“I’m a little nervous.”
Everett’s voice emerge so soft and so quiet from the back seat of the car. It was the complete opposite of the usual loud and brash voice that I’m used to hearing from him.
“What was that buddy? You’re a little nervous?”
I turned to look at him. His little eyebrows were deeply furrowed.
“It’s OK. It’s normal to be a little nervous when you’re trying something new or going to a new place. But it’s just like last year’s ski school except in Vermont.”
His eyes flickered to mine and then away to stare out the window.
For the past three years, we have taken the kids skiing.
Every year, I secretly hope that my kids will go running and skipping off to ski school without looking back at us and immediately dive into the fun.
Every year, my kids hesitate and (oftentimes) cry when we drop them off.
Every year, I have to remind myself that my kids are the slow-to-warm-up kind.
Every year my kids leave ski school with a big smile on their face and declare that they love skiing.
Every year, we start this cycle over again.
The day before they started ski school, we took the kids to get their rental equipment, showed them the mountain where we’d be skiing (this year at Okemo Mountain in Vermont) and explained how they would be in the same program together, just different levels.
The night before their lessons began, both Jasper and Everett declared how they were so excited to ski and couldn’t wait. Ed and I actually thought that we would short circuit the cycle this year.
Yet, when the time actually came to walk into the ski school building and to follow the teacher to their respective groups, tears billowed behind their eyes until they flooded down their cheeks. The first day, it was Everett. He’s older and more aware than he was last year and the idea of walking off with a stranger wasn’t lost on him. Mostly, he didn’t like that he was on the opposite of the room from his brother.
The second day, it was Jasper. After a great first day, his instructor wanted him to move up a level to Comet Cruiser 2. Jasper was nervous. He wanted to stick with what he knew and was comfortable with. As I signed him into ski school, he shrunk down and curled up into a ball by the wall and started crying. A teacher came over and asked him what he was nervous about and explained what they would be doing in this new level.
The Chinese mother in me wants to stand firm and to not coddle my kids. I want them to be independent and to not show any vulnerability. I want them to be strong. I know that within 5 minutes, they will be laughing and smiling as if the tears never happened.
The mother in me recognizes what incredible expectations we place on our children. We expect them to walk off by themselves and immerse themselves in a new situation with new people without any hesitation when most adults would be apprehensive. Or at least introverts like me.
I realize that part of the reason why I want my kids to assimilate easily is because I don’t want them to have to struggle with social situations like these, making friends and fitting in that I often did as a child. I want my kids to bypass all of the hard stuff even though I know the we grow and learn from the hard stuff.
My kids emerged from ski school declaring their love of skiing (again). Everett even said that he wanted to be a ski instructor when he grows up.
While I breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing this, I also know that I shouldn’t expect to forego the hesitation next year. But each year, I’m learning how to handle the situation and how to ease my kids into new situations better. At least I think I am.
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