Sunday, November 26, 2006

what is parenting about if you can’t share the things that you love?

Free writing 11/26/06

You might notice I didn’t make it here yesterday. There are reasons. Actually good ones. They will color today’s writing which is starting to look a lot more like a confessional rather than a writing exercise space. But things serve in the uses that are needed. Perhaps this is the space of requirement. In either case here goes. Why I didn’t write yesterday or how Henry spent his last ever ski day. Let me begin with the end. I will never ask my son to ski again. He started skiing when he was two years old and while he’s not a prodigy skier he has progressed through the years. He’s skied moguls, he’s skied powder, he’s skied trees, he’s skied about 60% of the terrain on WinterPark-MaryJane. Through the years there have been Henry sort of obsessions around skiing. One year it was the drive up and down the mountain – all this anxiety about the drive. He worried we would crash, we would drive off the pass, we would get stranded and while he’s never had personal experience with any of those things he worried. It got to the point where he would chatter about it most of the way down the mountain in an agitated manner about what disaster could happen. The next year it was the chair lifts. He was sure he would fall off the lift, he couldn’t ride with anyone other than Eric. He obsessed about falling off chairs. He could only sit in a certain seat and the chairlift had to have a “bar” that came down or he wouldn’t ride. Couldn’t we go to Steamboat where they had the gondola? His therapist worked with him and while he didn’t get over the fears he could ride. Then there was this year. There were signs. He wanted reassurance that we would only ski green the first day, only the easiest runs on the mountain. We shrugged and committed to start out there. We rode the lift and got off and it began. He was in such a tight wedge he wasn’t really moving forward. We had seen this twice before over the years and usually it would pass relatively quickly. We skied but he froze every time the terrain had anything other than the most gradual of pitch. When I say gradual I mean that many of us were skating or poling through this terrain. Runs that he had skied before, easier terrain than he’s needed in years, everything terrified him. Jay and Ana waited, and waited, and waited. Eric and I coaxed, bargained, and bullied. Toward lunch we came to Parkway. This is the unfortunate bottom of the mountain run. It’s a little to steep for many beginners and tends to be crowded but our kids could ski it with no problem, until today. Ana and Jay were down and Eric had already walked the plank with Henry about 10 minutes earlier. I took over and in a firm voice coached him down the run. He was angry with me and wanted to just stand there forever. I decided that if I could just keep him moving we would get through it. We made it down but I sounded like a drill sergeant doing it. It was lunchtime and Eric was pretty angry. I was angry too but I had ahold of it. We cooled down over lunch and decided to divide and conquer. Eric would take the skiers and I would stay back with the non-skiers. Ana decided to support the underdog and said she didn’t want to ski. I talked it over with them both and encouraged them to go to Discovery Park. It’s filled with flat terrain and I figured that maybe Henry just needed to get his feet under him. We went up to the park and everything went fine, he looked confident and whipped through the runs effortlessly. We moved around skiing every part of the park and found the same thing. Henry assured me that he was having a good time. We decided to move over to Jack Kendrick a run that is a natural step up from Discovery Park. Once again we hit the wall. I was so frustrated I could have screamed. The terrain was only slightly more steep, really quite easy and Henry was frozen, refusing to even try. I coaxed, cajoled, and ordered for at least ten minutes. Then I told him that Ana and I were going down and we would wait for him at the bottom. He screamed. I moved down the hill about 20 yards. A well meaning woman stopped to ask him if he needed help. I told her no. She ignored me and Henry told her no also. He was crying at this point. He did start to move down the hill. We went back to Discovery Park. We skied some more. He was still angry. I asked him to consider that he would enjoy things more if he let go of the anger. He did so and we skied Discovery Park more. Again he claimed to enjoy it and just as before he skied with no problems, very much under control looking quite expert. Then it was time to go down to the bottom again. We got through the first part of the run a little slower than the last time but we were moving. Then he froze again and this time no amount of coaxing, cajoling, ordering, or outright yelling would move him. He would stand only to sit down on the ground, stand again and sit again. Ana waited patiently at the bottom while Henry stood and sat, cried and screamed. He finally stood up for a moment and I told him I was going to do a skier hug. He screamed no like I had suggested I cut him in two with an axe. I came up behind him with my skis outside and put my arms around him while he screamed. He fought and I feared for a moment we would fall and I’d get injured. He’s young and would probably be fine but I could easily lose a knee or a hip doing this with him. I moved forward and even though he screamed at me he didn’t try to wreck us. We turned slowly but methodically and I spoke softly to him. See we are turning and moving, I need your help push with that downhill ski, help me. No, No, No he screamed, oppositional all the way. We made it about halfway down and my muscles were screaming. I just couldn’t do it anymore and it wasn’t like this was a life or death situation. I wasn’t going to risk injury to keep going. I stopped us and backed off. We both sat. I started the coaxing, cajoling, ordering again. He screamed. Now he wanted the skier hug but I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it again. I just wasn’t willing to risk it for 30 yards of terrain that I knew he could ski. We fought. I threatened to leave. Ana was still waiting at the bottom watching. People skied past. People stared. People frowned. And it continued. It felt like forever. Then he threatened to sit there forever. I threatened to let him and still we didn’t move. Finally I side stepped back up to where he was. He screamed No. Maybe I looked like I was intent on murder. I reached him and offered to help him stand. He held out a hand and when I touched it he snatched it back. No, you’re going to pull me over. I tried again and almost had him standing when he shoved me and sat back down. I reached down, grabbed both of his ski tips and pulled him down the rest of the mountain on his butt while he screamed that he hated me. I admit that I said, “not as much as I hate you right now” back to him. I had hit rock bottom but I had us both safely down that last 30 yards.
I stood there at the bottom of the mountain and knew that I could never take him skiing again. For a lot of reasons but mostly because I couldn’t risk repeating that last scene again. Not for our emotional wellbeing and not for our physical wellbeing. I am so angry, so sad, so frustrated. Another window closed for this child. Another window closed for me. Another thing we would have to work around for this child. Another dream lost. I know I know – some would say, it’s just skiing. But it isn’t. It’s skiing, it’s biking, it’s waterskiing, it’s food, and who knows what it will be next. And this one hurts because it’s something that I love, truly love and I can’t share it with him. Not in a way that makes any sense because I had hoped that he would love it too. And what is parenting about if you can’t share the things that you love?

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