We rode the ski lift in relative silence. While I tried to distract myself by taking in the scenic views of snowcapped mountains and folks of all ages dressed in brightly colored ski attire making their way down the hill, I’m pretty sure my two adolescent children were willing the ski lift to go faster so they could begin their descent down the mountain as quickly as possible. I, on the other hand, white knuckling the protective metal bar before me and hoping to make it down the hill in one piece, would have been satisfied to sit on the ski lift chair for a bit longer. But the ride was soon over, the metal bar raised, and we were deposited at the top of the hill.
“So, guys,” I asked my 12- and 14-year-old, trying to buy a little time and sound as casual as possible. “What’s your strategy for getting down the hill?”
“Strategy?” my daughter scoffed. “You just ski down it.” Then she promptly took off. Her brother shook his head and followed suit.
I didn’t blame them. There wasn’t much they could do for me, after all. It wasn’t like I was a little kid they could place between their legs and guide down the hill. I’d taken lessons, and gone down the bunny hill more times than I’d like to admit. It was time to just do this. Or was it?
Eyeing the snow-packed hill before me, I paused. And breathed, deeply. From where I stood, it looked as if there was a sheen on the snow. An icy, potentially slippery, sort of sheen. The hill started out with a bit of a sharp turn to the right. And it was steep (my kids would dispute this). Too steep for my liking.
For a minute or two, I considered scooting down on my butt. But even if my kids wouldn’t be waiting for me at the bottom, laughing riotously, they would somehow find out and I’d never live it down.
So I took a couple more deep breaths and resorted to the beginner-style ‘pizza wedge’ stance—feet slanted inward toward each other, creating an inverted ‘V’—which is how beginner skiers are taught to stop. Only problem is, I was supposed to ‘go’.
Eventually, I got to the bottom of the hill, albeit with very little grace and almost zero speed. When I caught up to my kids a little later, my son said: “Mom, we saw you coming down the hill from the ski lift. You were going about two miles an hour.” Then they both cracked up.
Last winter, I decided that learning to ski with my kids would be a great life-long hobby that we could share for years to come. I’m active, I’m fairly limber. Certainly I could learn to ski, I thought. What I failed to acknowledge, though, was my fear.
Between my teen years and now, I’m not sure what’s happened to the part of my brain that controls risk-taking behavior. Whatever the change, it seems to have resulted in a permanent aversion to anything requiring physical risks, or the perception of them. It wasn’t always that way.
As a teenager, I’d wait in line to ride a rollercoaster again and again, just to feel those quick, stomach-churning thrills. Now, the thrill is gone and the stomach-churning is all that remains of this and other former thrill-seeking activities I once enjoyed.
Perhaps I should have taken this into consideration before I attempted to learn how to ski in my mid-forties. But I suppose the romantic notion of taking on a new sport alongside my adolescent children was too appealing to pass up. I didn’t pause to consider that my trepidation would present an obstacle, and I’d end up not sharing a new experience with my kids, but rather looking incredibly vulnerable before them—not exactly the role I want to play as their mother.
I suppose I could abandon my desire to master this winter sport altogether, and just sit in the ski lodge sipping hot coffee while my offspring whizz down the hills without me. They already think I’m fairly hopeless on skis anyway. And I’m okay with that. What nags at me is that I really want to do this—not to save face in front of a couple of smart aleck kids, but to master something new for myself.
For years, I’ve cheered and cajoled, observed and assisted, squealed in delight and hung my head in defeat while my children attempt to master new activities. Now it’s my turn. Next time we go skiing, I’m going for it. Unless, of course, I chicken out.
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