Skiing is so not my cup of latte. So why do I do it?
I perch, half in, half out of our car, the frosty air crystallizing the hairs inside my nose. I wince. I envision myself in our family room, snuggled on the couch under a fleece blanket. But day-dreaming is pointless. I’m here in the cold, yanking a pair of wool socks over thick cotton ones, attempting to sandwich them between long underwear and jeans encased in snow pants. I’m preparing to spend a frigid day swallowing my fear of heights as I ride chair lifts and ski down ice-slicked hills.
I detest the cold and I’m far from adventurous. Yet each year, I go skiing with my family.
Why? Because my husband loves to ski and wants his kids to develop a love of the sport. Because without my presence and my example, my tentative younger ones wouldn’t touch a ski, let alone give themselves time to learn properly. Because some day, in some way, I believe it will be worth it.
At least that’s what I tell myself as I go through my daughters’ suitcases to make sure they’ve packed their thermal underwear and enough extra socks. It’s the mantra I mumble as I watch my gang sip soft drinks through Twizzlers in their post-breakfast, driving-to-the-ski-resort, ritual.
But when I stand in the ski-rental line, arms and legs puffy with insulating layers of thick ski pants and jacket, I can’t help but envy the fashion moms with their cute jeans, leather ankle-high boots and down vests. They don’t have wool ski hats crammed on their heads, annoying tassels swinging onto their rosy cheeks. They’re not here to ski. They hang out together, drink hot mochas and watch through the large glass windows of the ski lodge as their kids come down the slopes. Backpacks and coolers fill the tables and benches around them, staking their territory. These moms are warm and rested. They support their kids by sacrificing a day to sit in the lodge and guard the gear.
“Let’s go,” says my husband, handing me my lift ticket and turning to help our kids attach theirs. I clumsily thread the metal hook through my zipper pull. I’m committed. No matter how freezing it is or how much my muscles protest, I will ski today with my kids because that’s the kind of mom I am. Or at least the kind of mom I’m convincing myself I should be.
I’m glad when my two youngest call it quits in the afternoon. We claim the last empty seats in the lodge. I rummage through our backpack for books and raisins as our bodies slowly thaw out.
Through the window, I see a familiar ski jacket in the middle of the challenging black diamond run and recognize my eldest daughter as she rockets straight down the slope, gaining speed with every inch she travels. At the bottom she skids to a stop and pulls off her goggles to look around.
Adrenaline ripples through me. Because as I gaze at my daughter, nearby a mom in a sleek ski jacket and helmet comes to a stop, looking over her shoulder at two young skiers schussing down toward her. My mind leaps ahead 15 years and my daughter is that mom.
This is why I ski, I think. I ski so that my daughters have a chance to become the kind of mom who gracefully cuts across the slopes with her youngest between her feet. The kind of mom I’ve watched hook a child under her arm to deposit him on the chairlift seat while scooting on herself.
I look at my pink-cheeked little skiers and remind myself that soon they’ll be shooting down slopes I wouldn’t dare try myself. By then I will be a resort-sitting ski mom. I’ll sip hot cocoa while chatting with friends. And I’ll glance out that window to watch all my kids navigate down treacherous terrain.
But for now, I bear the cold. I nurse sore muscles and I fight exhaustion. Because sometimes parenthood is about giving up what we prefer doing in order to give our kids an opportunity to experience something we didn’t in our childhood.