My Mommyology

April 20, 2015
by mymommyology
9 Comments

#TrailingSpouseStories: The Irony of It All

Welcome to the April run of the #TrailingSpouseStories.  This month’s topic revolves around the classic April Fool’s.  What  got us “fooled” into being a trailing spouse?  What myths did we start out with and what did we discover in the process?  Scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the links to read the other entries.

***

My husband was filling out some paperwork yesterday and essentially asked how many years I’ve been a trailing spouse.  Six years and eight months was the official count when I finally said it out loud.

After six years of trailing, you’d think I’d be used to it by now.  I’ve gotten such sweet compliments about making it look easy, and adjusting so smoothly.  Thank you for such kind words!  I think it’s basically the fact that I enjoy my independent, autonomous family life outside of Manila that gives it that feeling.  However, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg (don’t they say that Facebook depicts everyone’s perfect life?).  Beneath the surface is the usual coping with the challenges… and then some.

You see, I’m a create of habit.

Found this on Lifehack.com.  How can you be a creature of habit if your environment and stimuli is constantly changing?

Found this on Lifehack.com. How can you be a creature of habit if your environment and stimuli is constantly changing?

I like the predictability, the routine, and the forward planning.  I like to think “ahead of schedule”, so much so that I can tell you what my schedule is for the whole month.   If decisions have to be made, I like doing them quickly and pinning down details immediately.

All that said and done — I’m not very good with change.  Whether it’s of the good kind or the bad, somehow the unknown and the “what’s next” always puts knots in my stomach and bags under my eyes.  It’s a true test of patience and a lesson in suppressing panic, because I can’t visualize exactly what’s going to happen (Ironically enough, I married a man full of  “we’ll see…” repliesMakes our lives more interesting, you’d think! ;)).  Now you understand the onset of the three-week Spring Break that had come to pass. 

I like knowing and preparing as much as I can beforehand.  You know those roller coaster rides, or the ones with the surprise drop at the end?  I can do them, but it’s the anticipation that gives me cold sweaty palms and a tummy ache.  I’ve learned the art of the brave face on the outside; but truthfully, I’m a ball of stress on the inside.

'Nuf Said.

‘Nuf Said.

That’s the irony in this entire situation.  Because a trailing spouse’s life is riddled with constant change and so much uncertainty, for someone like me, it’s always a roller coaster ride.  You never know what loops and drops it’ll take you through.

Ever since I became a trailing spouse, so much has changed.  And the change hasn’t stopped!  The pause button is broken.

My family is currently looking for a more “permanent” home (as we’re currently renting).  Still within California, yes — but just the whole process of looking at houses and talking to the realtor is making my head spin and my brain shut down.  There are implications to everything that we’ve set up here with respect to the kids, from schools to extra curricular activities and more.  It’s funny — I knew this from the very beginning, and yet I still can’t seem to wrap my head around it.  It’s yet another change in such a short span of time.

Given the number of times we’ve moved, you’d think by now it would be easier and I’d know what to do.  But there are still so many unanswered questions that can really only unveil with time.  Who’s the fool for believing it would be any different this time around?

But wait.  There’s more.  Two weeks ago, Jamie finally started her full day schedule at school, five days a week.  In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with her when I picked her up at 12 noon everyday.  I couldn’t wait for her to turn 4 and be considered for the whole day program.

Of course, now that she’s in it, I miss having her around.  It seems as if she was ready when I wasn’t.  There have been no complaints thus far.  She likes eating lunch with her friends everyday, and she doesn’t look back after I drop her off.

*sniff*

*sniff*

I’ve longed for this “freedom” for quite some time, however now that it’s here, I’m faced with the paralyzing question of:  what do I do with myself now?

I used to think I’d be one of those parents who would have a list of all the things I could do while the kids were in school all day… and I do have it.  But without them to care for and worry about all day, that list somehow seems so much shorter and easy to finish.  Another good wake up call, which made me realize how much I’ve neglected the “me” bubble since we moved.

My husband expects the house will be cleaner (maybe I shouldn’t have told him about the full day switch! ;)), but then what?  I realized:  It’s been six years since I had whole days to myself!  Even in Manila when the girls were going to school, one of them was always home by lunch.  Maybe it’ll be awesome, but I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.  Another bit of uncertainty, which can only be resolved in time.

Time.  It should be our friend… but then again, you never know where the trailing spouse life will lead.  And by the time you’ve resolved and gotten used to what it is you want to do, then change creeps up again and turns your world in a different direction.  Then we’re back at square one.

I definitely need to get that pause button fixed.  Or is it foolish of me to think that’s even possible?

***

 Clara of Expat Partner Survival thought she knew what it would be like – she didn’t – she wrote a book to help others not to get fooled too.  Read more in Trailing Fools?

Didi of D for Delicious says that the trailing spouse life is attractively shiny, yet it is better to know that behind the glitter is a lot of grit.  Read more in #TrailingSpouseStories: Falling for Fool’s Gold?  

Elizabeth Smith of Secrets of A Trailing Spouse says that the reality of life as a trailing spouse does not live up to its image, but is so much better.  Read more in You Could’ve Fooled Me: Common Myths About Trailing Spouses.

Shakira Sison chats with Didi of D for Delicious We chat with Palanca winning essayist and Rappler columnist Shakira Sison to share stories of her foolhardy decision to leave for NYC.  Read more in A Conversation on the LGBT Trailing Spouse Life in NYC with Shakira Sison.

Tala wonders if being a Trailing Spouse was her escapist dream come true, or not?  Read the verdict in Ambition: Expat’s Wife.

Yuliya Khilko of TinyExpats says that quite often it’s not about being ‘fooled’, but about ‘fooling’ yourself.  Read more in Assumptions and speculations – beginning of the trailing spouse journey.  

April 15, 2015
by mymommyology
0 comments

A Trip to Universal Studios

Changing it up from the Disneyland fieldtrip, over Spring Break  we surprised the girls and took them to Universal Studios.  It’s quite the trek there, but Costco had (still has, until April 24 I hear!) this deal where you buy a day, and you get the rest of 2015 free.  It’s not a bad deal, even if we just go once every quarter.

I’ve never been to Universal Studios.  The closest I got was when we surprised my friend Polly for her baby shower five years ago.

Throwback photo when Polly and I (and the buns in the oven) were in the same city.

In honor of #tbt, a throwback photo when Polly and I (and the buns in the oven) were in the same city.

I was pregnant with Jamie then, and she was pregnant with my godson Riley.  She and The Fatherland took us down the City Walk for the afternoon.  It’s not a bad place to hang out if you just want a “taste” of Universal.  And the food choices aren’t bad at all.

Sam and Jamie were quite thrilled that it would be the first time for the three of us, and there was nonstop banter in the car.  And because it was a drive, there was non-stop “are we there yet?” and “how many more minutes?!”  I may have lost half my mind.

Because Universal is the home of entertainment and movies, a lot of their attractions featured 3D, 4D and many many special effects and shows.  It was like going to a behind-the-scenes theme park, and learning about how they make movies come to life.  While most of the park may have been too young for Jamie to fully appreciate, she was able to retain some good information about the production world, and understand that some of the things she thinks look scary are really just an illusion.  Sam was able to grasp a little bit more of it, and now asks me if what she sees on TV is real, or it requires some special effects, and what kind (yikes).

It being our first time, we followed the suggested guide and first took the girls to the highly rated WaterWorld show.  The stunts were amazing, and Sam was pretty starstruck.

Photos with the cast, stuntment and actors from shows like Law and Order and Marvels Agents of Shield.

Photos with the cast, stunt men and actors from shows like Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Law and Order.

Then we saw an Animal Actors show, which turned out to be Jamie’s favorite (I foresee an animal-related occupation in her future), because of all the animals that were running and flying around.

Of course, we HAD to meet the cast of Despicable Me 1 and 2, who made their rounds and came out every 15 minutes or so.

The Minions and My Minions.

The Minions and My Minions.

Daddy promised them they’d win a Unicorn at the Super Silly Fun Land…

The game that Gru "blew up" in the movie

Jamie truly reminds me of Agnes.  “I want my Unicorn!” #nopressureDad

… and they did!

"It's so FLUFFY!!!"

“It’s so FLUFFY!!!”

It was the highlight of Jamie’s day.  She was just about ready to go home at that point.  I will say that the Unicorn in the game is stiff, and not as “fluffy” as the plush ones they sell in the stores.  The one they sell is just about triple the price though!

Sam rode Minion Mayhem, the new attraction in 4D.  It’s a really quality kind of ride, so my husband got a switch pass for me to go on.  We learned about the switch pass trick in Disneyland when we went with a friend.  Jamie, not being tall enough to get on most rides yet, had to be left with an adult.  Theme parks offer switch passes for groups in these situations.  Basically, the people who get left behind with the kids can ride immediately without the hassle of getting back in line, when their accompanying adults come back from their turn.   The switch pass can usually get the rider and three or four other people in, so when I went, Sam went with me again.  It works out well, because even at Disney, Sam gets to ride some of the longer lined rides and roller coasters twice.

We didn’t take them to the water park because we didn’t bring a change of clothes.  Most likely it will be part of our next trip over when the weather gets warmer.

After that, we went on the classic studio tour, which featured part of the KingKong movie in 4D.   I tried to prep Jamie for what to expect, but even I wasn’t sure since it was my first time.  She held on to me tight and wouldn’t leave my lap in anticipation.  I kept telling her how brave she was for even trying, praying it would help.  My husband says that the King Kong portion was a new part of the tour, so he couldn’t tell me what to prep her with either.  We were in the dark on this one… literally.

Jamie doesn't look that thrilled.

Jamie doesn’t look that thrilled.

It was like being in a scene from the movie, where the tram was put in a dark cave-like room which turned out to be screens from top to bottom.  It was made so that you’d imagine what it was like in the land of King Kong, fighting of all the dinosaurs.  We got sprinkled on with some water (which was supposed to be dinosaur saliva), but I think the dark, the loud noise and scary music — it was too much for Jamie.  I tried to calm her down by saying King Kong is there to save us, and she listened for a while and stopped wailing.

The rest of what followed after King Kong — the fake flood, and simulated earthquake stressed and scared her even more.  The surprise attack from Jaws was what finally did her in.

She refused to go on anything else after that, so we didn’t get to see the Shrek 4D attraction with Sam and Dad.  We just took a picture for posterity after.

I need to show the girls this movie.

I need to show the girls this movie so they can appreciate our next trip better.

And so while they were inside the ride Jamie and I did a typical de-stressing activity — we went shopping.

It's actually a pretty cute book.

It’s actually a pretty cute book.

The girls didn’t know much about the Simpsons, The Mummy, Transformers, Jurassic Park and Fast and the Furious, but Dad wanted to go down and see what we could do there.  They opted to do Jurassic Park first, and Sam liked it.  My husband however also scared himself silly in anticipation of when things go wrong and the surprise drop at the end, and so insisted that I use the switchpass to take Sam on again (because she wanted to go again).

I'm glad I remembered to bring a change of clothes!  Sam was wet - twice by spraying dinosaurs!

Sam LOVED this ride!

Then to Daddy’s delight, the girls were introduced to the Transformers.

I gotta admit, the way they played this meet and greet out was pretty awesome.

I gotta admit, the way they played this meet and greet out was pretty awesome.

They’re pretty funny for a bunch of robots.  And the voice of Optimus Prime is very much like the actual actor in the movie.

It was nice because the trip added a new repertoire of movie characters that they could eventually learn about.  We didn’t introduce them to the Simpson’s, but the girls did get a taste of Homer’s favorite donuts.

Tip:  Buy this at the beginning, because it is a snack that can last you and the family the WHOLE day!  It's pretty good quality too.

Tip: Buy this at the beginning, because it is a snack that can last you and the family the WHOLE day! It’s pretty good quality too.

The girls collapsed on the way home; Sam from all the new ride excitement, and Jamie probably from all the stress.  And despite Jamie’s freak outs which resulted in ultimate clingy-ness, I quite enjoyed myself too.  I appreciated the new perspectives I gained on the entertainment industry.

Hopefully when we go back, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will already be open, and it would be another fun adventure for us all!

April 12, 2015
by mymommyology
3 Comments

Spring Break “Mom-Sam Camp”

Sam had a two and a half spring break from school.  It took a while to sink in, but when it did — panic followed.  What was I going to do with her at home for two and a half weeks?!  Jamie’s spring break would only coincide with hers on the last week, but otherwise I was still going to shuttle one child to school everyday and have another one glued to me. ALL. DAY.

We did that before in Manila, when Jamie had school and Sam spent time in the backseat of the car chewing my ear off with non-stop questions and what if’s.  My very energetic Sam is highly excitable and is most in need of constant stimulation.  She’s always asking what else, and she’s always looking for something new to do.  I appreciate that Sam is smart and I am lucky to have a highly inquisitive child, however I distinctly remembering being zapped from all energy during those days.  Hence, the pre-spring break panic attack.  I felt ill-prepared.

My first instinct was to look for camps to stick her in.  The problem was the timing.  Most of the camps ran during the week that Jamie was out too, and it didn’t make sense to have one in camp where the other couldn’t.

Then I asked Sam to help me figure out what she wanted to do and I said we’d go find the class.

Her answer caught me off guard.  “How about a Mom-Sam Camp, Mommy?  Could we do that since we don’t have much alone time together?”  Lay on  #momguilt, why not.

When I had calmed my nerves (with wine), I realized she was right about the lack of our quality alone time.  She’s in school longer than Jamie is, and apart from some girl scout activities, we don’t really do much else that’s just the two of us.  Jamie doesn’t nap during the day either.  Most of their extra curricular activities were still on for most of the break, so we’d still be running around for a good part of the time.

I also realized that I missed Sam.  We’ve gotten caught up in our routine, and she works so hard during the school days on everything, cutting her a little slack and giving her some downtime wouldn’t hurt.

All the more I felt bad for trying to deposit her immediately into some “camp”.  As her mother, I could definitely put together activities I know she’d love (and learn from too).  There would be no compromise, and no adjustment towards what other people wanted to do, and to my husband’s delight, little-to-no cost.  There’s a lot of things we could do at home as it is.  When did I get so dependent on camps?!  I’ll admit was a good eye-opener, and a wonderful moment for re-evaluating my parenting philosophy.

So with a days to spare before sem-break actually hit, I planned out our Mom-Sam Camp “curriculum”.

According to Sam’s teacher during our Parent-Teacher Conference, Sam quickly masters math and reading concepts (we all know she’s a voracious reader), and so she suggested giving Sam more “breadth than depth”.  I took that to mean an introduction to other subjects like science, history, art and the like.

And so we embarked on various activities during the course of our days.

There was of course – Science.  According to her teacher, Sam has shown a keen interest in the subject.  We’ve talked about molecules, read up on magnets, and have conducted our own little experiments.

Using our Science encyclopedia to test if the liquids in our home were acidic, basic or neutral.

Using our Science encyclopedia to test if the liquids in our home were acidic, basic or neutral.

I also took her to the Science Museum several times, and it was quite timely that they had an exhibit on National Geographic Explorers.  So there was a lesson (or two) there.

Rainforests, Savannahs, The Artic... her dad was impressed!

Rainforests, Savannahs, The Artic… her dad was impressed!

There was also a fun Bubblefest show happening that week, and Sam got to explore the world of a gazillion bubbles.  We discovered Deni Yang, the world-record holder Bubble Performer.  Let me tell ya, he puts on an AMAZING show.  Ah-mazing.

Left: Deni Yang in action.  Right:  Deni and Sam right after the show.

Left: Deni Yang in action.
Right: Deni and Sam right after the show.

We’ve also been learning about US history and geography together.

Learning about Abe Lincoln guess where?  In Disney!  So it turns out Walt was a fan and has an exhibit of Lincoln at the park.

Learning about Abe Lincoln guess where? In Disney! So it turns out Walt was a fan and has an exhibit of Lincoln at the park.

This is “new territory” for me (pun intended), and something Sam may know more of than me.  I found a workbook in Barnes and Noble that would teach her first grade history too.

This kept her preoccupied for a good hour and I was able to fold laundry in peace.

This kept her preoccupied for a good hour and I was able to fold laundry in peace.

There was a little bit of biography.

The Who Is / Was series is buy two, get the third free at B&N.

The Who Is / Was series is “Buy two, get the third free” at B&N.

Might as well learn a little bit about the person who’s park we frequent  so often, don’t you think? 😉

Speaking of which, what is Spring Break without a few trips to Disneyland thrown in? 😉

Spending Easter with Mickey and Minnie

Spending Easter with Mickey and Minnie

Of course, I had her help me with the chores around the house, and I taught her a little bit about peeling a potato.

(Mental note, get more Curious Chef items from Amazon.)

(Mental note, get more Curious Chef items from Amazon.)

Of course as Sam loves anything art-related, we did a lot of art exploration.

My favorite thus far is the bottom right, entitled Papillion en Paris.  Can you see the Eiffel Tower? ;)

My favorite thus far is the bottom right, entitled Papillion en Paris. Can you see the Eiffel Tower? ;)

And my novice little mind thought to mix technique and medium, with Art history and style.  So I invested in some books for reference.

Reference materials.

Reference materials.

I was amazed that Sam recognized some artists from the book.  It appears they were already taught at her school (winning points for our school!).

Sometimes it was just free painting, which is always a good thing.

This has not yet been titled by the artist.

This has not yet been titled by the artist.

On the last week when Jamie was out of school, I enrolled them both in a week-long soccer camp (more on that in another post).

All of these, coupled with a few play dates and girl scout meetings and activities made for our spring break.

Was the house turned upside-down?  Yes.  Was I able to do anything else other than Mom-Sam Camp?  Not really.  Was I tired and worn out everyday?  Absolutely.  In fact my husband couldn’t understand how I could be so exhausted with one child out of school.  I just gave him the evil eye.

And while I may not have any child development or educational degree whatsoever, I do think a few lessons from me and our hodge-podge “curriculum” did her some good.  It did us both a lot of good, and it was exactly what we needed.

Oh and it looks like Sam liked her camp too. 😉

My feedback from a satisfied student.

My feedback from a satisfied student.

April 5, 2015
by mymommyology
6 Comments

“Mom, What If Jamie Wasn’t Born?”

Yes, those days do exist.  Squabbles, riffs, meltdowns, tears… drama.  It’s all part and parcel of sibling-hood.  Whether it happens more in families with siblings of the same gender because they like the same things, or with siblings of opposite genders because they play differently, it just HAPPENS.  And it can happen very frequently, such as it has been in our home these last few weeks.

For whatever reason:  age, climate change, fatigue and hormones, Sam and Jamie haven’t been getting along quite as well as they usually do.

Ate's face clearly shows how she feels about Jamie slurping down all the goodness.

Ate’s face clearly shows how she feels about Jamie slurping down all the goodness.

It has finally gotten to the point where my frustrated eldest child asked me one day, “Mom, what if Jamie wasn’t born?”

Almost instantly, the image that popped into my head was my grandmother.  I was a young child, standing in front of her in the rocking chair, and she was chiding me over something I said.  It might have been similar in context too (to my siblings, you know I love you! ;)).

It was more like a scolding because I said and thought such “taboo” things.  Why would we wish someone wasn’t born?  It’s unheard of.  The topic would then be dismissed as quickly as possible.  “Don’t think that, it’s not nice.”  The problem is, I already did!  “No, no, no, you don’t ask such things ever again,” she’d say.  But why, what’s wrong?  Is the nagging question that’s left unanswered.

I love my Mama Mia, God Bless her soul, and I don’t fault her for it.  I now understand: it was just what they were taught.  And you may come across it as well still during this day and age when you talk to the “young once”.

Yet ironically, years later, it’s those instances when I was told to dismiss my feelings that stick out the most today.  Maybe it’s the lack of closure, but I was definitely conscious about avoiding the same consequence with my own kids (funny how the past shapes the way you parent, ey!).

Thanks to DYC, I anchor on what is clear, and that’s knowing Sam loves her sister.  Unequivocally so!

Love love love.

Love love love.

When that question came up, I assumed Sam had no malice or ill-intent towards Jamie whatsoever.  She was just frustrated with everything going on.  I see them together everyday, I am so sure of it.

But I also know what it feels like as the eldest child, always giving in or compromising for the sake of the younger ones.  It’s tiring, frustrating, and frankly, it just gets old.  It’s easier to just be done with them and wish they weren’t there to “complicate” everyday growing up life (to my younger siblings, again — I love you! 😉 ).

Instead of the chiding and scolding I received, I sat Sam down and decided we’d process this together.  We used a one-on-one date as the  non-threatening setting for this discussion.

What if Jamie wasn’t born, Sam?  What would it be like, you think?”  I initiated the discussion.

Given her current state of emotions at the time, all her thoughts were towards the “pros” of being an only child.  “You and dad would carry me more.  I wouldn’t need to share, and I’d have all the toys to myself.  We could read more books that I choose,” she said thoughtfully, referring to our bedtime routine where she and Jamie each get to pick a book that we’d read together.  And the list went on.

I let her rattle off everything she thought would be great about a non-Jamie filled life.  All chocolate donuts and milkshakes, no vanilla or strawberry.  No need to take turns sleeping beside mom at night.  Colored baths of her choosing — all the time.

When they take bubble baths, they take turns choosing what color the water will be.

When they take bubble baths, they take turns choosing what color the water will be.

And I just listened.

When she was done, I said, “Well sweetheart.  You might not have as many toys as you do now if Jamie wasn’t there.”   When the Christmas gifts roll in, there’s usually one for each of them, so there’s a doubling of the amount of toys at a faster rate.  Birthdays happen twice in a year too, instead of once.  So there’s more cake, more celebration and of course, more gifts to go around and share.  “And when Mom or Dad can’t stay with you to sleep in the room because we still have chores to finish, if there was no Jamie, you’d have to sleep alone.”  To this day, Sam dislikes sleeping by herself.

I love moments like these!

I love moments like these!

I didn’t raise my voice.  And not once did I say Sam was wrong to feel that way or ask that question, if only because — there was really nothing wrong with asking the question to begin with.  Instead I followed her logic and used it to cite the benefits of having Jamie in her life.  “You and Jamie may have different likes, but doesn’t that make it more fun?  When we go to Disneyland for example.  You get to go and do things you wouldn’t have thought of seeing or doing. ”

We met all these new Disney Bunny characters because Jamie wanted to go and see them!  And Sam had a blast.

We met all these new Disney Bunny characters because Jamie wanted to go and see them! And Sam had a blast.

“…And remember, because Jamie loves Strawberries and we went on her field trip, you decided to try it.  Now you like them too!”

Thank goodness for this field trip!

Thank goodness for this field trip!

And as I went on, I could see that my highly rational, very mature six-year old Sam understood.

I actually think, Sam, that Jamie makes you a more considerate, more caring person.  Because you’re always thinking of her — even when you don’t need to.”   When we’re out and about and someone gives Sam a sticker, a balloon, or a treat, she won’t hesitate to ask if she can get a second one for her sister too.  And because Jamie sees that, she’s started doing it as well unprompted when Sam isn’t around.  “You show Jamie what it’s like to be a good sister.”

I acknowledged that her feelings were real and true, and there was nothing wrong with that.  Sometimes, it is hard to share and compromise, and to do it constantly (We adults know this!  Why should we expect kids to willingly do it when we can’t).  And it’s simply hard to wrestle with a sister (or a brother for that matter) who is different from yourself.  Would we rather the opposite was true?  Most definitely not.

As our date came to a close, Sam finally said, “Ya Mom.  I think it is better with Jamie after all.  I’m actually glad God gave her to us.” 

She’s such a smart girl.  I couldn’t agree more.

And we definitely, DEFINITELY, wouldn’t want it any other way. :)

***

A belated happy 4th birthday to our darling Jamie.  Our lives are infinitely better with you in it.

Such a Happy Little Birthday Girl.

We love you!

April 1, 2015
by mymommyology
0 comments

Girls on Ice

I’m all about new experiences and allowing the girls to try new things.  Sam has definitely taught me that, as it is very much her personality to be open and try new things.  Jamie and I are more of the constant, stick-to-the-routine, new-activities-can-be-exciting but-stressful, folk.  Sam is good for Jamie in that sense because Ate can convince her sister to get her all excited about it too.  But I know that it is a “fragile” kind of yes because she may not fully understand what she’s getting herself into.  And Jamie needs extra prep time.  Everything has to go smoothly the first time around, otherwise it’s game over for us (It sounds very much like me growing up! #karma).

Last winter the Ice Skating rinks popped up in different areas around town and we all got excited about it.  It would’ve been our first ice skating experience, and it was something I wanted them to do.  I thought about getting an instructor for us, however when I found out the cost for 30 minutes, I resorted to self-study over You Tube (my husband would be proud).  It didn’t look too hard, I thought.

You know that saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?”  Boy did it take on new meaning for me!

For our very first attempt, we went with some friends as a playdate.  The girls were fairly excited and very game about it all.  Sam stepped on the ice and was a natural from the beginning.  It may have also been that her skates were double-bladed and it was easier to move and balance.  In any case, she made it look easy.

Sam's very first time in an ice skating rink!

Sam’s very first time in an ice skating rink!

Jamie’s excitement however quickly shifted into nervousness, and she held on to me as we got on the ice.  And it was only then when I realized how hard it actually could be — especially for someone with no roller-blading or previous ice skating experience!  It was hard enough to balance on my own, and definitely much harder while having to manage a tight-gripped 3-yr old by my side!

The only steady shot I was able to get of Jamie and me.

The only steady shot I was able to get of Jamie and me.

We hung on to the rail for a good portion of the time, and as I was trying to adjust my stride, I slid and flew.  And not in the graceful way, mind you.

Yup.  That's what I looked like.  Do you see the resemblance?

Yup. That’s what I looked like. Do you see the resemblance?

I’m sure you’re having a wonderful laugh, and that’s fine.  I would have laughed too, but it hurt!  Anyway more than that, I had pulled Jamie down on the ice.  When I scrambled to get my bearings, I saw her face flat down crying.

I had consciously tried to break her fall and keep her up, although I can imagine the gravitational pull of me (and all my heaviness) was too much for an unstable ice skater.  She she came tumbling down with me.  Thankfully, it wasn’t more than a scratched lip.

As you may have guessed, it was game over for us at that point, both of us traumatized.  I only realized it then that she could have broken her teeth, or hit her head (but thankfully they require kids wear helmets!).  The experience rattled us both, and I was in emotional (and physical) pain for quite a few days.

Ouchie! :(

Ouchie! :(

Meanwhile, Sam was a natural!  She loved it, learned it pretty quickly too, and went back again with her cousins over Holiday break.  By then she was semi gliding already.

Totally no fear.

Totally no fear.

I knew that Jamie’s bad experience was totally my fault, and admittedly, I couldn’t live with it.  I had to remedy it somehow.  I would open up the topic, say it wasn’t her fault, and said we would DEFINITELY spend good money on lessons for her the next time around.

And as fate would have it, a friend offered us 2 free lesson passes at the rink her girls were learning in.  Hurray!  Sam could use the guidance and we’d see how she’d do on single-bladed skates, and it was the perfect opportunity to get Jamie back into the rink.

Round 2.

Round 2.

Jamie agreed to this idea, that a professional would hold on to her and teach her how to skate.  And I was pleasantly surprised to see her gamely gear up again.

I was a little worried though that the skates were single-bladed and she wasn’t given a helmet, but my friend assured me that it was how they taught the kids there.

In the 30 minutes that the lesson lasted, Jamie was given a barrel to push forward, and taught to balance, let go and sit and stand.  She had some trouble moving and started to look distressed, but the teacher helped her out.

So this is what an ice skating lesson looks like.

So this is what an ice skating lesson looks like.

Eventually the teacher moved the barrel far enough and asked Jamie to skate towards it… and she did!

Here she is!  What a feat!

Here she is! What a feat!

Jamie looked totally stressed, but I was so proud to see her keep a brave face and carry through.  She cried once (because a little boy knocked her down!  Arg!), but the teacher kept her in the rink and told her it was ok to fall.  I think that stuck to her because that’s what she told me in the end.

Jamie walked away from the experience a little braver and a little prouder.  She talks about it still like a feat she had just conquered.  And really it was!  I try very hard not to force the kids to do things they don’t want to.  I don’t think coercion will get us anywhere.  And if I know that Jamie is anything like me, then it will never end well.  I’m glad that the gentle persuasion and preparation tactics work though, because there are some instances that need that.  It’s always a delicate balance when to do it.  But when you get it right, and when it feels like their idea too, the rewards are much sweeter after.