There are many milestones you look forward to as a parent — the first time your child smiles and crawls, their first steps, their first words…and the first time they click into a pair of skis.
Then, you start dreaming of the day when you sit next to each other on the lift and ski down from the top of the mountain, side-by-side. It’s taken four years but this winter, I finally got to ski down the mountain with both my sons, ages six and eight.
After starting my family a few years ago, I quizzed everyone I knew. How little was too little to ski? 18 months? 2 years? 4 years?
I had my first ski lesson when I was four years old, and it was a disaster. My ski boot wouldn’t stay clipped in my ski. These weren’t the easy-to-click-in bindings you see today. These looked like mousetraps welded onto skis with a leash you fastened around your calf to prevent runaway skis.
I cried a lot. Eventually, my instructor hoisted me over his shoulder, skied to the bottom of the bunny hill, and delivered me to my parents.
I didn’t want my kids to have a similar experience, but we did have a rocky start, especially with my younger son. He didn’t want to take lessons. He begrudgingly followed his older brother to ski school, giant tears streaming down his cheeks.
He spent most of the time chewing on his gloves or sitting in the snow making snowballs instead of learning how to make pizzas and French Fries with his skis. After three years of lessons and minimal progress, I wasn’t sure he was going to be a skier.
This winter, when we dropped my younger son off at ski school, he looked up at me. “But Mommy, I want to ski down the mountain with yoooou.”
“I know buddy, and I want to ski with you. But you have to learn to turn and to stop first. I can’t teach you that. Your teacher has to teach you.”
Apparently, that was the motivation he needed. He no longer wanted to be stuck on the magic carpet. He wanted to ride the chair lift and go up the mountain. He was ready to perfect his pizzas and French Fries.
At the end of the day, his teacher gave him a big thumbs-up. He smiled at me, ran over and asked, “Can we go??!”
“Yes!” We met his older brother and headed to the lift.
We took the easiest route down the mountain — you know, the one that’s usually called village run and involves more skating than skiing. But for my younger son, he was in heaven. His older brother zoomed ahead but always circled back to wait for him. He zoomed down the mountain, often in a straight line in the shape of a capital A and with no turns.
We made it to the bottom of the mountain, probably one of the last people on the trails. He turned to me and said, “Mommy, I love skiing.”
During our learn-to-ski adventures, I’ve learned three important lessons about encouraging kids to try new things and take on new adventures:
- It’s a fine balance between encouraging children to try new things and allowing them to make their own decisions. Ultimately, they need to want to try. With my younger son, he needed to reach the point where he was ready to really learn and take this on as his own project.
- Introduce the new activity and let it be just that — an introduction. They don’t have to love it right away (and that’s OK!). If they didn’t love it, maybe the circumstances weren’t right that time around. There’s always another opportunity to try again.
- As hard as it is, don’t push. We all know that kids have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing what Mom or Dad really wants them to do. They can smell it a mile away, and they will do the complete opposite.