There was a layer of snow on top of the ice rink on Friday morning. I shoveled some off to make a slick patch for Amabel and then realized that Ellen was much happier "skating" on a couple of inches of fluff. I left more than half the rink covered with a layer of padding for Ellen. She grinned at me and toddled off on her own.
Amabel, on the other hand, spent most of her time on the patch of slick ice: "breaking the speed limit," turning, going backwards, and balancing on one foot. After shoveling, I sat in the snow bank, watching her.
She isn't like this when we go ice skating at the big indoor rink in town. The ice is more uniform there—quite slippery—for one thing. And there are many more people, including lots of experienced skaters. I'm not sure if Amabel is intimidated by experienced skaters or just distracted by them, but either way when we leave the indoor rink she often says, "I'm not good at ice skating." On the outside rink in our little village she is like a different person—confident and smily, bold and playful. Almost as soon as we've left, she asks to return.
I love the serenity of this little village rink, so why drive all the way into town and make the extra effort to go to the bigger indoor rink at all?
This a question I ask myself. It echos a larger question too: what can Amabel learn better in the comfort of home and family and what is important for her to learn out in the world beyond? When should I choose to put her (and/or myself) deliberately into new and (at least initially) uncomfortable surroundings?
I've been watching Amabel regain a deep joy and confidence since we decided to homeschool in November. I am paying close attention to this shift. I believe that her mind and body have been incredibly relieved not to be in a school setting seven hours a day. This relief has freed up her willingness to learn and try new things. She has become her generous and enthusiastic self again, and I am so grateful that we are able to give her the space she needs.
Amabel's impressions of people and places are deep and lasting—and her understanding of the world is something I am continually in awe of. So, I listen to her as best I can. But sometimes she also needs a little push to go out into the world; to go off with a new friend; to let go of my hand.
I think I'll always be striving to find this balance.