Learning by Example

| June 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

Zephyr stands outside the OB skate park.

by Dove Braunstein

I am sitting on a bench just outside the curved, sea-green bars that surround the Ocean Beach (OB) skate park. It is an afternoon that reminds me why I call San Diego home; late winter, and you’d swear it was summer. My dog, Zephyr (who, fittingly, is named after the Zephyr skateboard company) basks in the sun beside my ten-year old son and me. Skateboards are inside the park, surrounded by a motley crew of fellow boarders. The skate park, like most, is a sensory ambush of youth, sweat, and machismo; all infused with the certain je ne sais quoi that is OB. It is one of my favorite places in San Diego. Many moms I know do not share that opinion; in fact, many feel just the opposite. So I am writing in defense of skate parks in general, but specifically our beloved OB skate park.

Ok, yes, my son is probably going to hear some rough language when he’s there. But honestly, these days can you really escape it anywhere? If you are in public with your children, there’s a decent chance that they may see and/or hear things to which you may not have chosen to expose them. This is the world we live in, and by my son’s age, he has heard it all (ok, maybe not all, but a lot). Try as we might, we can’t keep our kids in a bubble, and I’ve made it clear that as long as he isn’t repeating the questionable language he is inevitably going to hear, I’m not going to refrain from letting him go anywhere that I think he may hear it. Which would be anywhere anyway.

And yes– occasionally the smell of pot smoke drifts my way. Are there kids smoking weed in the far corners of the park? You bet, probably fairly often. But I have witnessed the exact same thing walking down the boardwalk at any of our beaches, in random parking lots, at the dog park– let’s face it, marijuana is all but legal here now, and it’s become ubiquitous. To avoid exposure to it would essentially mean to never leave the house.

A lot of the guys riding do so dressed in a manner that almost conveys homelessness; whether intentional or not, the “skater look” is not one of polish or pomp, and they wear it proudly. The clothes get pretty thrashed anyway, so it’s only practical.

What override all of these perceived potential negatives at this park are the camaraderie, and especially the support of the “little guys.” My son has been skating there since he was about six- years old, and he has gotten nothing but helpful actions, encouraging words, even cheers when he succeeds at something challenging that he’s been working on. Some of the regulars are familiar with him, and he often receives a friendly fist bump when he arrives. I’ve heard him told, “You can do it, little dude!” when he’s attempting a new trick that he’s unsure of. I’ve seen him get high fives when he accomplishes it, and I’ve seen the grungiest looking skater stop and offer him a hand when he falls. No matter the level of skater, I’ve never seen anyone seem miffed that the little kids who are just learning are skating in the same pool; just the opposite, they are happy to welcome them into the fold.

Talking to some of the skaters there, I’ve learned of even more benefits to skateboarding at the skate park. One young lady, who epitomized the skater-girl persona, said she’s been skating there since she was just a child herself, and she enlightened me a great deal when she told me that it raises awareness; you can’t just go barreling down into the pool without taking a good look around and making sure you don’t skate into someone’s path. At all times, you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on around you; you have to look, listen, pay attention, not only who might be coming at that moment but also what’s going to happen during the course of your ride, and what a great lesson for a child to learn. So often we see people walking down the street, their heads down, faces turned toward a screen, or wearing headphones, oblivious to what’s going on around them (don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty of it a time or two, or dozens). It’s really not a good habit, and you simply can’t get away with it when there are skateboarders coming from every direction. Learning to be aware of your surroundings is an invaluable lesson; one that I hope becomes second nature for my son, and therefore translates to the real world.

Also, these kids (and by kids, I mean anyone younger than myself) are falling all the time. All the time. My son has witnessed some gnarly wipeouts, some of which were quite obviously painful, and he watches them get up, shake it off, and keep at it. No drama, no whining, no quitting– you just get up and keep at it. Once more, it’s a lesson that no amount of lecturing from his mother could teach. It’s the classic lesson of failing, trying again, and again, and again.

He is learning by example, by observation of mentors, albeit of an unconventional variety, which in my opinion is the very best way to learn. I’ve seen him take a spill and instinctually go into “mommy” mode, but I can almost see the procession of emotions cross his face along with the mental processes as he remembers where he is, and makes the conscious decision to refrain from crying, and instead brushes himself off and tries again, just like he sees his counterparts doing. Both his resilience and confidence are strengthened before my eyes.

Another thing that warms my heart is the OB regular who has one arm; he is one of the best skaters at the park, and when we go, we see him more often than not. He is one of the people who is quick to greet my son with a high five when he sees him, and the fact that he is out there doing his thing — and doing it well — is another quiet lesson of overcoming what could be seen as a disability, proving that there’s no reason that a physical limitation has to mean that life can be enjoyed any less.

From what I’ve observed, once inside those sea-green bars, there is no hierarchy; no judgment, no exclusion. Race, color, class, age and skill level are left at the door. It is a brotherhood, one which newcomers are welcomed with open arms. Despite some bad language, despite the occasional pot smoke, despite the “sketchy” factor, I believe that if our society, in fact our world, practiced some of the behaviors that I see at our very own OB skate park, it truly would be a better place.

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Category: Health & Fitness, Life Style, Local News

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