I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
February 25, 2013
I hadn’t planned to stay.
I drove Punky to the skate center for the start of a sleepover party, fully intending to drop her off with her things and head back home ten minutes later. That way, I’d have just enough time to finish a work project and make a trip to the gym before my son returned home from a play date.
Once we arrived at the skate center, I handed off Punky’s bags to her friend’s parents and found her a pair of skates that fit and a walker on wheels to keep her from falling. I helped her onto the crowded rink and told her I’d stay with her a few minutes, until she felt comfortable. Immediately, the birthday girl found her and patiently skated around the rink with my daughter a few times as she stumbled along on her skates.
I had trouble keeping track of Punky as she made her way around the rink. It was filled with a few hundred skaters of all shapes, sizes and skill levels. Around me, a full dozen birthday parties were in full swing, in addition to family and friends who had shown up to spend the afternoon on the rink. At first, another mother from our party stood beside me, watching her own daughter make her way around the rink. Within about 15 minutes, though, she left and I was the only mom there besides the host parents. Clearly, it was time for me to leave.
And yet, I couldn’t imagine leaving.
Punky made her way back over to me and I helped her off the rink. “Let’s sit down together for a few minutes,” she said breathlessly. We sat together on a carpeted bench and watched the other skaters.
“Do you want me to go?” I asked her. She shook her head quickly. “I like having you here to watch me,” she said.
“Okay,” I told her. “I’ll stay until you feel comfortable.”
And I did. I found a spot in an unobtrusive corner and sat down. I helped her off the rink occasionally. I trailed along at a distance as the girls made their way to the snack bar, the video games, and then back out onto the rink. Sometimes they banded together in a pack, but often the sheer amount of people separated them. I’d catch a blur of my daughter’s ponytails making her way alone through a horde of gangly tweens in the snack bar, spy a snatch of her purple dress on the other side of a large family on the rink.
I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t. She was only eight, and someone had to watch her — There was no way the party hosts could keep their eyes on all seven girls. And I realized I was living out one of those moments that seem so easy, so obvious when we’re planning out how we’ll raise our children. Go with your gut instinct! Keep a close eye on your kids, no matter what other people are doing! Do what YOU think is best!
But in the moment, it’s incredibly awkward, particularly as your kids get older. The girls stayed at the rink for four hours. FOUR HOURS. I had time to do a lot of thinking during that party. I felt like the stereotypical hand-wringing mother. The hoverer. The helicopter parent. I wondered what the birthday girl’s parents thought of me. “For God’s sake, woman,” I imagined them snickering quietly. “Loosen the apron strings already!”
“Are you EVER leaving?” one of the girls asked me at one point. “Eventually,” I said with a smile that I hoped didn’t look too forced. And I did leave, but not until the girls were all removing their skates and getting ready to head off to their sleepover.
“Well, THAT was awkward,” I said to Dennis that night as I recounted my unexpected skating rink odyssey. “I felt like an idiot. But I keep having these parenting moments now, when I realize how much it’s helped that I’ve been through this with the older girls. Because if I hadn’t, I probably would have left today, like the other parents did, and felt really conflicted and worried about it.”
And here’s what I’ve learned, having been through it all once before. Bad stuff happens. People are inappropriate in front of children and young teenagers more often than we’d like. I know this because I remember it happening from time to time when I was growing up and I remember it happening when my older girls started going to events. I don’t want to be a worrywart, but I do want to be realistic– so when I arrived at a skating rink filled with hundreds of people I didn’t know, I felt like I needed to stay and watch my kid, regardless of what everyone else was doing.
I’m telling you this story only because the next time you’re faced with a situation like this one (and you will be, trust me), I want you to know that you’re not the only one who’s been through it. You may be the lone parent sticking around at the birthday party or the mall or the movie theater, and you will probably feel uncomfortable. And hovery. And helicoptery.
And you’re not alone.
Go with your gut. Do what you think is right. Don’t pay attention to what all the other parents are doing or saying. And don’t think it will be easy.
But remember that there are others of us out there who’ve been through it too, and are rooting you on in spirit…
and know exactly how you feel.