Big Fish, Little Fish

There is something to be said for protecting your children.  When my cousin was a little girl, she was getting beat up by some neighborhood kids and when she ran home to ask her mother for help, my aunt shoved her back out the door and told her to grow a pair.  She grabbed the first weapon she saw, which ended up being an empty 40, smashed the end of it off on the sidewalk, and did exactly what her mother told her to.

You can guess how that girl's entire life ended up.

This generation, the one of our children, seems to be fairing better, perhaps to the extreme in the other direction.  My kids' world is bacteria free whether I like it or not (and hello swine flu), their heads are helmeted and their knees padded, they get graded in numbers on three different scales, and after every meal they get a reward.  You know what my reward for eating my dinner was?  NOT getting my ass kicked.  My children think dessert is a god-given right. 

Now, as much as I think the man who invented the Happy Meal should be strung up by his toenails and plucked from head to toe with 50 year old tweezers for creating a generation of children who think they should get something for everything, the fact of the matter is that I bought the damn happy meal.  And it took me 8 years to figure out I could just say, "Oh, and hold the toy."

I'm slow, but I get there.

And I do love the knee pads and the elbow pads because god knows I don't want to see my kids bleed but the problem with that is that they never bleed.  And then they never have to learn to get up after.  They never have to learn to shake it off and keep playing.  They never learn.

Unless, of course, they're at the skate park.

The rules of conventional society do not apply at the skate park.  The older kids have dominion, and the younger kids have to learn damn fast what that means exactly.  There is a hierarchy at the skate park that is not to be ignored, and so long as you respect that they will take you in under their wing and help you along.  You fuck with them, however?  Your day sucks.  And if you even think about having your mom come rescue you?  Yeah, good luck with that.  Skaters can be some of the kindest, most gracious kids you'll ever meet until some helicopter mom comes swooping in telling them how to behave around her child on their turf.  It's kind of a funny thing to watch, actually, mostly because that mom never wins. 

I started taking my boys to the skate park when they were 3 and 5, and we started out going when the older kids were all in school, just so they could get the feel of it.  When they got older, we'd try it on the occasional weekend, and by the time they were 5 and 7, they were brave enough to go mid-day, over summer break.  Right when I was 80 months pregnant with 3of3.  Which means I couldn't help them at all.

And I swear, you've never seen a sweeter group of 17 year olds helping my boys every time they got stuck, pulling them to their feet if they fell down, helping them get helmets on tight enough and showing them where the good spots for littler ones to play were.

And that smae group of kids, those ones I wanted to bake cookies for, would eat alive the errant child who came in thinking they owned the place, zooming around any which way they chose, tripping everyone up and being inconsiderate.  Because you don't fuck with a skater at a skate park.  It's sacred territory. 

And it's a great exercise, as a parent, in letting them swin with big fishes all by themselves.  It's hard, because my instinct is to bubble wrap them in rainbows, but now that my boys are the older boys, and I see them being the ones taking the younger kids under their wings and enforcing the rules of engagement when need be, I see that me squirming a little when they were young has paid off in a big way for them now.

Now, they are fairly accomplished skaters, because they've been taught how to do it by older kids they admire.

The Prize

Now they know that even though mom says it's rude and tacky, sometimes it's just art.
Graffiti
Now, they aren't afraid to try new things, they aren't shy or self conscious, because they've watched the older kids and seen how they try until they get it.

Jump

And now when they fail, they're starting to get right back up, shake it off, and try again.

Going Down

Which is something I've been trying to teach them their whole lives, but was really something they just had to learn by watching this guy damn near kill himself.

Trial and Error
And thank god for that, because now they'll actually wear the fucking helmets.

Loads more on FlickR, as always.