My youngest son is a big three, which means he's closer to four and he was unfazed when I laced up his tiny skates. He walked with a purpose to the edge of the rink, but when he stepped on the ice, his confidence shattered. His feet went in different directions like a foal outside a barn and he screamed from the top of his lungs for me to get him out of there. Problem was, I couldn't.
He held my hand as I clutched the wall and the two of us spiraled our way forward with the other skaters. At times, he would clutch me as if he was hanging off a cliff. Then a young girl came by and asked me if my son was learning how to balance. She couldn't have been much older than six. She told him to keep his legs straight, bend his knees, and walk like a penguin. I don't think he heard her over his tears, but I followed her instructions and echoed them as we made our way.
About halfway through, my lower back started barking like a hound dog in pursuit of a fox. My son's pleas to turn around became my own. We did an about-face and before we got too far, the young girl skated over to us and told us we had to go in the same direction as everybody else. Of course she was right, that know-it-all.
We pushed on. Salvation lay on the other side of the rink, but to make it, we'd have to cut across the ice without the safety of the wall. My son sensed the gravity of the situation and squirmed like a puppy before its first dunk in the bathtub. We glided in slow motion toward our destination. When we made it, I praised him for being brave and asked him if he wanted to go around again. He looked at me like I was crazy. He couldn't wait to get his skates off.
On the way home, he and his older brother were filled with song and laughter before they fell into a deep sleep.
I've never made a New Year's resolution I intended to keep and today is no different. I did realize something, though. After I made it around the ice rink with my three-year-old, we watched the other skaters and I felt exhilarated. Memories of my first skate flooded back to me along with the realization that decades later, I'm no better at it than I was then, but boy, did I have fun. Simply being with my kid, doing what he wanted to do, made me feel like a kid again. I may have a different answer later tonight when the ball drops and that familiar question is raised in song: Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Grab your kid by the hand and see for yourself.