Russell Learns To Skate

“Look, Russell’s balancing on one leg!” Pinky exclaims.

Indeed, the schoolboy is concentrating hard on a new skill that his skating coach, Lloyd, is teaching him. When the boy lifts one foot off the ground, the balance on the other shifts precariously, requiring a continuous recalibration of balance…

“That’s going one step further, isn’t it?” I muse aloud. “You rarely find him focusing on a single thing.”

“And gladly doing so, too!” my imaginary pet horse responds.

In school, where the pace of the lessons must be adapted to that of all thirty students in the classroom, the schoolboy’s attention frequently wanders after he has completed the assigned tasks, often with considerable time left to spare.

“He finishes his work very fast,” his form teacher informed me recently, “but then he takes out his own notebook to write and draw in.”

“I discourage that,” she said firmly. “He should continue to pay attention to the lesson.”

__

That evening, the child writes a new story in his journal:

“Hee hee!” Sally giggled to herself as she doodled. Her ‘tiger being poked by a narwhal’ drawing appeared on every worksheet she was given – Math, English, Science, Chinese – except Art! The thing was, she had never doodled during Art class. She only did that in the places that she should not have done so.

Every single day, Sally stood outside the classroom as punishment for drawing unnecessarily. Her principal, teachers and parents all hoped that she would one day learn to do the right thing at the right time.

__

We are here at Parkland Green in East Coast Park every Sunday afternoon. The schoolboy has been taking lessons in skating from a modest establishment called Ernsports. The sheltered pavements around the main building are broad and smooth, ideal for learners on wheels, many of whom look to be mere tots. The lessons cater to learners of all skill levels, from absolute beginners learning to roll a few metres at a time, to advanced learners practising intricate freestyle skills. From time to time, when the coaches take their young charges onto the cycling paths along the beach for a touch of “urban skating”, the children put their skating skills to the test.

Only six months ago, the schoolboy had baulked at the idea of putting on footwear with wheels on them. Not buying into risks, his mind rejected the feeling of imbalance and the danger of falling. It has taken Pinky and me plenty of persuasion before he would give the sport a shot. Having mastered some of the skating basics, however, he now waits impatiently for his weekly one-hour sessions.

One of the immensely satisfying rewards of parenthood is witnessing one’s children overcome learning obstacles and hit milestones. The kids often don’t fully realise it when they achieve personal bests, but as adults the feeling is one of deep gratification.

My pink horse and I continue observing the class, she occasionally tittering with amusement when his favourite human falters on his wheels, I with the pleasure of knowing that the child has finally acquired this new skill. For the young’uns, such physical activities – swimming, cycling, skating, kicking a football – are essential for healthy body and mind, building not just muscle and tone, but also confidence and a feeling of well-being.

“Hey, Mum,” a familiar young voice calls out, breaking through the cloud of my inner monologue.

“Do you know how to skate on only one leg?”

Jocelyn Lau is the author of The Life of Pinky, a collection of micro fiction that loosely revolve around her child’s growing-up years.

Robin Low is an emerging junior writer.

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