Saturday, January 22, 2011

snow leopard mother

In that time before we had our children, but had decided to have some, I would watch the little kids hurtling down the ski slopes and dream of the days our own offspring would effortlessly imbibe the ability to ski. I realize now that I drew the conclusion that all three year olds could learn to ski from a skewed data set. I wasn't looking at all the kids sitting in the lodge with their nintendos, or the ones howling in the lift line, just at the tiny, fearless superstars.

Geekygirl is struggling with skiing. She had a disastrous lesson last year, too many kids, too close to nap time, she didn't want me to leave, and it was just too much all around for a just turned 4 year old. She gave up after a few minutes, took off her skis and begged me never to send her to ski school again. She finds it very difficult to get her feet into the essential "snowplow" position, so though she has good balance, and enjoys sliding down the hill, she can't stop herself and instead relies on the harness we guide her with. Given that the poor kid has a mother who didn't learn to ride a bike or to swim until she was about nine, and who still can't dive into a swimming pool it's hardly surprising that she doesn't have the best mind over muscle control, I suppose. We are not all destined to be athletes.

We tried ski school again a couple of weeks back with a cohort of friends and their kids. She managed about forty minutes of the three hours we paid for this time, which was an improvement. She managed a 'snowplow' under the guidance of the teacher. I observed the kids for a while, trying but failing to avoid comparing Geekygirl to my friends little girl, the same age, who can already ski quite competently. It isn't a pleasant feeling, the realization that you are envious of the abilities of someone else's child.

Geekygirl seemed happy and engaged though more cautious than the other kids. I didn't think she would notice, so I slunk away to get a bit of skiing in myself. One run later I got a call. Geekygirl had removed her skis and was most emphatically done with the class.

"mummy, I noticed that you left without telling me. That was sneaky" she told me when I quizzed her about the class later in the evening.

It was, rather, I have to admit.

We have been wondering what to do next. We very much want the kids to enjoy skiing as it is such a big part of our lives, but we are realizing that we can't force them to like it. The infamous "tiger mom" article got me thinking. About my needs versus Geekygirl's. About the value of overcoming difficulties. Though I was just as horrified by the article as the majority of the commenting public, a little of her philosophy resonated with me. This was the concept that many worthwhile pursuits are hard to learn, and easy to quit and that it takes a parent to push a little, to get over that initial hump so that the child can ultimately get that wonderful validating feeling of achievement .

Geekygirl was very proud that she managed to snowplow, and that she made it through at least some of the ski class.

We've signed her up for another session tomorrow. I've promised to let her know if I plan on leaving, no sneaking away this time. I'm cautiously optimistic that even if there are tears when we leave her in ski school, she will learn eventually, she will love it and she will thank us for persevering. We're trying a little bit of "snow leopard" parenting. I'll let you know how it goes.