Yesterday at the skating rink, I was sitting on the sidelines watching my boys go round and round. I spotted a pre-teen girl, maybe 12, absolutely struggling to stay upright. She was using an assist called a “skate mate” that was way too short for her tall stature, and she was in a panic with tears streaming down her face. Meanwhile, her friends and all the other skaters were totally oblivious as it was dark and a fast pace in the rink.

As a parent, there’s no way I could not intervene so I asked if she needed help and brought her clumsily to her feet. Together we sat down on the bench which was across the rink from where everyone else was sitting. I asked if she wanted me to find her mom and she said she was at a birthday party. She agreed to let me help her over to the other side. As we started back, she was sobbing once again as she simply could not catch her balance on the skates. By this time, her friends had noticed and asked what was wrong. I said, “She’s struggling and she needs help to the other side to sit down a while.” They said, “Ok, we will help you!” As her legs went in every direction, it quickly occurred to me that making her try to skate with us holding her up was not at all helpful. I said, “Hey, I have a better idea. How about we just take those skates off?” She liked that idea a lot and sat down in the middle of the rink while we pulled her skates off. The four of us got to the other side and I handed her over to the confused birthday party host mom.

[Ok, cue the eye rolls because, yes, I am about to make a skating rink metaphor about life.]

I sat there watching kids and adults go around and around. There was a girl who was gracefully circling doing pirouettes at every turn. There was a gaggle of girls mocking her and giggling not far behind. There were some kids going twice as fast as everyone else, weaving in and out of traffic. There was an old man moving at a snail’s pace while snapping his fingers and smiling. There were kids holding hands with their parents trying to get their bearings. Others using skate mates and figuring it out on their own. There was that one couple gazing into each other’s eyes facing each other and never missing a beat. And, there were plenty of other people, heads down, just minding their own business at their own pace trying not to collide with anyone. It’s really a lot like life, right? We skate through life just trying to figure it out. The young girl who I helped just needed to take her skates off and sit for a while to regroup. It never occurred to her to do so, and she needed someone to tell her.

Not five minutes later after I sat back down, my 6 year old parked his skate mate next to me declaring, “I’m done. I want to take my skates off.” My first instinct was to say, “Take your skates off? We have only been here 20 minutes and you’re done?” He sat there a while before looking at me and saying, “I just need a break and I want to take my skates off for a while.” That’s when my own advice slapped me in the face: “It’s ok to take your skates off for a while.” Didn’t I JUST tell the young girl that same thing? Didn’t I just stare at the skaters wondering if they knew it would be ok to step out for a few? And now, here’s my son asking for the same grace. Yet here’s me worried about the $10 I just spent, shaming him about taking off his skates for a breather. Way to go, Mom.

A little later, my son popped back on his skates and told me to turn the skate mate in at the desk. He was ready to skate by himself. He boldly entered the rink and scooted halfway around. His brother saw him struggling and offered a hand, and they finished a victory lap together. They were both smiling proudly. Just then, the girl I helped earlier was walking toward me with her tennis shoes on and her head held high. Her eyes sheepishly met mine and she mouthed the words, “Thank you.” I nodded and winked at her, hoping she would remember next time that it’s ok to take her skates off.

Written by Jaime Fox