It’s been a few years since T-man decided to join the skateboarding crowd.
This seemed a bit random at first. I mean, there weren’t any kids into it in our neighborhood and as far as I knew none of his classmates were hardcore skaters…but you know T-man. He’s usually good with going his own way.
So it only took one visit to the skateboard park on a trip to grandmom’s and we entered the world of All Things Skater from there.
As with any shiny new thing we bided our time to see how truly into it T-man would be. We got him a skateboard, pads, and helmet at Walmart (“Walmart, mom?!?”) because if he was gonna skate for a month and drop it then that was the amount of dough I was willing to lay out. Who knew the kid would take to it like a fish to water?
That isn’t to say it was easy. On the contrary, mastering even the basics was a challenge, but this was the first hobby I saw T-man embrace wholeheartedly. He’d hang in the driveway for hours, searching out YouTube videos on tricks and practicing them over and over (and over) until he finally nailed it. In the winter he asked me to move my car out of the garage so he could practice. I knew he truly loved it the morning he got up early and made himself breakfast so he could skate before school.
I started to see some really great personality traits moving front and center in T-man. He developed a persistence and commitment to skateboarding that kept him going, even when it seemed like he’d never get a trick down. He reacted to injuries more calmly – getting bruised or skinned up wasn’t the end of the world, it was just part of skating, and the sooner he patched himself up the sooner he’d be back on his board. T-man became what I can only call fearless, trying new things without worrying about looking foolish or falling down.
He embraced the process, and it was life changing for him.
BrightSide and I found it pretty eye opening as well. Once T-man got serious he craved challenges, so we’d take him to a nearby skate park. One of us would always stay with him, and since he was a ten year old amongst teens we’d settle on a platform of sorts in the actual skate area so we could keep an eye on things. (I’d say “as unobtrusively as possible,” but YOU try being the only middle aged parents in a skate park filled with teenage boys and try to blend.) I’m so glad I did, though, because it gave me a bird’s eye view into the skateboarding culture my son was drawn to.
These guys – some with long hair or tattoos, baggy pants or torn tee shirts – were incredibly generous, kind, and supportive of T-man. They didn’t lavish him with attention (because no guy wants that when he’s working on the basics), but they noticed when he nailed a skill and gave him props. One of them taught T-man how to drop in, a terrifying leap of faith where a skater drops off the top edge and plummets into the bowl. T-man had wanted to do it for weeks but kept backing out, until one guy who used to teach skateboard camp walked him through it. He beamed from ear to ear that day.
Looking back, though, I think what appealed to T-man most was that he was simply accepted. He showed up with a skateboard, hit the ramps, and nobody batted an eye. No one dogged on him for lacking skills, probably because everyone there remembered when they’d started out themselves.
I’d say this was lucky, but we’ve learned it’s not. This is how T-man’s been greeted at every skate park he’s visited. Kids his age, teens, young adults, older adults – it’s always been the same. Everyone’s a skater; everyone belongs.