It was a cold start to the New Year, I thought absently, as milky puffs of condensation rose in front of my cold-nipped face. The slope ahead was absent other skiers. An empty palette. A clean slate. I pushed off.
I won’t tire you, dear reader, by describing what happened next in a narrative punctuated with words like “bottomless” and “feathery” and “epic.” I didn’t push off into a series of bottomless turns through feathery light powder for 2011’s first epic ski run, anyway. I pushed off onto a not-that-recently-groomed Polar Queen, for a series of wide arcing, slow motion GS turns on a late afternoon on the second day of 2011. So I know this particular run wouldn’t, in ski town vernacular, be considered “epic.” Yet it was dazzling, nevertheless.
It had been some time since I’d really skied. I am on the mountain three days a week, thanks to my job with the Ski Patrol. So it’s not as if I hadn’t been on the mountain, in my skis, plenty of times since the birth of my second child. But as I drifted down this particular run on this particular day, it felt to me like the first time in a long while that I had actually been present enough to feel the thrill and the liberation of this sport we all live here for.
When skiing is your job, it’s difficult not to treat it as such. As in: Be responsible. Accomplish tasks in the most effective manner. Abide by the rules.
When parenting is your job, it’s difficult not to treat it as such either. As in: Be responsible. Accomplish tasks in the most effective manner. Abide by the rules. Which means spending most of your days repeating mandates such as: Don’t touch that. Eat your broccoli. Get your finger out of your nose.
Being a parent is more important than any job I’ll ever have. So suffice it to say I don’t want do this job half-assed. No loosey-goosey, mellow-yellow boundaries. No inconsistencies. Raising a child takes reliability! It takes constancy! It takes never letting your guard down! It takes nudging your child in the right directions, and being a perfect role model, because everything she’ll become originates with You, the Parent.
I swooped downward, allowing my skis to follow a meandering route. Carving turns. Which takes both attention and control, but also, a little letting go. Unleashing some of those bodily and gravitational constraints and trusting in the integrity of sensation. It’s pretty damn fun.
Beneath the (mostly) composed mother façade exists a hazy aura of low-grade anxiety. Am I doing this parenting thing correctly? Are my kids OK? Am I OK? It’s like I’ve left the car door open with the keys in the ignition, these insecurities relentlessly bleating at me from the background of my consciousness. The physical health and mental wellbeing of these children is my responsibility. That realization is pretty damn frightening.
Was it the pristine expression of the empty slope ahead? The way the sun slanted through the trees? (The new ski boots and fresh tune may have played a role.) But I didn’t want this run to end! The sensation of letting go, releasing a little control and simply following the undulations of the terrain ahead seemed new and scintillating.
Can I just decide to shut the door on my parenting insecurities? It isn’t exactly a conscious decision. It’s more like allowing your skis to run a little, of their own accord. Still in control. Still attentive. Following the rules. But enjoying the ride a little more. A lot more.
Kids are fun. Being a parent should be fun.
Can I, in the year ahead, unleash some of the constraints I’ve inadvertently placed upon myself, in the interest of being a responsible parent? Can I trust in the integrity of sensation enough to let go of some of my fears about not doing this job well enough, to actually enjoy the job more wholly? Can I release a little control and simply follow the undulations of the terrain ahead? Can I have more fun with this? As much fun as skiing Polar Queen solo one late afternoon?
That day, I set my New Year’s Resolution for 2011: Ski more.