Yesterday I was skiing on the mountain with my three year-olds. The morning was icy and I feared that they would all freak out. “Andrea, I’m scared”, I heard after 5 meters. “It’s ok, we’ll take it easy.” And so we did. The morning turned out to be amazing. We went super slowly, but we came down ok and my kids even dared to let go a bit on the flatter parts of the run. And then the afternoon came.
After a few minutes of skiing, one little boy got a panic attack. He was screaming, tears running down his cheeks. His skiing went from slow to hesitant, only moving 10cm at a time. I had to have him in the front, because I needed to be close to him, but it made things very hard for my other 3 kids. They kept falling over because they had to start and stop constantly in this massive breaking wedge. Then two of them started to look uncomfortable. “Andrea, I need to pee.” I could already see the restaurant where I’d planned a toilet break, but at this speed, it would take us a while, and minutes later I hear: “Andrea, I just peed.” With no spare clothes on me, unfortunately this little guy had to ski the rest of the afternoon in wet pants.
After a little break, the screaming came back again. It was like I was torturing the guy. He had again completely lost his confidence and started complaining about his legs hurting. All I could was look behind me and offer words to comfort him. At a certain point I even stopped the group and sat down. As soon as we got up, the kid started screaming again though. My supervisor caught up with us and took him down a little bit, carrying him in her arms. It is awful to ski with someone screaming their lungs out. Other skiers looked at me accusingly or gave me a look of pity. All my attention was going to this one child, totally unfair to the other three.
If I’m honest I have to say I don’t want to take this kid back up the mountain again. He drains my energy and takes all the fun out of it. But really, he is a little me. I’m always afraid. I’m afraid to let go when I’m in a morning training on a sheet of ice. I was afraid, and cursing out loud, when my friend took me to ski the powder in the glacier. I wanted to quit when he took me in a tree run. I feel like I’m just not good enough when I’m on training with all my colleagues who are amazing skiers. I might not scream until I feel sick and I might not give up, but this guy is only three.
I try to imagine being three. Your parents put you in ski school, even though you have no interest in sports yet. You’re little and you are suddenly put on this big mountain. If standing on top of a steep slope was scary for me at 25, what must it be like when you’re three? I’m building confidence by getting pushed a little further every time. My little skier lacks confidence, but there is only one way to build it. I’ll have to take him back up the mountain again next week. He will scream again. He will take all my attention and make me think about giving up. I just hope that in a few weeks, it will also build his confidence. And maybe next year, he’ll actually enjoy skiing and have some faith in himself and his ability. At least when you’re three, you forget about your bad day by the time you’re in the gondola down.