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Girls On Wheels

God bless the suburbs. Mock them all you want (and believe me, as a hardened New Yorker I do plenty of that), but they know how to cater to soccer moms.

Case in point- strollerskating.

I grew up going to the local roller rink for really “special” occasions – lock-ins, birthday parties, even the occasional date. Lucky for me, that same roller rink is still going strong, and apparently all my friends grew up and had babies too, because now they offer the chance to skate with your offspring every week.

Any given Thursday will find the roller rink – so decrepit it’s hip, so old it’s retro – invaded by the stroller set; for four bucks (children five and under get in free!) you can tie on some smelly old skates – probably the same ones you borrowed fifteen years ago – strap your baby into a stroller, and boogie-oogie-oogie to the beat. I was a bit skeptical but up for the challenge since rollerskating was next on Maddie’s to-do list of New Things To Try.

About a week ago I’d found a pair of skates in a resale shop – the Fisher-Price plastic kind, that clamp over your own shoes. Maddie thought she’d hit the jackpot: she’s been reading a book about a girl who gets skates, and couldn’t wait to see firsthand what the fuss was about. So far her skating experiences have been limited to strapping them on and having an adult haul her around the neighborhood, her feet never leaving the ground, but I figured we’d give the roller rink a shot.

I thought I’d stepped back twenty years when I entered the place; I swear that banner was torn in the exact same spot last time I’d been there, and I’m pretty sure “Car Wash” was playing that night as well. Maddie was impressed, and Cora seemed interested though cautious; she’s not a fan of the stroller and was none too interested in being strapped down into it. How was I going to manage a stroller and a shaky toddler at the same time?

My secret weapon: Gamma.

With skates on our feet and bells on our toes, we hit the rink, and soon I was flying. Do you know how easy it is to roller skate when you’ve got a stroller to lean on for balance? Totally cool. One look at Cora and I realized my worries were groundless – the wind in her hair, Cora was grinning from ear to ear. And Maddie was –

Oops. Maddie was waaaaay back there.

Well, can’t turn around and skate the other direction – better finish out the lap instead.

dsc04332.jpg Mom and I took turns pulling Maddie along, cajoling and encouraging her to stick with it and not quit. She’s got a good sense of balance, but those feet simply don’t listen to her, and at one point she cried in frustration, “I can’t make my feet do what I want them to!” Skating behind her wasn’t helpful, since she needed to hold onto both hands and if she held hands with someone behind her, Maddie’s feet would sail out in front of her and she’d be halfway to the floor. We spent a bit of time educating her in the finer art of pulling herself around the circle by holding onto the wall, but even that unnerved her. She took several breaks when her legs got too tired, said a few times that it was too hard and she didn’t want to do it, but each time she decided to try one more time, get up and give it one more shot.

In the end, my “moves” came back to me enough that I could skate backwards, holding her hands in front of her and helping her along. By the time the last song was played, we were sailing rather fast and she was relaxing and really enjoying herself. Sure, she’d fallen a few times, but she’d learned to just laugh and get back up again, so even that was a victory.

Cora became a bit frustrated with the whole thing; she kept grabbing her feet and trying to take her shoes off, pointing at my skates and babbling in frustration. She clearly wanted to get down and skate herself, so we switched out, periodically allowing Cora out of her stroller to wander around a bit. The breaks had the added bonus of keeping Cora awake; rushing rhythmically over that wooden floor, circling around and around, Cora began nodding off in her seat. So mommies, take note – if you’ve got a colicky baby, hit the roller rink.

All in all we absolutely loved the day; Maddie can’t wait to go back again and neither can I. I loved seeing all the moms chatting as they skated side by side, getting exercise and companionship all at once while babies sledded contentedly and older kids roamed around in packs. I forgot how much your butt gets worked – especially when you have to skate really slowly and help balance someone only three feet off the ground. But most importantly, Maddie had a fun time and seemed to really “get” the roller rink vibe, stopping for long stretches to people-watch and drink it all in.

As we skated around one last time, I could have sworn I heard her humming “Xanadu”, but that must have been my imagination.



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