There’s a childhood photo of me where I’m wearing black, elastic biker shorts with neon zig-zags on the sides (it was the ‘90s), an oversized pink t-shirt with a Lion King graphic splashed across the front (it was the ‘90s), and a pair of clunky rollerblades (it was, and I cannot stress this enough, the ‘90s). I am probably 8 years old.
There’s nothing remarkable about the picture. The only reason it stands out is because I remember everything about the moment it was taken. A family friend was in the driveway, and I wanted to show off. I hurriedly put on my skates and helmet, clomped through the grass and out onto the road, and started skating, thinking, “I look so cool; I am so good at skating.”
The photo is part of a story I’ve told myself: That as a child, I was a particularly skilled skater. Perhaps even a prodigy.
Which brings us to today. My daughter, who is almost 4, recently got her first pair of rollerskates. They’re just like the ones I had as a kid: clunky and plastic, the kind that fit over your shoe.
Already, my daughter thinks she is an amazing skater. Here is what I mean by skating: she grabs my hand with a death grip, takes the tiniest steps forward, and every once in a while, she yells, “Slow down! Slow down!” while a snail zooms past.
My daughter is, according to herself, a “really good skater.” To her face, I agree with her. But privately, I am concerned: Was I a “really good skater” as a child in the way that my own daughter is a “really good skater”? Am I a fraud?
The other day, she and her new neighbor friend put on their rollerskates, grabbed each other by the hand, and slowly, haltingly, made their way down the sidewalk together. Not skating, exactly — more like precarious walking on wheels. I have a photo of the two of them together, both protected head-to-toe in helmets, wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads. In the photo, they look confident, poised, like they really are just zooming down the sidewalk on their skates.
Her first pair of skates and her first neighborhood friend have both been monumental life events, so there’s a chance that when she’s older, my daughter will see these photos and remember what was happening. She’ll probably think to herself, “Wow, I was a really good skater, right from the start.”
I think I’ll let her believe it.