When I was young, the closest that I came to skiing, was one terrifying run down a trail during my senior year of high school after my friends convinced me that there was no need to take a lesson (some friends they were!). After that, I decided I had hung up my skis for good.
But then I married a man who grew up skiing, and when our boys were four and six, we decided it was time to get them out there. I was all in favor of this – partly because I didn’t want them to have the fear that I did, and partly because I had visions of sitting by a fireplace, hot chocolate in one hand, book in the other, reveling in the rare gift of alone time while my husband was out skiing with our boys.
Fast forward several years later and I realized how laughable this vision was. As the non-skier, I was the designated schlepper: dry gloves needed, yup that’s me ; hungry – I’m on it; thirsty – I’ve got the water; more snacks – coming!
Let’s not even discuss carrying stuff back to the car at the end of the day when everyone else was exhausted or what it takes to bring a child in full ski gear to the bathroom.
And, as my boys improved, any thoughts of actually seeing them ski and snowboard vanished, as there is only so long one can stand by a window searching for a glimpse of two blue helmets among the hundreds whizzing by. As my husband and boys talked excitedly about various trails and lifts, and the lodges they had warmed up in at the top of the mountain, I felt like I was missing out.
So, I decided to conquer my fears. Two seasons, several lessons, and more than a few falls later, here is what I have learned from being an amateur at an activity my boys already were starting to conquer.
My children can be great nurturers. On one of my first attempts beyond the bunny slope, as I was slowly making my way down a trail, my oldest son kept stopping to wait for me. When I told him he could go ahead and I would meet him at the bottom, he said “No Mommy, you take care of me, so I’m going to take care of you.” On another trip, when I completed my first blue (intermediate) trail, my youngest son looked at me, eyes shining and proclaimed “Mommy, I’m proud of you.” Those two moments alone were worth every single sore muscle. In the bustle of every-day life, at times it can feel like my children only see me as cook, chauffer, and screen-time monitor. It took going (way) out of my comfort zone, and a complete role reversal, for me to see their full capacity for compassion and love.
Mommy doesn’t always know best. As I started taking the lifts up the mountain and seeing the steepness of the trails, I couldn’t believe my husband was actually taking our children on these. My gut reaction was to stop them, but my husband assured me that they were ready and fully capable. I had to step back and, in this case, suspend all of my own judgment because it all looked scary to me. One late afternoon, my husband and I were done skiing, but the boys were not. It took all I had to bite my tongue when he told them that, as long as they stayed together, they could take the lift up by themselves and come back down on an easy trail. Every worst-case scenario played out in my head as a watched the two small people who are most precious to me in the entire world rise up the mountain far above my head. Yet, a short time later, they reappeared at the bottom of the mountain with smiles on their faces and newfound independence in their hearts. I realized that it would have been selfish of me to hold them back because of my own fears. I imagine that this lesson will have many further applications as my boys grow, and I hope to always remember it.
It’s ok to be the worst at something. I have accepted the fact that, likely, I will never be a great skier. I have no desire to even attempt a black diamond trail. I’d rather peacefully meander down a trail (my choice of words – my husbands and kids might instead describe it as “going so slow that it appears I’m actually moving backwards”), than feel the adrenaline that comes with speed. I have told my children that I am ok with not being all that good at the sport. I enjoy the beauty of the mountains, the thrill of exploring new places, and the experience of spending quality time together. I am hopeful that they will internalize this message – that things are worth doing for countless reasons other than being the best. And, as my friend’s wise mother told me, if all else fails, at least my husband and sons can bond over poking fun at me.
And so, as the snow melts and we put away our gear until next year, I am deeply grateful for the days I spent with my family on the mountains this year – days that have built both memories and confidence for my boys, and ones during which I hope I showed them that it is never too late to learn something new, and that life can be most fully lived when it is not dictated by fear.