My children are skiers.
For me, this is like saying that they can speak French or swim the English Channel: It's foreign and it's unbelievable. Witnessing my four-year-old and seven-year old fly down the slopes with their father reminds me more than anything that they are not little "me's" -- and that they are certainly not living my childhood.
My past vs. my kids' present
Being raised by a single mother in balmy Southern California with little money and less time, skiing was not on the list of possibilities. Neither was camping or swimming in the lake or taking a nature hike. Childhood was mostly about urban survival with large doses of love and laughter thrown in for good measure. This childhood of my children, however, is all about joy. And most of that joy seems to happen outdoors, courtesy of my sweetheart Chris, who grew up with Camping Club and Little League and playing outside until someone dragged him in for dinner.
This outdoor revelry that is our life now -- this joy -- is something I find myself standing close to like a campfire, an onlooker warming myself on its unfamiliar glow.
That doesn't mean it's comfortable though. Watching Reese and Finn ride inner tubes at the lake (life jackets fully secured), take off on creaky chair lifts (helmets tightly latched) and capture squirming polliwogs at the creek (sunscreen and bug spray, check) regularly launches my heart into my throat and keeps it there until we are all safely together again, in a spot and time where my arms can encircle their slender shoulders without the need for protective gear. I assume part of my panic is normal/abnormal mommy neurosis, and part of it is just the unfamiliarity of it all, I guess.
If only it were simple...or not
Can't we just go to the movies where I all I have to obsess over is whether someone will choke on a popcorn kernel?
Unfamiliar or not, as much as it goes against my nature, my genetics and my life experience, I agree to camp/hike/ski/climb/horseback ride again (or at least be present at said outdoor event) -- because I know my kids will love it. I know they will be better, more confident, happier people for having lived as full a life as possible. And, as it turns out, a lot of that life occurs outside and in motion.
"I've got it, Mom."
That's what Reese said to me this weekend as I shuffled along next to her skis in my snow boots, huffing and puffing, sliding her along to Chris waiting at the lift. She didn't need me, though: The slope of the hill, her excitement and gravity took over. She kept looking right where she was going, never once taking her eyes off her destination.
"I've got it, Mom," she said, moving out and away from me.
"Yes, you do," I said, letting go, watching her gain speed. Later, on the videotape, I could see it for myself: Chris talking encouragingly as he skied next to her apple-green jacketed figure and then her pulling out in front of him, going faster and faster. I could hear the whooshing sound of Chris' skis as he raced to get closer to her, yelling, "OK, slow down! Pizza slice!" which is apparently what you say to a seven-year-old to get them to point both their skis inward, and presumably to stop them from ending up in the parking lot.
Reese "pizza sliced" perfectly, coming to a graceful stop at the bottom of hill. Even through her helmet and goggles, even on shaky videotape, I could see her face radiating with pride.
Next year, maybe I'll take a lesson, too. Or perhaps I already have.
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Only another mother knows the truth about motherhood. The sleep deprivation. The preponderance of plastic, neon-colored toys that make horrible, repetitive noises in the middle of the night. The battles: just eat two more bites of your corndog for Mommy and you can have dessert.
The messiness and heart and complexity that is raising children: it's all so very humbling.
Listen to Your Mothers is a space to come together with the ones who understand the maternal struggle and joy best - in the hopes of turning the motherhood into one, strong sisterhood.
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