— Brian —
We took our five-year-old son Tobin ice skating for the first time this winter.
I’ve never been able to ice skate.
I’ve “tried” about three times. Every time it’s the same: I put on the skates. I get on the ice. And I hold the wall, or slightly push away from the wall, but I always remain less than an arm’s length away from it… just so I can look like I’m not “that person” gripping the wall the whole time going around.
But I’ve never fallen while ice skating.
Never. Not the first time, the second time, or this last time. I’ve honestly never fallen while ice skating.
I’ve also never truly skated.
I’ve never felt what it’s like to go around the rink, making a circle, passing a little kid. I’ve never held hands with my wife and glided around feeling the “wind blow through our hair.”
I always just grip the wall, stutter step around… and look down at the ice and my skates the entire time.
Tobin had no idea what he was getting into when he stepped out onto the rink that day.
He had just thrown a fit in the car for a reason we still don’t know. But we took a chance and brought him into the building. We put on his skates. We laced them up. We took him to the ice. And immediately, Tobin stood up on the ice… and his feet began to slip.
He smiled. Actually, he thought it was hilarious.
My wife held his hand as they began to take off. And Tobin would step and slip. And laugh. Step and slip and laugh. Step and slip and laugh and step and slip and laugh. Slowly she would let him go…
And he would smile. He would fall. And he acted like it was just hilarious.
Within fifteen minutes, he was in the middle of the rink.
He stood… and he would stutter step to his mom, smiling the entire time.
Then he would fall.
My wife would help him get back up…
Then he would fall again.
But he was skating.
And he was skating far more than I ever had.
I watched him from where I was gripping the wall: Tobin wasn’t worried that he would hit the ice. He wasn’t worried what anyone else thought as they glided past him. He was skating.
He was falling. He was not perfect at it, but he was Good… And he was having the time of his life.
I don’t have autism. But Tobin does.
Tobin also has this part of life figured out already.
For as long as I can remember, I don’t take chances. I worry about what others think. I worry about falling. I worry about failing. I don’t want to seem inadequate. I don’t want to appear not “perfect” at something.
Tobin teaches me many things all the time. This time, Tobin taught me that life isn’t found in pretending. It isn’t found in hiding who you are. It isn’t found in protecting yourself from falling.
It’s found in the falling.
Yes, falling hurts.
Sometimes people hurt.
Sometimes situations hurt you.
Sometimes you are so messed up and make decisions that hurt others.
Sometimes life throws you surprises that cause you to lose your footing. And that hurts.
Falling can change your life, but it isn’t what defines your life
Because falling can put life back into perspective. Falling can often show you that you weren’t truly living before.
When you are truly living, you will realize that life is not lived with your eyes looking at your skates and your hand holding the rail.
I’ve never fallen while ice skating.
I’ve been too scared to chance it. I’ve been too afraid to look like I didn’t know what I was doing.
But I have fallen in life.
And I have failed in life.
Now I’m realizing that the falling and the failing weren’t the problem…
The problem was that I was afraid to live.
Thank you, Tobin.
I want to spend the rest of my life learning to let go of the wall.