“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
― Elizabeth Stone
Along the way I’m sure you have heard a version of this quote by Elizabeth Stone. Sure, it can be thrown in the category of cliche, but it is also very, very true. As parents, our hearts break when our baby emits his or her first cry or when our toddler falls down while taking first steps. It is the seemingly impossible idea of separating from these little ones that causes us pain. The underlying realization is that we are, actually, separate people. Parents cannot protect their children from every form of hurt. We know that growth is the goal, yet growing pains, by definition, hurt. As my children experience new things and grasp growth opportunities, I feel their vulnerability at a visceral level.
We’ve made a push to get our oldest son swooshing down the slopes by participating in weekly ski lessons at our local hill. I won’t lie – it has not been pretty. The experience has been fraught with extreme push back and small successes. Lots and lots of effort, put forth, with a smile, by my lovely husband. I think it is also safe to say husband considers himself part sherpa at this point in the game, with all the toting of gear involved. Throw in a healthy dose of anxiety and tears, and that pretty much sums up the season! As we recount this experience to friends, we remind them (in obnoxious voices full of authority) that the key to teaching kids to ski is to keep expectations low. We are laying the foundation… (said over and over like a mantra). This is a necessary element of sharing this sport with our family. We realize that it will probably be many years until we are actually all skiing together, but this weekend we experienced our first glimpse of success!
We decided to commemorate the end of the season by heading to Canada. In a carefully orchestrated dance, with little one hanging out with a fabulous Australian babysitter, we attempted to ski for the first time as a family! We put the boys in lessons for two days with the experts at Whistler. We skied together in what felt like an actual “date” on the mountain. We saw the boys coming away from their lessons feeling successful. And on the last morning of our trip, Gus and I took both boys (ages 3 & 5) skiing down actual mountains. I don’t even mean the bunny hill! We took them up quad ski lifts, on purpose. We rode the lift together. We executed getting off the lift successfully. We watched the boys make turns. We actually skied together!
It was exciting.
It was exhilarating.
And... It was absolutely terrifying!!
There was the immediate fear: If something happens, can I get to them fast enough?
Then there was the bigger underlying realization: My heart is currently skiing down this mountain!!
This was not the topic I was expecting to write about upon our return. I expected to expound on our feeling of success. Something like… “We did it! We remembered all the gear! We rock!!” Also true. But, in the moment of witnessing my oldest “fearlessly attacking the steep” (as his instructor eloquently put it)… I experienced fear. Why, you say? He was having fun. He was truly skiing. He was going faster than me. And at some point I realized I was totally out of control. I don’t wish to parent my children in a bubble (as much as the idea conceptually appeals to me), not really. I am truly excited to see how they grow, where their passions lie, and what makes them laugh… Danger exists every single day. I know that. And, as you know, I like to think that is is possible to find joy in the everyday.
There was just something so remarkable about experiencing such combating emotions in the same, exact moment. To feel the pride associated with success, right alongside the fear of what might happen in the next instant. Awesome and scary. My mind jumped to what it will be like when our children learn to drive… when they make decisions about drugs and alcohol… and, when they become adults. I had one of those crystal clear moments realizing, “My mom and dad must have felt this exact same feeling… Wow.” I guess this is all part of growing up!