Before 11 a.m. today, Sk8terdude was back at Jennings Beach Skate Park. It was cool and overcast, but that didn't keep the ten or so diehard skaters from their early morning session. He had a fabulous time. Many thanks to the two older skaters who told him he needed to get up more speed if he wanted to olley the box at the top of the ramp closer to the road side of the park. By the end of our two hours there he had landed it more than once.
At some point I noticed a mom on the far side of the park. She was standing by the fence with a young boy who appeared to be skating for the first time. He tried getting on and off his board once or twice. She tried holding his hand as he rolled down the first bump in the "hump run" around the back end of the park. After watching awhile from the car, I sent Sk8terdude over to offer some help.
Together they walked back to where I was standing and we started chatting. She started by saying that she needed to go buy her son knee and elbow pads (and he chimed in and said he needed "butt pads"). I saw that his helmet was too loose and suggested she adjust it to fit him. Sk8terdude loosened his trucks (they were so tight that even Sk8terdude couldn't stay on his board), then showed him a spot in the park where there was a gentle slope so he could try just rolling down that section of the park until he got a better sense of balance. Then Sk8terdude dropped into the bowl and left him to practice.
After a few tries, her son came back over to where we were waiting. Referring to a group of teenagers who were skating together, he exclaimed in not-quite-a-stage-whisper, "Mom, they said the F-word!"
Over his helmet, the other mom and I exchanged an amused glance.
If you've been reading this blog regularly, you may recall that recently I was interviewed for an article about being the parent of a kid who skateboards, BMX bikes, etc. One of the questions that the reporter asked was, "Are there any negative stereotypes that your son has encountered being involved in skateboarding?" This f-word moment at Jennings Beach reminded me of her question.
People who hear that I have a skateboarding son sometimes ask me if I worry about "bad influences" at the skatepark. And the truth is, I do sometimes worry about the image skateboarding has with the general public, how much that image reflects what really goes on at skateparks, and whether or not Sk8terdude is in any real danger hanging out there. But "bad influences" are everywhere...if you're looking for them. I hope that as parents, Sk8terdad and I have done our jobs and given our children a solid foundation and set of values so that they are not so easily influenced - at the skatepark, at school, at camp, and any other place where "bad influences" might exist.
And I have to admit, long before Sk8terdude ever set foot in a skatepark, he learned the f-word from OlderBrother who, in turn, learned it (in first grade, no less) from a classmate who lives down the street.
Where did the neighbor - also six years old at the time - learn the word? From his mother! So much for scary places with "bad influences."
I once heard a psychologist joke (or not joke), "If it isn't one thing, it's the mother."
I guess in this case, that was more than true!