Full on parenting face-plant. Nose broken, eyes black and blue. I couldn’t have done a worse job if I tried.
On Monday morning, Charlie left to ski with his class in Gstaad. There is no school, you either go skiing or you stay home. He didn’t want to go but I didn’t give him much of a choice. He said he didn’t want to get hurt and that he would have a horrible time. I attempted to get him excited by telling him how fun it would be and how nice it would be to hang out with kids from school for a whole week. He didn’t buy my story but went off without much grumbling.
That evening, he called me almost in tears. His legs were cramping after an afternoon on the slopes. He lost control at one point and skied through the snack shack area barely avoiding people and landing in a snow pile. Some kid took all the hot water and there was none left. He could barely stand. The other kids in his bunk were mean kids.
My heart broke. It took all of my self control to not get on the next train to go and save him. Instead, I told him to go ask for an aspirin and told him the next day all would be better. Then I crawled into his bed, held on to his stuffed animal and proceeded to not sleep for the whole night.
I imagined him in his bed fighting tears as the mean kids taunted him. I saw him the next day paralyzed with fear on the slopes, feeling embarrassed because he is now at that age where he is aware of his weaknesses. In one of my worst decisions ever, I wrote to the director and told her I didn’t care if he didn’t ski all day, I just wanted him to have a positive experience. Above all, I wanted to save my child from his fear and to prevent him from humiliation.
It’s the same humiliation that I remember from my youth. The humiliation of being the absolute worst at a skill that everyone else seems to get. Being the last one chosen when teams are being divided. Being sent to deep swamp, the place past the outfield, where no ball ever ended up in a baseball game. The humiliation of not being able to do a cartwheel. Being paralyzed with fear and as a result, not being able to dive, or catch a ball or stand on my hands and certainly never being able to ski.
The next morning, I spoke to my very sensible friend who reminded me that we all need to suffer somewhat as children in order to be prepared for the pains and difficulties that will inevitably occur as we enter adulthood. While what she said was true, in my heart, I just wanted to prevent my child from pain and heartbreak. Being embarrassed hurts. Being the worst hurts. I do not want my child to hurt.
All day I was a wreck. I hadn’t slept so that led to the inevitable headache. The headache led to weapiness syndrome. Then I received an email from the director assuring me that Charlie was fine. I am sure that she thinks I am a big baby and will never look at me again without thinking that I am holding my child back. And here’s the thing, she’s right.
Charlie called that night and every subsequent night telling me how he was having an amazing time. He was the worst and he skied slow but he did everything that everyone else did. He went down big slopes. He skied backwards. By the time I picked him up Friday night, he was high from the experience. He can’t wait to go back next year. In his words, not only did he learn to ski but it boost his overall confidence.
So we are in Switzerland and my child can now ski. He is apparently obtaining the coveted grit. As his parent, I am the one who is supposed to help him but I am afraid I have been his problem. I want to protect but what he needs is encouragement and the knowledge that there are things we just need to do. In Switzerland, we ski. Thank God he has great teachers.