Aspen Princess: Pushing into the mountain life, but not too hard, even if it is skiing
January 10, 2019
A friend of mine recently posted a photo of herself and her 7-year-old son after they skinned up Aspen Mountain.
"You're raising the bar way too high" I commented, unable to resist what feels like a constant urge to engage in sarcasm on social media, which often doesn't translate well. I decided I better follow it up with "amazing mother and son."
I meant it. No doubt it's quite an accomplishment, and not at all surprising in terms of the genetic equation. My friend is a driven athlete, a marathon runner and endurance type who is always pushing the farther/faster/longer envelope. She's amazing.
I totally get wanting to share this mountain lifestyle with our kids. Part of why I live here is because I always dreamed of raising kids here. We are so fortunate that they get to grow up in such a healthy environment and learn the ways of the outdoors as little puppies, away from screens and junk food.
And if there is one thing I have learned in the three short years I've become a mother, it's to never judge the way people parent their own children. I'm literally doing almost everything I swore I would never do.
Letting the kid into our bed? Check. Sending him to school with knots in his hair because I'm not up for a full-on battle before 9 a.m.? You bet. Allowing him to run through the aisles at Whole Foods full speed, giggling madly while I scream his first and middle name and carry on, which he thinks is hilarious and doesn't listen? That, too.
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Know what I'm about to say has nothing to do with my friend's choices. She's a superhero, so of course her kid is, too.
It's just that I can't imagine skinning up Ajax at 7 years old. That's probably because I've never skinned up Ajax, ever. The whole before-9 o'clock-in-the morning thing doesn't work for me at all and I've never been a fan of outdoor activity at night. Tiehack is hard enough as it is, not to mention the humiliation I must endure every time I am passed by that old guy I didn't even see coming.
I have friends whose kids have hiked Highland Bowl at a young age, too. I totally get this rite of passage as a skier. I also understand wanting to indoctrinate your child into what I like to call the Bowl Babe Club, and the sense of adventure and accomplishment that comes with standing on top of a peak that high, especially in winter, especially when you can ski down.
But here's what I don't get.
When I was a kid, I hated hiking. Hated it. I tolerated biking but hated the uphill climbs. My dad would always drag me on these too-long bike rides that felt like they were uphill both ways. Maybe I was lazy, but I don't think so because by the age of 12 I'd already exhausted my career as a competitive gymnast that had me in the gym four to six hours a day. I could do 50 chin-ups back then, and I can't even do one now, at least not without a rubber strap for assistance. (This fact makes me so mad and I am determined to change that in 2019!)
Skiing was fun. Biking downhill or on flats was fun. Gymnastics was fun. I loved swimming and diving, too. But I did not see the appeal of hiking or exercising at all, whatsoever.
I guess what I'm getting at is, when does it become too much? When are we pushing our kids too hard, and when is too soon?
Parents throughout the ages have pushed their kids to love the things they love. For my parents, it was all about getting a good education and going to the best college; that was something they planned for from the time I was in grade school and showing all kinds of promise. By first grade, I was one of these gifted kids who got to attend special classes. Boy, did I show them when I didn't make it to Yale but ended up going to community college and matriculating into a four-year state school — which is precisely my point.
We put Levi on skis for the first time when he was 13 months old. He rode a chairlift at 2 and we take him skiing every Sunday. I am so filled with joy in seeing him in this element that I often feel as though I might self-combust. We take a million videos, and in every single one I am cackling madly, like someone who has become dangerously unhinged.
I get it. I do.
I'm sure my friends who live in other places are baffled by the amount of time and money we've spent to take our toddler skiing. With his five-point leash harness and matching helmet and goggles, he looks like a sky diver. His ski pants even have an Aspen logo on the back of the leg (I bought them at D&E in El Jebel where everything has the Aspen logo on it) and someone in the gondola line commented, "That's the smallest ski instructor I ever saw."
My friend Sarah, who has been teaching kids to ski for a million years, says it's important to not do overdo it and always leave them wanting more. My friend Brett, who has a lot of experience teaching kids how to surf, says if you think you're going too slow, go even slower. He says it's important to make sure your kid doesn't have a scary experience that will either set them back or turn them off to the sport altogether.
Yes, of course I want Levi to be an X Games gold medalist and I swear, I am not going to push him too hard. I might even let him choose to be a skier.
The Princess needs to get a bowl lap in this week. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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