I’ve had two nadirs as a parent both came high atop a ski slope.
Several years ago, at greater expense than I could afford, I took Lulu, Drew and myself skiing out in Utah. On day two or three, my cherubic young ‘un Jekylled at the prospect of skiing for the full day. Though we’d only taken a handful of runs, he had had enough. In response, I was selfish (cost of the tickets), vindictive (the word’s “mama’s boy” may have slipped out) and entirely disappointed with my son.
Raising my voice, I mocked him for a moment as he stood on his skis with tears in his eyes, defiance in his heart. He was going home and I had to take him there. On our way down the hill, I imagined how I must’ve looked chastising my five year old and inwardly cringed in a way I hadn’t since I’d quit drinking.
Then on Thursday, I had a very similar experience with Fiona. First run down Stratton, she struggled with her fears and her form and I let my inner asshole come roaring out. Had I skied by a person talking to his daughter the way I was talking to Fiona, I probably would have stopped and told him to a) grow up b) shut up c) give the child up for adoption because said person was clearly not fit for parenting.
Alas, the people schussing by me were either too blissed out to tune in to my asinine self or maybe they heard me and were just forgiving enough to sail by with a good thought for my daughter and a bit of pity for me.
On both of these occasions, I was “that guy.” The one we shake our head at, the one we talk disbelievingly of around the dinner table, the one we imagine flailing his way through life frustrated with all the people, places and things that just don’t go his way.
Truth be told, as bleak as these episodes were, they were the tiniest, fractional slice of my life as a Dad. I’ll try and keep that in mind, the next time I’m quick to judge a parent.
The bottomline is, I have always loved skiing. In my life, it’s held an iconic place, an act of rebellion against good sense and order. When I strap on the boards, I point ‘em straight downhill and hang on for dear life. When I graduated from college, I didn’t start a career, I moved out to Aspen.
My parents, grew up in the Depression, they were city kids, they didn’t get skiing. My Dad kind of disapproved of it. I destroyed my ankle on a snow fence when I was 13 and he looked pretty right in his assessment. I wore a cast for months and in the back of my mind, I’m sure I felt like a jackass for not heeding his warnings.
Skiing today, I know there’s still a little rebellion against Dad. I never had the courage to go against him when he was alive, so I do it now when I’m catching bugs in my teeth. 44 and flipping off my father with a pair of all mountain boards.
So, I guess that’s why it kills me when my kids have rebelled against me on the slopes. It’s an affront to my passion but more importantly a mockery of my own dissent.