Monday, March 4, 2013

Push And Pull

Parenthood is a strange dichotomy.  You spend all this time teaching your child to be independent, building his self esteem, urging him to try new things, to trust himself, showing him how to be responsible, how to be brave, and then when he actually puts all these things that you've taught him into practice it scares the crap out of you.

My children are all fairly cautious.  They are not the kids who learn to swim by throwing themselves into the deep end of the pool.  They are never the ones walking on top of the monkey bars or jumping off of the playset.  You'll never see them hanging upside down from trees.  They know the risks and they weigh them carefully.  I was less cautious as a kid.  I was by no means mindlessly reckless, but I took risks.

Much of my time as a parent has been teaching my kids to trust themselves and be daring once in a while.  You know, live a little.

When we go sledding I urge them to go down head first on their bellies.  When we go swimming I convince them they will be fine in the deep end of pool and show them that diving is actually fun.  When we are playing in the snow I show them how to dig tunnels without feeling claustrophobic.

The funny thing about me pushing them is that when they finally do believe me and branch out a little I am SWEATING AND FRETTING AND FREAKING OUT on the inside.  It is a bizarre phenomenon that the same exact things I once did as a kid now scare the hell out me when I watch my child do them.

Going head first down the sledding hill I am watching for each and every little bump they might hit.  When they are swimming in the deep end of the pool I am eagle eyeing them and trying to keep myself from jumping in the water fully clothed just to be near them (just in case!).  Digging tunnels in the snow is great but I check on them every 10 seconds to make sure they aren't buried alive.

This whole parenthood thing is a push and a pull.  And I'm still getting used to it.

This weekend we went to the cabin up north and went skiing at a nearby ski hill, Ski Brule.  We try to go at least once or twice every winter but this was our first trip this year.  Luckily, all the boys seemed to remember exactly what they were doing and after their first run down the bunny hill they already had the hang of it.
It didn't take long for Joey and Tommy to become bored with the little hill and want to go down the actual mountain.  The problem comes in when there are only two parents and four children.  The chair lifts only seat two people and obviously Grace isn't quite ready for the big trails yet.  Which means one parent has to stay back with Grace on the bunny hill while the other parent somehow takes the other three boys up the hill.

We decided to start by taking one boy up the hill at a time to make sure they knew how to get on and off the chair lifts and how to be careful and behave while on them.  Once we had each boy familiar with the green runs we took a break for lunch.

I had mentioned that maybe Joey and Tommy could ride up on a chair lift together and Todd could ride up with Ben. Joey and Tommy were quick to agree and assured me over and over that they would sit still, behave, be careful, and not mess around. Still, I had my reservations. They are 10 and 7 (fine, 8 this month), for pete's sake! Those lifts are HIGH UP. I went over the safety rules with them again and again. Joey admitted that he was nervous about it but he said he really should go with Tommy since he is the big brother and he needs to watch out for him.

When lunch was over we decided to just keep practicing turns and stops on the bunny hill.  Todd went out with the boys while Grace and I played inside for a little while.  Ten minutes later Todd came running back inside and said that he couldn't find Joey and Tommy anywhere.  They disappeared!

I knew right away that the two little farts had jumped on the chair lifts and went up the hill by themselves.  Part of me was really ticked off and scared, and another part of me was pretty proud that my cautious little men were starting to trust themselves.  Todd quickly went off with Ben up the mountain in search of Joey and Tommy.

Grace and I headed out onto the hill a half an hour later and found Todd.  He had found the boys on the top of the hill and they were gleefully skiing from one end of the hill to the other.  He told them the same thing that was running through my head.  "Part of me is really angry that you just took off like that, but I'm also kind of proud of you two for being so brave and independent.  Next time, tell us where you are going before you take off!" he warned them.
Todd and I continued to ski with Ben and Grace on the bunny hill, honing their skills.  Eventually, Grace tired of her skis and just stood on top of my feet as we skied down the hill, and then up the tow rope too.  I'll tell ya what, that is one of the best abs/glutes/quads exercises ever.  I was practically crying by the time we got back up the hill.

Joey and Tommy went up and down the hill for the rest of the day, checking in with us every hour or so, mostly to get money for food or something to drink.  Each time they'd leave us again my heart did little flip flops.  I'd glance over at the chair lifts and an ugly chill would run up my back.  Part of me wanted to make them stay with me.  I wanted to tell them they couldn't go on the chair lifts anymore.  I'm really not good at letting go.

After listening to my safety tips again and again they'd be off. Off on their own. Off where I couldn't see them (probably for the best). Off where I couldn't protect them. Off on their own adventures getting their first real taste of freedom. Off becoming their own person. It was terrifying. And exhilarating.

It was a pretty amazing day.  It was the longest we've ever managed to stay at the ski hill with the kids.  Almost 7 hours of nonstop skiing.

Todd and I have often reminded each other through all the sweat and aches of teaching the kids to ski that someday it will all be worth it.  And we are starting to see that now.  In skiing and in life.

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?


Mom24 said...

Wow! Great post and what a great outing. I'm not good at encouraging my kids to take risks and they definitely aren't the types to take them on their own. I think it has to do with my brother dying young, I've seen the bad things that can and do happen and it weighs on me.

So glad you could let go and have fun.

Kat said...

Mom24- That is my problem too. My sis died when she was 9 so from little on I knew that you didn't have to be old to die. It really does freak me out if I let myself think about it, but I make a conscious effort to take risks and not let my fears hold me or my kids back. I don't want to hinder them because I'm scared. I want them to live while they are here. But, it is still something that I struggle with.

Debbie in CA : ) said...

Beautiful! I just love the way you tell a good story. I cheered and chewed my nails right along with you as the boys stretched, reached, and swung to the next "hill" of life. (And I'm praying right alongside you as you keep on growing up the mommy ladder.)

I so wish Wisconsin were close enough to California that we could meet over tea. I've got hugs of encouragement all over this place for you. You're a GREAT mom! (Great moms know when to call their kids f*rts in just the right tone of voice.) :D I always enjoy a dose of "Sanity" Kat-style. <3

Bijoux said...

You took 4 kids skiing?? YOU are the brave one!

My kids were always the cautious ones, too. I can't tell you how many times I told them to be more aggressive about things. It's nice, though, to have cautious drivers! said...

I have 3 kids who are all vastly different in their courage and desire for independence. The youngest will surely give me a heart attack before she graduates.

I'm glad the boys are branching out and I am so, so sorry for the loss of y our sister...

CC said...

This is all wonderful!! I grew up in a skiing family, but never enjoyed it. Although I'd like my kids to try it out, I don't want to be the one to take them! lol!!! I always did love cross country skiing though!

dawn klinge said...

I loved reading this story. You have so much to be proud of with your kiddos. This letting go business is hard! Having a teen-ager, I can say that the opportunities to stretch myself in this process are endless.

Unknown said...

So scary and proud all at the same time. I know that feeling. Good for you for letting them grow and branch out. It looks like you guys had a lot of fun. Some day I will go skiing, I think I would really enjoy it. :)

lime said...

it is worth it. it's just a scary ride sometimes. but glad your rides turned out to be lots of fun this time.

Hilary said...

Perhaps this is the wrong time to remind you that in just six years, Joey will be learning to drive...

They'll all do great. You're a good mom.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Kat. It IS scary to let go--and I think you're really brave to bring your whole crew there. Keeping track of them like that is probably the most terrifying part!

Charmaine said...

Hey from SA :) good job ! on being such an active family. Being parents REALLY takes one out of ones comfort zone hey :) glad there were no mishaps to deal with.

The Rantings of a Drama Queen's Mum said...

Looks like a fun day.

Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? said...

I think we are the same mom! Okay, well, I take that back, you are way better than me. But, I try to find the balance, too. And, my first is super duper scared and cautious and the second? Crazy will do anything! So, maybe I'm in the middle?

We still don't have training wheels off of our bikes and neither of the girls can swim

Riahli said...

This made me all teary eyed Kat, I act the same way with my kids. Urging them on and then waiting with my heart in my throat. I also lost my sister {she was an infant when she passed on} and so I grew up knowing that you don't have to be old to die, that bad things can happen to anyone at any time. I was a freak about my babies. Checking on them every other minute. Then I would kick myself for waking them up. :)
Anyways it sounds like you all ended up having an exciting, thrilling day. Yay!

Unknown said...

This makes me think of my Ben because he will soon be old enough to be on his own at our club, for swimming, etc. this summer. It IS hard to let go, especially with the first ones and the first times.

I'm proud of your boys but I am also proud of you! And you know, part of them being safe while they are away from you is because you and Todd have given them a great foundation. So, kudos to all of you! :)

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson