21 October 2015

An open letter to a teenage skateboarder

Posted in the Hamilton Spectator:
You're probably about 15 years old, so I don't expect you to be very mature or for you to want a little girl on your skate ramp for that matter. 

What you don't know is that my daughter has been wanting to skateboard for months. I actually had to convince her that skateboarding wasn't for just for boys. So when we walked up to the skate park and saw that it was full of teenaged boys who were smoking and swearing, she immediately wanted to turn around and go home.

I secretly wanted to go too because I didn't want to have to put on my mom voice and exchange words with you. I also didn't want my daughter to feel like she had to be scared of anyone, or that she wasn't entitled to that skate park just as much as you were.

So when she said, "Mom it's full of older boys," I calmly said, "So what, they don't own the skate park." She proceeded to go down the ramp in spite of you and your friends flying past her and grinding rails beside her.

She only had two or three runs in before you approached her and said "Hey, excuse me ..."

I immediately prepared to deliver my "She's allowed to use this park just as much as you guys" speech when I heard you say, "Your feet are wrong. Can I help you?"

You proceeded to spend almost an hour with my daughter showing her how to balance and steer, and she listened to you a feat not attained by most adults.

You held her hand and helped her get up when she fell down and I even heard you tell her to stay away from the rails so that she wouldn't get hurt.

I want you to know that I am proud that you are part of my community, and I want to thank you for being kind to my daughter, even though your friends made fun of you for it.

She left the skate park with a sense of pride and with the confidence that she can do anything, because of you.
Jeanean Thomas, Cambridge


  1. Thanks for passing this on.


  2. If kids weren't demonized we wouldn't expect anything less from another parent's daughter. Instead, we're surprised when a normal teenager is a decent human being. No wonder their hackles are up when an adult approaches, it's a defence strategy. And this doesn't exactly help, as the undertone is surprise and gratitude.

    Sorry, I teach teenagers and they learn from us. If eye have low or negative expectations... well, that's what we're teaching.

    Good on skater girl, obviously :)

  3. Thank you for posting that lovely story. Very moving. And I happened to be listening to the theme of Cinema Paradiso while I read it; I almost burst into tears.


    1. Haha! Me too Margaret, me too.

    2. That makes three of us. I often tear up at the theme of Cinema Paradiso because it reminds me of the bittersweet tragedy of the story.

  4. I taught teenagers, too, so I am not as surprised as some at this young man's kindness.

  5. We get a lot of skateboarders along our sidewalk. When several of them go by in the evening, it sounds like a train. I wish we could tell them how wonderful we find this sound, and how much we appreciate the rhythm.

    1. I like that response very much. Years ago while trogging along the Camino de Santiago, I fell to talking with chap about snoring and snorers [los roncadores in Spanish]. They are the bane of dormitory accommodation in the hostels along The Way. But this chap could find nothing negative in the racket. As he lay awake, staring at the dark ceiling, he'd imagine himself a conductor of snorers, orchestrating and integrating the different rhythms. It was a lesson!

  6. That made my day, TYFS. My almost 4 y.o. grand-daughter is learning to ride a bicycle; she recently left her Dad and her trainer wheels behind and is forging ahead on her own. I hope she'll get the courtesy and respect this skate-boarder received.

  7. Skateborading as a teenager? I say yes! Just go for it. :) My complete recommendation, really.


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