I am not cut out to be a teacher to my own kids… at least, not at things that require immense patience. Anything that requires a fair amount of skill – especially if it’s something that they are a little scared to try – needs to be taught by someone other than me. I think it’s a bad mix that they feel able to voice their fears and frustrations to me -unfortunately in whiny, complaining or pouting ways – which somehow hits an “off switch” in my brain. I cannot stand whining. When I hear incessant whining, out goes Patient Mom, and in comes Harsh Lady.
Harsh Lady is who ended up skiing today for a while – and it almost ruined our ski trip. While the day ended on a good note, it was at times a near-disaster. Today was our first family ski outing, and only the second time our kids have been on skis. To put this in context, downhill skiing was one of my highest passions in life during my earlier years, and something that I envisioned our family doing together often as our kids got older. While I don’t think often in labels, I saw us a ‘A Skiing Family”.
But with our busy life and priorities, it just hadn’t quite made the cut yet. Until today. I booked our tickets earlier this week and waited in childlike anticipation for Sunday morning to arrive. Inwardly, I was almost giddy with excitement: our life as a skiiing family was about to begin! I’m actually surprised I slept last night; I was that excited.
Arriving at the hill, we found out that the lesson we had planned for the kids to take wouldn’t be available for almost an hour after our arrival, and so we made the executive decision to teach them ourselves. Ethan went like a pro on the bunny hill, while Audra was one drama after the next. Picture me, trying to demonstrate and explain how to snowplow and turn – while she determinedly insisted that she ‘just couldn’t do that.‘ And after a few trips up and down the bunny hill, she was convinced that she had a complete handle on it all. I, however, sincerely doubted her ability to turn or stop… or control herself, but everyone pointed out how well she came down the bunny hill – abeit without demonstrating those essential skills – leading us to make our second not-so-great decision: we headed for the chairlifts.
All that I can say is that that first run was a complete fiasco. Audra would have stomped her feet if that was possible in skis. She froze up at every move, and nothing I did or said helped. I tried skiing with her between my skis (she would just lean her whole bodyweight into me, defeating the purpose of allowing her to find her balance and get a feel for the skis); I tried skiing backwards with her following in my tracks (but instead of snowplowing she’d let herself crash into me and then cling on for dear life); I tried having her follow me (but she’d start losing control, screaming for help while I used my poles to stop her trajectory down the hill). In our final attempt on Ski Run One, she crashed into me from behind, and fell in a flurry of skis, complete with me landing on top of her. She was crying (fortunately not hurt) – and by then, I was close to tears, too. This was NOT the fun family time I was hoping for.
Thankfully, we had no option but to keep going if we were ever going to get off the hill, no matter who was frustrated (me) or angry and cranky (Audra). Dean and Ethan were at the bottom waiting for us – and had enjoyed two more runs in the time span it had taken Audra and I to complete that one run from hell.
So we kid-swapped: Dean with Audra & me with Ethan. Ok, I’ll admit it – I breathed a sigh of relief. I had used up all of my patience stores on that one run and I was all up for having a fun one with Ethan.
On our way up the chairlift, we watched a ski school go down the run below us. “Let’s do that one!”, Ethan exclaimed. “Sure”, I said. It looked a little steeper, but not difficult, and he seemed to have a good hold on his control. So off we went – down Ethan’s first black diamond (for the record, it would be more fairly graded as a blue, or mid-level run, but he was thrilled to be going on a black run).
All things began well – as he skied ahead of me. But as I watched him pick up speed, his level of control was definitely less apparent. “Turn, Ethan!” I called out, “Slow down!”. But he couldn’t. I followed along as he bombed the hill – I’m sure I was holding my breath. As he neared the end and was nearly to the chairlift, I breathed a sigh of relief. He made it. Phew.
But my relief was premature. From my vantage point on the hill, I watched him go flying up the embankment and smash into the fence at high speed. (I think my heart stopped) Fortunately, he was already standing by the time I made it to him. His skis had flown off. The fence was broken. My first frantic concern was if he was hurt. (He was not – although I am very glad that as a chiropractor I could check him as soon as we got home.) In the aftermath of my fright, I immediately launched into him: “Why didn’t you stop?” “Why didn’t you turn?” “What if you had gotten hurt?!” “What if you had hurt someone else?!”
I’ll admit, it was not one of my best parenting moments. Here he was, shaken up – probably in a bit of shock – and instead of hugging him, I let my own overwrought emotions take over. And he was so mad at me. With a quivering lip, he looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t want to ski anymore,” and walked off. So Ski Run Two was even more of a disaster. And I was on the verge of tears… again. This was definitely NOT how I had pictured this day. Added to the fright I had watching him crash was a great mix of self-directed anger. Anger for making such poor decisions. Anger for losing my cool so many times with my kids. (And underneath it, if I’m going to be honest: a childlike sulkiness that the day wasn’t going my way) All in all, I think I was so excited for us to all ski together that I neglected the learning required for us to do so safely and happily, and within our kids’ beginner levels. This is how my tendency to be impatient can get the best of me.
Here I was, consumed with frustration, knowing that I had dealt poorly with both of my kids. And I wondered if I may have potentially ruined their desire to ski in my haste.
Fortunately, our day began to turn around, although it was slow transition at first. Audra had a great run with Dean, and learned that she could control her own speed. And after ten minutes of sitting in the snowbank, insisting that he was not skiing anymore, Ethan opted to join us again as well.
It took a few runs for him to get his confidence back (“I CAN’T turn, Mom. I just CAN’T…. “) At first Ethan skied down with a pout on his face – it was like skiing with a storm cloud. (And I think I heard my year’s-worth of ‘I can’ts’ in our first hour on the hill today – yet another reason my patience was worn thin: we consider that to being tantamount to a swear word in our house) It took another few runs for him to stop being mad at me, and for me to stop sulking that our days as a skiing family were over before they had even begun. But gradually he lightened up, as did I – and the day started to improve.
All in all, we stuck it out together – hitting up all of the green runs on the hill. The kids started to find their groove, and glowering faces began to smile. The tension in my shoulders began to lessen, and we started to have more fun. Another deep breath – maybe it would still be possible.
Hours later, as I tucked them into bed, I asked them the same three questions I ask every night: “What did you do well today? What are you grateful for? And what was the best part of your day?” Both Ethan and Audra had the same answer to all three nightly questions: SKIING.
Ethan told me his day was a 9 out of 10 (as my eyebrows shot up in surprise, he laughed as said “Well, maybe it was an 8.5“) Audra said, “It was one of the best days ever! (pause) “But I was pretty cranky for a while.”
So….even though personally I’d give the day a 6 out of 10 based on the roller coaster of emotions I experienced – I’d have to say it appears that the day was a hit after all. (no pun intended!)