Early in February, Sean and I took his bike to the local skateboard park, which is really just a small clover-shaped bowl.
The other kids ranged in age from about 10 on up to high school. They were all very welcoming, supportive, and kind to Sean. They gave him tips, cleared the bowl for him a few times, and encouraged him. Every time he fell, several of them asked, “You OK, buddy?”
Sean seemed in his element.
A kid with green hair and wearing a Green Day shirt lent Sean his scooter to try out. Some of the kids recalled Sean from when they were in Mixed Martial Arts class together when Sean was six. Like that class, he was the youngest here among these kids.
I learned from the kids that the reason our park is so small is because the City never completed it – the story I got is that the City told them that if the bowl could go graffiti-free for 10 years, they would complete it.
That sounds so arbitrary!
There is definitely a need, because the park was full when we got there, and the kids said it is even more full on weekends. As Sean says, there is no room outside of the bowl to “grind,” and he also finds it senseless since most of the kids skating now will be grown and gone in 10 years’ time!
I suggested to Sean that we can come practice when the bowl is empty, and the other kids are in school. Sean says he also wants to come back when the other kids are there after they get out of school. It was fun watching them do their maneuvers.
During one of our returns to the park, about 14 boys were enjoying the bowl. I continued conversing with the oldest with whom I’d had a previous conversation. He lamented what he perceived as a closed mindedness in our area and noted that “there are too many people who are too closed-minded to accept gays.” He said he is not gay, but that he wears skinny jeans and gets bullied about it from the kids in high school.
This young man is skilled in the park (doing literal flips off the board or scooter as he flies out of the bowl). He didn’t seem arrogant or self-conscious. He is the kid the younger boys look up to, yet getting bullied in high school.
But, here in the bowl, these kids do not seem to have to deal with that. Every time we go, there is a different mix – they trickle in and out. They are always respectful of each other, mindful of Sean being younger, and helpful to each other and to Sean. There are no cliques off to the corner behaving immaturely or obnoxiously. There is really something special about this activity.
None wore protective gear, today, unlike the previous time when they were passing a helmet back and forth. One mother pulled up and stepped out of her car, admonishing her two sons not to “do that” without a helmet. They ignored her and joyfully rebelled. She gave up, appearing harried, and drove off.
For a moment, I imagined how she might feel, having little control over growing boys exerting their independence.
Some have told me about their injuries. Another told me he removes his helmet once he is far enough away from home where his parents won’t see. He said that helmets hamper his skating.
I wondered if Sean will want to continue with protective gear as he gains more skill.
I decided not to worry about it. I decided that I will trust him if and when the time comes, as he is not impulsive, has great common sense, and already practices a more than careful level of caution.