How skiing leads to therapy and why I owe my mom an apology

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Mountain Tantrum, 2006

Today was the first family ski trip of the season. This activity is gobs easier than it used to be. These days I say: “we’re going skiing this weekend,” and everyone says “hooray.”

But as any parent knows, take an activity you used to happily schedule vacations around, spend absurd amounts of money on, and risk life and limb to do, add really small children, and you get stuff around which future therapy sessions will revolve.

When the boys were younger, I’d spend the afternoon prior to ski day gathering hats, coats, gloves, socks, long-johns, helmets and ski pants from wherever they’d been scattered the last time a big storm dumped enough snow on the driveway for sledding.

I’d remember somebody’s ski pants had a broken zipper, or didn’t quite fit, so I’d jam a trip to Target into my already busy day, return to pack everything and load it into the truck. Done.

Then I’d call the rental shop and arrange to pick up kids’ skis ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to wait when the inevitable family of eight slipped in ahead of us for a boot fitting. As often as we ski we have yet to buy any kid new equipment. That would be stupid. They might wear the same shoe size for an entire year or less than a month.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn ski day everybody would be served a hot breakfast, which they would pick at. I would pack snacks, bottles of water, changes of clothing, emergency blankets and the first aid kit in case global Armageddon erupted, we broke down, or somebody barfed on the 40-minute drive up the hill.

Then the begging would start. Please put on those long johns. No they’re not itchy, the wrong color, or sissy. No those socks do not make your heels look like frogs. What does that even mean? Please put them on. Please take this pill. I know it’s nasty. I’ll give you juice to wash it down. It’s so much better than barfing… Yes it is… I’m not arguing… It is… Because you said so yourself the last time you didn’t take it.

Eventually, I’d resort to yelling and threatening to leave everyone behind. I’d still have to chase someone down to make sure they’ve swallowed their damn pill.

Nobody would put their ski pants on before we left, so when we arrived at the hill and woke everybody from their Dramamine-induced comas, it would be in crisp mountain air that would make them shiver and whine.

One of us would dispose of the used barf bag while the other tried to get both boys into ski pants before the shivering and whining escalated. We’d get pants, scarves, coats and gloves on and then spend a full fifteen minutes per foot trying to jam little ski boots onto little feet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time this process was over, Mike and I would be sweating and shedding half our own gear to reduce our body temperatures to a level that wouldn’t bake grey matter. We’d lug our gear and the kids to the lodge, where we’d beg the boys to pee one time before went go up the mountain.

The line to the lift would be at least six times as long as the trip down the bunny hill. During that wait, somebody would announce they wanted to sit down, someone else would decide he needed to pee RIGHT NOW. Somebody else would wonder why we ever put ourselves through this garbage in the first place. Ultimately, we would get two full runs on the bunny hill before both kids decided they wanted hot chocolate in the lodge, which meant skiing was over.

But we’ve left all that craziness behind. Today our kids dress themselves and load themselves in the truck. We’ve started leasing gear and keeping it in a locker at the resort. One less thing to worry about. And everybody’s excited to go, which means they eat a full breakfast, take their motion sickness medicine (one that’s non drowsy), and chatter excitedly on the drive up the hill.

Of course, everything can’t be total bliss. Right?

This afternoon we made at least three runs at full speed through thick powder, making my legs burn and my stomach rumble. It was already about 2 pm. I’d  eaten early that morning, shoveled my gargantuan driveway and then my mother’s, assembled ski gear, cajoled kids out of bed and into eating breakfast and dressing. I needed a cheeseburger.

This was distressing news to one member of our party.

“Are you KIDDING ME?” Our fourteen year-old asked, his volume increasing. “Three runs, mom. THREE. That’s PATHETIC.”

Okie doke. I had to know this was coming, right? I mean, I remember trying to cope with my own absolutely clueless family growing up, spending summers crammed into our tiny boat cabin. Mom cooking breakfast, hogging the sole electrical outlet for the toaster at the same time I wanted to CURL MY HAIR for Godssake.

And yes, I DO plan on going for a swim right after breakfast, thank you.

With my hair curled.

…And a new application of Maybelline mascara and some lipgloss. What?

Because toddlers who are forced to ski are perfectly reasonable in demanding the spontaneous appearance of hot chocolate, and adolescents are completely rational when they have to make a scene in the lodge because we haven’t skied enough before mom demands sustenance.

It’s the parents. We’re the crazy ones.

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