We skipped lessons last week. We woke to a huge snow; reporters were recommending people stay off the roads until road crews could clear ice. Eldest really needed to sleep in. So, we skipped.
Li'l Bit, who is my original skating princess, was relieved. She did not want to go to skating lessons. If you know our story, you'll know that she loves skating. Not want to go? Something's wrong.
She has complained for a couple of months that she wants to be in Basic 4. She needs two Basic 3 skills to pass her test. Big Sis passed Basic 3 and is working in Basic 4.
The past two weeks, Li'l Bit has become more and more vocal about wanting to be in Basic 4. That's a big step, developmentally, to realize she failed a test when Big Sis passed it. I've been trying to scaffold the thinking process, spotlight the work she needs to do to accomplish Basic 3, to spotlight her resilience.
Last night, the anxiety about skating lessons this morning increased in a big way. I thought all of the anxiety was about her desire to be in Basic 4. I may have been wrong.
This morning, Big Sis gave me a puzzle piece that I did not have before. She just remembered something that may have contributed to this anxiety, which is so unusual, because Li'l Bit loves skating. Two weeks ago, at their last lesson, during free skate time (when the skating students are supposed to be practicing their skills), Li'L Bit was skating very fast, racing around, having a good time, and seemed to be unaware that there were many smaller, younger, less experienced (okay, really wobbly) skaters out there, too, in a small space for free skating.
So, one of the monitors spoke to Li'l Bit.
I have no idea what the monitor said to Li'l Bit. My guess is she told her to slow down. Appropriate. But anxiety inducing in our situation.
BUT, what I think happened is that Li'l Bit interpreted that as she was in "trouble" or was being "bad".
As we inched closer to last Saturday's lesson, Li'l Bit's anxiety rose, and she became almost obsessive in talking about Basic 3 and Basic 4 again. She kept telling me she wanted to find a new place to skate.
When, last weekend, we made the decision to skip lessons, she was visibly relieved and the repetitive talking about skating stopped.
Until last night. And this morning, quite frankly, I wasn't sure I could get her to get in the car to go to lessons with us. She did accompany us, reluctantly, her anxiety still quite high, and she very uncomfortable, almost screeching at me in protest. (At one point she told me she was going to give up her dream of being a figure skater and become a snow boarder instead. Well, where we are moving, there is no snowboarding.)
I hoped we'd somehow avoid a full-out melt down (or flare-up, as Judith Bluestone more appropriately calls them).
On the way to skating lessons today, with this new information (that the monitor corrected her for skating too fast during open-skate time), I took the opportunity to talk to her about it. I explained the same way I do when we are skating for fun at an open skate somewhere else, that new skaters are shaky and wobbly and that they want people to be slower and careful around them, because they're just not skilled skaters, not skilled at changing direction, not skilled at stopping. Instead of telling her, "You're going too fast! SLOW DOWN!" which she interprets as "I'm being bad", I try to give her thinking clues to help her assess not only this situation, but future situations. When the arena is crowded, when skaters are wobbly and falling a lot, she needs to remember they're not skilled, and she needs to slow down and keep her distance. There's a perspective taking piece and a self-awareness and self-regulation and a co-regulation/coordination piece that is dynamic, because it is situation dependant. A one-size fits all rule (Slow down!) doesn't fit all situations.
Simply telling her, "You're going too fast! Slow down!" robs her of the thinking skills she needs to think about her role in a free-skate situation. It's an imperative, which gives her exactly two responses, to obey or disobey, and it gives her no assessment or appraisal experience.
I don't know what the monitor said to my girl. She may have been totally wonderful and my girl still misinterpreted the situation as meaning she was being "bad". That happens.
I'm glad Big Sis remembered what happened - talking about it in the car on the way to lessons seemed to help.
I took the opportunity to talk to the director of the program. I adore her. She "gets" it. She said my way of explaining the need to slow down so that my girl gets the thinking practice and not just the rule to follow makes sense, and she'll talk to her crew about it.
A related post: I wrote about experience sharing communication (declaratives vs imperatives) HERE.