Monday, 17 February 2014


A lesson in perseverance.  From my son to me.

A local park offered free cross country skiing on Family Day.  Colin has never been, but I thought he and I would enjoy the afternoon out.  We were fitted for boots and skis and poles and were on our way in the glorious winter sun.

The trails through the forest were groomed and ski tracks provided to help along the way.  Our first run around the starting loop went surprisingly smoothly, considering Colin had never skied and I haven't in too many years to count.  We were ready to make our way into the forest, on a quest for hot apple cider and fire roasted hot dogs (at a bonfire deep in the woods.)

We hadn't gone more than ten minutes when we came to a fork in the road.  I immediately wished I had at least glanced at the maps of the trails before leaving the lodge.  I figured we would all be heading in the same direction.  To the right, the trail was flat, but it was obviously going the long way around the park.  To the left stood a looming upward hill.  Not knowing how long Colin would last on skis (and it's hard to do anything but keep going when you are deep in the forest), I opted for the shorter trail.  Which meant conquering the hill.

We paused at the bottom, and I instructed Colin to observe those more skilled going ahead.  We watched the placement of their skis and poles, the angle of the blade, the shape of the V, the lean of their body.  And then when a gap came, we inched our way forward.

I placed myself behind Colin.  He took a few steps up and slid back.  A few more steps and slid again.  I held him from behind, trying to keep him from losing progress.  A group of 10 year old girls were having no better luck.  After a few minutes we paused, barely a few feet up.  I told Colin to watch the other skiers again.  Somebody advised us "quick steps" so that our skis didn't have time to slide back down.  We tried again.  And again.  And again.  I was tiring physically of trying to balance myself and Colin.  I held him, steadied him, balanced him.  The progress was painstakingly slow at best, and nothing but sliding back and losing ground at its worst.  10 minutes passed.  25 minutes.  I offered to Colin that we take off our skis and walk up.  His response was firm.  No.  He worked and worked and worked at it.  I offered four more times to take off the skis.  Each time he was emphatic in his refusal.

At long last, someone came by with a new technique - side stepping.  She put herself perpendicular to the hill and walked up sideways.  We tried this new method, and finally found success.  The skier stayed beside us, cheering Colin on.  It was still another 4 or 5 minutes to get up the hill, but finally, finally, we conquered it.  Colin was rewarded by honest praise from our friendly skier, and he beamed from both the accomplishment and the accolades.

Interestingly, when we came to the next hill, Colin needed no help at all, and he didn't use the sidestep - he shaped his skis in a V and up he ran.  He had an odd way of using his poles in front of him instead of behind, but I could see that during his half our challenge on the hill he had truly come to understand the mechanics of skiing.  It wasn't a wasted time at all; it was a time of discovery, of trial and error, of coming to learn this new skill and the new equipment.  We flew through the rest of the course.  At the bonfire, we once again found our friendly skier.  She recognized us, and announced to the small crowd what perseverance Colin had, and that if anyone deserved a hot dog, he did.

I felt sorry that I had encouraged Colin to give up on that hill.  It was evident to me the weakness we have as mothers, wanting success for our children but finding it difficult to watch them struggle.  I am grateful for small lessons like this, early in life, that will serve as reminders to myself when my children must struggle with greater mountains.

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