January 23, 2021

One day during the first week, I was video chatting with my toddler, and she held up a little Duplo figurine and said, “cowboy.” Cowboy?? I’d only been gone for a few days, and she’d already learned the word “cowboy?!” I was proud, but also sad, as I thought about all the things she would learn while I was away for a week and a half.

Then my thoughts quickly turned to all of the competitors and to you, their parents. If I felt this sad about my toddler learning a new word (something that has been happening at least once a day for the past year), I can’t imagine the range of emotions that you must feel watching your kids compete when you can’t be there.

For many of the competitors, it was the first and only in-person competition of season. While about half of the senior dance field got to compete virtually in the ISP Points Challenge and in-person at Skate America, several teams who weren’t invited to those events were competing new programs for the first time at Nationals. At the junior level, teams had competed their free dances virtually to qualify, but this was the first time out for rhythm dances from several of the new partnerships and the teams who had moved up to junior for the first time. For everyone to skate as well as they did, with polish and confidence, in the midst of a week full of uncertainties, was quite the accomplishment.

And aside from a few younger skaters that were allowed to bring a parent as a chaperone, most of the parents were watching from home. I will admit that the part of the senior event that made me most emotional was watching the senior competitors recognize their family and friends on the video wall in the kiss & cry as they exited the ice. I hope we never have to do Nationals this way again, but what a special moment to be able to give your kid a thumbs up as they reached their goal of competing at Nationals in this unconventional year.

So to all of the parents, I raise a glass (of a medium-good Cab, brought into the bubble in my suitcase, and poured into a very small plastic water cup) to you for raising such great kids who reached their goals and exceeded expectations. I raise a glass to you for encouraging and nurturing your children and driving them to the rinks at ungodly hours so they could share their gifts with so many. I raise a glass to you for surviving the nerves, for keeping the secrets of injuries and illnesses and worries of insufficient preparation, as I know there are always challenges that the rest of us never know. I salute all of you for getting through this season and this event and hope that you are reunited in the very best of hugs with your kids as they come home. And I hope that we can raise a glass of overpriced hotel bar wine in person together next season.

– Melanie