and as I headed out the front door to join the group on my porch, he didn’t miss a beat: “See you later. And don’t worry, I’ll put away your Barbies for you.”

At 12 and newly attuned to social mores, I was dumbstruck by this betrayal. My new friends thought he was hilarious, though, so it was a win-win for my dad.

The tradition continued on the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend as I sang along to “Radioactive” and other pop songs playing over the skating rink’s sound system. A couple of times, as we made our laps around the rink, my wife and I synced up and held hands — gasp! — for a minute or two. I fully expected Lilly or Lucy to stick out a foot and trip us, but they’re kinder than I was at their age.

After 45 minutes of skating, or at least staying upright on ice, we succumbed to the call of quesadillas and enchiladas at nearby El Caporal.

Lucy offers this advice for people who want to improve their ice skating: “If you want to get better at ice skating, but it’s summer or something, you should go rollerblading.”

It’s a good suggestion considering the Bend Park & Recreation District has plans to open an ice skating rink at its 11-acre Simpson Avenue Site & Pavilion, slated for spring 2015 completion.

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The original story can be found on The Bulletin’s website: http://bit.ly/1e7QrCD

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