What I learned about play from rollerskating at the rec

So I’m skating around in circles…well, ellipses more or less…with my daughter skating behind me, holding both my hands as she works on finding movements that will keep her rolling forward *and* on her feet. I find myself smiling and smiling, enjoying simply the moment that is. It dawns on me that the people I’ve been skating along side for the past hour are giving me an up close and personal view of play/learning. There are kids as young as probably 3 years old, and kids as old as…well I’m probably the oldest one wearing skates. I hate to sound corny, but skating has brought us together this Saturday night to a dated but well cared for rec center gym to glide (and stumble and fall) around and around on borrowed shoes fitted with wheels. What better place to get a lesson in play? As I skate my smile grows, and I put words to these lessons I’m learning:

  1. Play needs no reason. Period.
  2. There are as many ways to learn to skate as there are people skating. Most, even those obviously new to the game, strike out on their own wanting neither a lesson nor a support. Some prefer the hand of a friend to hold (or two hands of a mom), some prefer to hug the wall, inching along until they understand some kind of physics of staying upright with a new set of feet. Some exhibit caution, some seem to have none. Each approaches the play from their own unique crossroads of experience, personality, daring, self-inhibition or self-consciousness, and desire to play. The younger players in general are much more willing to try and keep trying, completely unconcerned about falling, about how they might look to someone else – it’s the farthest thing from their minds as far as I can tell. There are almost no teens present…I think this is perhaps not a coincidence, as the level of self-consciousness seems to skyrocket at that age. Those adults who are so bold as to skate accompany a child, whose presence gives us permission to look silly, to be awkward, to have fun. (Most of the adults present sit on the bleachers watching and talking. Some enter the fray on wheel-less shoes only to give what seems to me unwanted skating advice to the child in their care.)
  3. What do the players have in common? A drive to play, to join in this game without a reason. Also they share a camaraderie and a feeling of being in a space that is safe. Not safe in the sense that they won’t get hurt, but safe in another sense…I’m not sure exactly, but it’s more an emotional safety than physical safety. It’s shown in the way each skater — remember skating brought us to the same place, but most of us don’t know each other outside of this place — each skater looks out for each other, for our own safety and for everyone’s safety, and for everyone’s opportunity to enjoy skating by trying it and by getting better and better at it.

My daughter enjoys a companion in her play. She doesn’t like many activities on their own . They seem to lose their appeal if she’s to do them solo. Thank you Isabella for being my companion in play, and for bringing me somewhere I never would have gone on my own. And thank you rec center for the community playtime – I can honestly and wholeheartedly say: I needed it!


2 thoughts on “What I learned about play from rollerskating at the rec

  1. Kate, this is making me think of the ice skating the girls and I have been doing on Sunday afternoons. There’s a local rink that has open skate so many hours a week and Sunday afternoon is when we can go. Rachel goes between wanting me beside her to, “Go skate, Mom…I’m challenging myself.” Yes, she actually said that đŸ˜€ Sarah just goes pell mell, like she does with everything. The first couple rounds, I clung to the wall…then I had to go around these little kids who were also clinging and…I ….let…go! Here’s what I love…seeing all the ages! There was a couple in their 70s, I would guess, and they would do a few laps then rest for a little while, then do a few more laps. She had on a tee shirt with bedazzled skates on them and it said “ice skater”…play goes on forever.

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