This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

- ice dance aesthetics

Ice dancing always bugged me as an aesthetic, not so much because the dancers aren't aesthetically pleasing (they are), but rather that their interpersonal interactions get in the way of their art. This may therefore seem counterintuitive, but the pairs I like the best skate perfectly synchronously yet with almost no personal interaction outside of what constitutes artistic expression.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

- a tough choice point

This is a fragile time for my daughter. She has numerous demands pulling at her soul and the same time her body is going through it's last major growth spurt.

Yesterday at a club event in Culver City, she finished eighth out of nine. I noticed while she was out on the ice that she isn't a little girl anymore -- quite suddenly her body size has shifted and she is no longer a girl. She is fifteen now. She is growing into an adult, growing into the body that she will inhabit for the next ten years or so.

It was quite obvious from the gals doing axels on the ice that there is a severe split at this point -- those whose bodies develop into slender enough to do axels, and those that don't. Some of it is just circumstance too -- my daughter is in a situation where it will take enormous self-control for her to limit her food intake and simultaneously get enough aerobic exercise to remain slender.

So if she wishes to proceed into a more professional skating career, she will need to maintain an immense amount of focus over the next six months or so. Especially with her pending ankle surgery and whatever female hormonal changes she is going through, this is going to be an especially fragile time for her.

It's a bit of a tricky juggling act in my role as a father. On the one hand I want to help her through the transition, whether this is a transition of realization (that she just isn't going to make it professionally in the sport) or a transition toward dedication (that she in effect sells her soul to the sport). As a father I am more interested that she makes it through the transition, especially recalling the tough times that I faced when I went to study math at MIT. Facing up to your future is a giant slap in a person's self-esteem.

The point for my daughter, of course, is that what she has suddenly found is that being a professional skater, if that is her intent, involves a whole issue of lifestyle that she might not have considered previously, especially the somewhat tricky issue of food.

I'm not going to come right out and say it to her (I said it to her once, and that was quite enough) and it's not even right for me to suggest the path that she takes. All I'm supposed to do is present it to her as one of many life choices, but it is certainly up to her to make the choice. It is okay with me if she chooses food and a science career over deprivation and a skating career.

I will support her whichever way she goes to the extent that I can. My problem is that I'm not sure how she defines herself -- if she sees herself in her own eyes primarily as a skater, then the awareness that she might face difficulties in that career might come as a rather earthquaking foundation-rattling shock.

(penned in 2003)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

- parental psychic warfare

We arrived a bit early at the Valencia rink for a lesson, and the "pond" (the small practice ice) was still running a freestyle. Basically, here's a bunch of girls, almost all exactly twelve to fourteen, on that sensitive cusp between dedicating their life to athletics and abandoning it all for teen angst. I'm not sure how girls make it through that age.

But there was something else going on there. Parental psychic warfare. Now I would never go in for that sort of thing, and I'm against it on principal, but I'm saying that is happening. It's actually the competitiveness of the parents. The skatemoms especially.

Personally I have a certain set of principles that both prohibits hostility and also assures some suit of quiet equity between my family and others.

I have all of these thoughts about whether the ends justifies the means, or if isn't just another example of false surrogate endpoint: the tendency for people to get tunnel vision and ascribe life-critical importance to the small things at hand, losing sight of the big picture.

The warfare is through subtle comments and not so subtle glares and recriminations. Plus psychics to fill a spellbook. Much of is of the simple "bad wish" kind, the whisper of "fall now" or "catch your toe pick." Some of it is more serious: spells for injury, bad luck, or mishap. Some is deliberate rumor mongering.

I suppose that my daughter is protected by way of my general equity requirements, but this psychic warfare is still a scary thing to sense.