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Is there anything cuter than a child
trying to master a new skill?

Maddie’s been working on skipping for a long time now;
probably six months easily have been spent in hard labor on the
whole skipping thing. And that doesn’t include the year
before that, when she would see skipping and demand an explanation,
a demonstration, and (yet another) lesson. The past several months,
though, she’s been really applying herself, and Sunday
afternoon it finally paid off.

Maddie’s had a few teachers –
first, of course, me; then the resident movement guru, Gamma; and
finally, Maddie’s been working on skipping in her weekly
ballet class with Miss Linda. Gamma and I have talked through the
whole “step-hop” concept with Maddie dozens of times,
and she’s reached the point of being able to take a step and
hop, then run some more. Ballet class doesn’t break it down
quite the same way, and one of my favorite mental photos of Maddie
is watching her work on skipping in ballet class and hearing her
say determinedly under her breath, “Step . . . HOP! Step . .
. HOP! Step . . . HOP! You can do this!”

So anyway, Sunday afternoon. Maddie and I went to the grocery store
for our weekly trip, and we were hanging out waiting for the
butcher to finish a specific cut for us. Maddie’d parked her
small cart next to mine and asked if she could practice the length
of half an aisle, and since the store was relatively empty I said
yes. I watched her working her way up and down the aisle, stepping
and putting her little leg into a turned-out flamingo before giving
a little chugging hop forward, then running a few steps and
repeating the whole thing. The cherry on top of this sundae of a
scenario was that she was giving herself a soundtrack: she was
singing, “Skip To My Lou” as she went, but just as she
did when learning to ride a tricycle, every time she had to start
over she’d start the song over, so she sounded like this
– “Skip, skip, skip to my – Skip, skip –
Skip – Skip – Skip – Skip, skip, skip to my L-
Skip – Skip – doggone it!”

“Baby, you’re doing step-hop perfectly, but you have to
go right into the next one on the other leg, no running in between,
ok?” I coached from the side. “Mama, come do it with
me,” she begged, and off we went, skipping down the aisle.
Amused shoppers began rubbernecking down the aisle, and a few
people even jumped in (pun intended) to demonstrate pointers or
skip along. “May I skip with you?” a mother asked
gravely. With equal gravitas Maddie replied, “Yes, you

Before too long, the meat was ready, but the butcher simply stood
there, arms hanging over the counter as Skipping Practice
continued. And suddenly, it happened – a step HOP, followed
directly by a step HOP!

“She did it,” an observer breathed, as I squealed,
“Baby girl! That was perfect!” Maddie stopped, turned
around. “Did what?” “You skipped twice in a row!
Try it again!” Grinning shyly, Maddie gave it another go, and
sure enough, she still had it in her. A few false starts, and
Maddie was off down the aisle looking startlingly like a manic
leprechaun on caffeine; her flamingo legs were as high as she could
possibly get them, though still glued to her other leg, and she
still had that endearing little “chug” of a hop, as if
her body was shyly scooting herself forward.

The rest of the shopping trip Maddie would break into spontaneous
skip, checking in on the new skill and making sure she still had
it, and as we left the store to shouts of "Keep up the skipping!"
And though we got home with only five minutes to spare before her
nap, apparently Maddie regaled her Daddy with tales and a live
demonstration for the entire five minutes as I tended to Cora.
Maddie skipped to the park that night, and skipped home after
dinner, joyfully exuberant in her new skill.

I remember how much I loved to skip when I was a girl; it’s
that feeling of flying, of skimming the surface as you effortlessly
travel the highways of childhood. I still occasionally skip around
the house, partly to lift my mood and partly to get somewhere
faster. But I remember that feeling of energy stored up, ready for
use, propelling you wherever you wanted to go. And I watched my
daughter skipping home, sometimes holding Daddy’s hand and
sometimes breaking out and going ahead, the wind streaming through
her hair and the glee on her face, and I have a longing to skip
ahead and join her.

So that’s it – cross another milestone off the list.
And open the door to a whole new level of play.


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