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The danger is not falling, it’s being run over

Children thrive within the secure and predictable structure of routines. Children are nourished not only through healthy foods, but also through recuperative sleep. Children depend on appropriate discipline and adult supervision. At least, these were the child-rearing philosophies that guided how we raised our three boys. Some of this wisdom was handed down by my parents and grandparents. Some came to me through my studies and 20 years of professional experience in the early childhood industry. None of it was apparent among the young parents of the tots that were mowing us down at the roller rink a couple of weeks ago.

We enjoy lots of active outings with our dear friends. So, we all decided to try ‘cheap skate’ night at the local roller skating rink. Who could resist the $1 admission?

Apparently, parents of infants through middle school-age children not only couldn’t resist it, they were determined to get their money’s worth. We thought the place might clear out a bit by 9 p.m., as it was a school night. But the only folks clearing out that early were the middle-age people. Of course we had to leave. We had to get up early the next day and work, which was the perfect excuse to give our stiff ankles and cramping calf muscles a break.

When my boys were young, they were not zipping around a rink with blinking LED wheels at 8 p.m. while I sat in a booth snacking on nachos and catching up with my friends. They were tucked in bed, already asleep. Bath time followed supper. Story time followed bath time. Bed time, which was 7 for the little one and 7:30 for the older two, followed story time. Mommy time came next.

The late hour aside, let’s consider the behavior of these roller children. Their expertise on in-line and traditional skates made evident their frequent visits to the skating rink. This was a good thing, as it was wonderful to see so many children being active rather than sitting in front of a screen. And while the older ones were pulling out smart phones and updating Facebook during brief breaks, they were still skating more than sitting.

We saw young skaters that were barely three feet high. They were whizzing along like professionals. They had no fear. They didn’t think twice about the damage they could inflict upon middle-age skaters who had not been to a rink in years. Young children were even tripping up my friends, who were not novices — they own their own skates!

Meanwhile, my child is 14. I felt a need to skate next to him until he got used to being on skates. When he began to fall, I instinctively tried to catch. As he tried to adjust his balance, his arm flung back with incredible force. My tooth was loose for two days. He begged me to let him fall next time, as he did not want to be responsible for me looking like an ice hockey goalie.

Since no other parents were out there protecting their children from hitting the floor, walls or benches, I did my best to back off and give the child space.

Our friends, Hubby and I were not the only adults wearing wheels on our feet. There were other adults skating, as well. I believe a few had been going every week since childhood and still simply enjoyed the thrill of skating. Although, it would have been nice if the one had either left her toddler with a babysitter or put skates on the child. As this particular parent whirled around the rink, the baby cried her eyes out screaming for mommy. Our friends asked where mommy was, assuming the baby was lost. But the baby just kept screaming and sobbing uncontrollably. My heart ached for the child. I looked around, hoping to find a parent who was urgently looking for a lost tot. Ten minutes later, the mommy rolled over and scooped up the crying child. My children have noted that I’m a bit overprotective. I doubt the crying toddler will ever accuse her mommy of the same. Call me a strict, old-fashioned relic if you must. But I honestly believe 9 p.m. is too late for little ones to be out on the town, eating popcorn, drinking soda and skating around and into — ‘through’ truly doesn’t work, though some kept trying — bigger people. Please, young parents, I beg of you. Put your children to bed early and let middle-age folks who really need the exercise get a few laps in without the fear of being run over by 40 pounds of child approaching at 30 miles an hour.

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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau.