23 July 2014

Mountains, Motherhood and Me

Mountains have always been metaphors for life.
Mountains and problems both loom over us, just begging to be conquered.
Once the mountain is climbed, the view from the top is amazing; the climb, well worth the effort.
Once the problem is surmounted, the victory is deeply satisfying; the struggle is worth every tear shed.
Isn't that true?

We went to the mountains last week. Its kind of a family ritual; go to the snow, freeze your face off and experience deep family bonding 2700m above sea level.

Last year Dash learned to ski. This year Daddy upped the ante. Everybody - EVERY BODY - was going to have a go skiing, including Miss Fab, Scrag... and me.

I haven't skiied in fifteen years, and even then I only attempted it once - maybe twice - but Daddy said it would be good for the kids to see me having a go instead of just taking photos.
Plus it would be good for family bonding.

It's hard to argue with that logic, so I found myself wrestling my nervous feet into hired ski boots and getting measured up for skis. At this point I was still in denial.

(DENIAL: Not unlike the way I grew a human in my belly for nine months but was blissfully unaware of what was about to hit me once that squawling infant made his debut on the planet. Parenting: Nothing Prepares You For It.)

[On the chairlift: blissfully unaware]
Anyhoo, back to the mountain...
We get on the chairlift clutching our skis, swing out over the abyss... and the chairlift grinds to a halt. Down below us, they are loading an injured skier on. We hang suspended in the air while they strap down her stretcher, then the lift starts up again and the injured lady on her stretcher swings up past us...
At the bottom, the cheerful Englishman who helps us leap clear says breezily, "Don't be alarmed by what you've just seen. It happens every day, but I'm sure you'll do just great..."

(Thanks for that vote of confidence, pal.)

Meanwhile Daddy has forgotten that it's been fifteen years since I clipped into skis. He's under the impression I know what I'm doing (cos he taught me 15 years ago), so he leaves me and Miss Fab in the vicinity of the kids lesson and skis merrily away with the boys.
Miss Fab is joining in with the kids lesson, but where does that leave me? I don't even remember how to put my skis on.
I stand like a deer in the headlights clutching my skis and poles. I don't know where to start. I am clueless.

(CLUELESS: Kind of like sometimes as a mum, when one or other of your kids is struggling and you have no clue how to help them. When you feel paralysed, swamped and overwhelmed, and you wish with all your heart somebody handed out instruction manuals with babies).

Feeling like a bit of a dufus, I watch what the kids are doing and I see how they clip into their skis. I watch as the instructor gets them to practise with just one ski on, one ski off.
"I can do that," I think, so I try it; I'm scooting around in a circle on one ski, the biggest dork in Happy Valley.

At last I spot Daddy and screech out his name. He comes over and is perplexed that I am so clueless, helpless. Haven't I done this before? Don't I remember what to do?
Um, apparently not.
Some things just don't come back to you naturally, this is not like riding a bike. We are halfway up a steep mountain, I have long slippery skis stuck awkwardly to my feet, I've never been known for my athleticism or coordination and gravity has always been out to get me. I'm afraid this could turn ugly.

(TERRIFYING SPEED: Kind of similar to the way the childhood years are sliding away from me in an ever-increasing rush, while I'm still trying to get a handle on how to do this this parenting thing properly. As the teenage years hurtle towards us, I'm afraid things could get messy...)

Daddy decides that the best way for me to remember what to do is to copy him. After parking Scrag on the side of the hill (he's had enough already and just wants to go sledding), my hubby begins my ski re-introduction, pulling me down the hill behind him by my ski poles.
The ground races by, my life flashes before my eyes, gravity is poised to strike... but somehow I reach the bottom relatively unscathed, sliding past my hubby and landing a heap; to add insult to injury there's snow down the back of my neck.

I hated every second of it. I want off this mountain. The ski boots are hurting my ankles and I can no longer feel my toes. Skiiing, shmee-ing. Get me outta here.

"I don't want to do this," I tell him. "I CAN'T do this. I'm too old, too unfit, too un-co. Flippin heck, I'm 44 years old! Too old to learn. Can't I just go sledding with Scrag...!?!?"

Daddy is not fazed.
"You're not too old, and you CAN do this. You NEED to do this. Your kids need to see you giving this a go and not giving up. This will be good for you. You have to try. You can't quit cos then they'd think they can quit (plus, I paid all that money to hire your gear after all)..."

I sigh. There's that logic again; there's simply no arguing with it. I have to suck it up and persevere.

(SUCK IT UP: Kind of like how some days as a mum you feel like you are simply the worst-equipped person to be these children's mother and how you are completely lacking in the necessary patience, skills and insight and how if someone had told you what you were in for... well... but you can't go there and you can't quit so you just have to suck it up and do the best you can. End of Pity Party.)

In the end I sign up for a lesson. There are three of us, all women, all nervous and equally un-co. We are in good company. Our instructor takes it slowly, and she says something which makes all the difference to me.

When you are scared of falling you pull back, shifting your body weight backwards, which means your centre of gravity is wrong and you lose control of your skis, making you more likely to actually fall.
The boots are designed for you to lean forward. When you lean forward and relax you will have greater control.

Don't pull back in fear (and therefore lose control). Lean forward, relax... and the rest will follow.

(Do I need to spell out the parenting metaphor or do you see it too?)

I got it.
I leaned forward, did my best to relax... and found that I DID NOT DIE (or get stretchered off the mountain in a helicopter).
Gravity did not get me. In fact, after I learned to lean forward, I didn't even fall once.

[wonderful to watch brother and sister skiing together]

Not only did I get it, but Miss Fab got it too, confidently swishing down the slope like she was born to it.
And since Dash learned to ski last year, now everyone but Scrag can ski. (He'd had enough after an hour and went sledding; Next year will be his year; he just needs to learn to lean forward. And relax).

At the end of a very long, trying but triumphant day, Daddy couldn't resist asking me, "So aren't you glad you didn't quit?"

Oh yes I am. Glad for so many reasons.
I proved to myself that I could do it.
I showed my kids their mum can learn something new.
I modelled perseverance.
I learnt (again) how to ski.

It was a day on the mountain full of memorable moments and blog-worthy metaphors.

So we celebrated with high tea and hot chocolate at the Chateau...

And next year we'll all be back here on skis, defying gravity.


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