Katie once told me that the ice is where she feels most like herself. Where she is the most free.
For years she skated with a team. The coach could not have been sweeter, but the team itself was chaotic. No one ever quite knew which end was up nor where to be and when. There never seemed to be time to work on individual skills or for Katie to create and practice the solo routine that she so desperately wanted.
Frustrated, she told us at the end of last year that she was ready to leave it behind.
She asked if she could try a gymnastics class this summer. I was a competitive gymnast for years. She knows how much of my childhood was spent inside a gym.
She’d seen the detritus of my athletic career hidden away in my ancient hope chest – she’d looked at the pictures, run her fingers across the dusty trophies, asked to hear the stories. She wanted to try the sport that had such a big part in shaping her Mama.
I asked if she was sure. She said she was. “I just want to see what it’s like,” she said, “since I’m not skating.”
She tried it. She liked it. But in the end it was her Mama’s sport, not hers. I would have bet the ranch on that, but she needed to come to the conclusion herself.
The girls she knows play basketball. They play softball and soccer. My girl isn’t a basketball player. She’s not a softball player. Her favorite part of soccer was snack. My girl is a skater.
As fall drew closer, Luau and I noticed that her language had begun to change. In conversation “since I’m not skating” became “while I’m on a break from skating.” We waited. She had to get there on her own.
Eventually, she asked if perhaps we could find her a private coach. “I don’t care about competing right now,” she said. “I just want to skate.”
Luau found a coach. She’s good so she’s not cheap. We figured out how to make it work. We had to get creative. Once a week she’ll have a full session. Once a week will be a half session, then she’ll stay on the ice to practice alone.
Half is a Social Prags group. Full is a speech session.
On Saturday morning, I gave Luau directions to the ballet studio. Katie had some things she wanted to show me.
Jumps I will undoubtedly sound completely clueless trying to name — A toe loop, a half loop, a loop-dee-loop combo (I made that one up), a half flip (which thank God doesn’t actually involve flipping) and a Salchow.
And there was this.
My kid, my beautiful kid, doing what makes her feel the most like herself. And free.
Oh, and the lesson, of course. Isn’t there always the lesson?
That if it’s not working – whatever ‘it’ may be, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t work in a different setting.
Ed note: In case you missed it over the weekend, Katie is the Sibling of the Month in SHOUT OUT Online Magazine For Siblings of Kids with Autism. She’s interviewed by the magazine’s nine year-old editor, Gracie, which is awesome like seven ways to Sunday. Check it out HERE.