My husband’s dream ever since we started popping out babies was to have our entire family on the slopes. “A family that skis together stays together” was his burning mantra. Up until this year I had ample excuses to send him and our oldest up the hill together for some father-daughter bonding time: “I can’t leave the little ones all day while I’m stuck on a mountain! What will we do with our daughter with Cerebral Palsy—we have to do it together!” And this year thanks to an amazing organization that makes skiing accessible for all abilities along with our youngest being old enough to go down a hill without needing a binky, we were ready for the challenge.
I was slightly paranoid that our marriage might not make it through this “dream test” since flying down a mountain on purpose really isn’t on my bucket list. Reading a book about death-defying adventure? Sure, I’m right there on page one, high with anticipation. But in real life, where I could break something? Not so much.
Our daughter with Cerebral Palsy was thrilled to sled down the mountain with her Dad and older sister while the two youngest and I had a grueling “I never thought it would end” lesson. I had the metaphorical angel/devil conversation in my head:
“This is not fun. You are miserable. Why are you doing this to yourself!” contradicted with “All new things are hard! You do Pilates and push-ups (occasionally)! You exercise (mostly) everyday!” I wracked my brain to remember famous people who stunk at what they became famous for—wasn’t Michael Jordan kicked off a HS basketball team? Didn’t Edison fail 10,000 times before his light bulb succeeded? Didn’t Mozart fail at writing symphonies until age 2?
About two seconds before I gave up, my ski Instructor wondered aloud if I ever played sports—volleyball? Rollerblading? Ever seen a sport being played?
And that’s when I quit—I sat on the bench of shame and let the tears fog up my ski goggles and thought completely rational thoughts such as “My husband will come back off the incredibly steep mountain that he somehow just got down and wonder why he didn’t marry someone more athletic or coordinated. He will question how he married a woman that can’t go down a bunny hill without crashing and regret marrying me and wonder what he saw in me in the first place.”
When my husband came to survey the scene, he was (of course) kind and sensitive and asked how it went. I very maturely bit my lip and replied that if I spoke about it I would start ugly crying in public and permanently scar our children. Luckily I have some high school theater experience so I was able to pull myself together and exclaim to the kids, “Wasn’t that FUN!” and “Don’t you want to COME BACK!” (Someone please hire me to host their children’s television show–I’m amazing.)
On the hour-ish drive back to our home, I had a lot of time to mentally process the day and after a bit, I was able to laugh at myself struggling to go down the bunny hill. Backwards. With my legs in catawampus directions as I clawed the earth for anything to slow my momentum. I was able to tell the kids how proud I was of them for getting it even when I struggled. We all laughed together at all the mishaps I shared and funny ways my body could and couldn’t go.
I promised my adventurous husband that I would give it one more try next year and if the devil on my shoulder wins and I still need a hand-rail and a therapist, then I would happily bring a good book and sip hot chocolate and watch them from the lodge window. Dreams are wonderful and magical things and I’ve seen that they sometimes change over time and experience. Maybe our new family mantra can be “A family that laughs together stays together.” That has a nice safe and un-embarrassing ring to it, don’t’ you think?