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January 21, 2011 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Children of Winter

My son is signed up to go on a ski trip with his first grade class in early February.

He is terrified.  He begs me nearly every day if he can please skip the ski trip.  Now my son has never displayed any indication that he is Mr. Adventure.  That is just fine by me.  He doesn’t need to grow up to climb Mt. Everest, or be a firefighter.  I want him to be whatever he wants to be.  But dammit kid, can you please at least TRY strapping on a pair of skis?

I fondly remember my first time skiing…I was in third grade and our class took a bus to Discovery Basin.  I sat next to Erin Morris on the chairlift to the top of the hill.  I had a great time, and I didn’t ski again for many years.  Skiing is a pricey sport, if you hadn’t noticed, and it wasn’t something everyone got to do.

These days, every ski hill has steep discounts for kids to get out on the slopes to try the sport.  You know, hook ’em young.  Classroom field trips equal even better deals.  So I informed AJ that he would have to give it a try.  Just once.  If he didn’t have a good time, I would never make him go back.

I thought this was a pretty good deal.  But his anxiety was palpable.  He seemed worried sick.  This went on for days.

He continued begging and pleading and insisting that I please, please, please let him stay home that day.

We discussed the matter in the car yesterday morning, on the way to school.

“Mom, do I still have to go on the ski trip?” he asked.

I looked at him in the rearview mirror.  “Yes,” I said.  “You have to try it.  You might have a really good time!”  I tried to sound encouraging but not overbearing.  I wasn’t making him practice the piano for three hours, for goodness sake.

His eyes started to well up with tears.  I felt awful.

“I don’t get it AJ,” I said.  “Why don’t you want to try skiing?”

“I just don’t want to fall, Mom.”  He chewed his nails in a neurotic fit.

Huh?  Ok, so nobody really likes to fall, but we live in Montana!  The snow will pad the ground!  It’s winter, and it’s time to go our and play in the snow!

“I don’t get how you can be so worried about falling when you haven’t even tried…”

A light bulb went on.

Sure, AJ had never been skiing.  Not physically.  I thought back to our life in Colorado, surrounded by crazed mountaineers.  Any time a party was happening, a Warren Miller film would be playing on TV.  When there was nothing else to watch, a Warren Miller program could be found on cable.  Between life in Colorado and Montana, the poor kid has probably seen more commercials and advertisements for ski resorts than most people have.  That’s when I knew what was going on in his head.

My poor son thought that Mommy was making him “just try it once.”  The way he had it figured, once would be all it took to finish him off for good.

I asked him “What do you think skiing is?”

He said “I know what it is Mom.  I’ve seen it on TV.”


“Kid.  Let me explain the bunny hill to you…”

We talked about skiing In Real Life and the freak outs have ceased.  I really think he might give skiing a try.  Next time he is so clearly afraid of something, I will try and figure out what the reason is before my dear son chews his nails off for good.



Leave a Comment
  1. bluesuit12 / Jan 29 2011 7:49 am

    Aww, poor little guy. Glad you figured out what his real anxiety was. The first time I went skiing I was 14. And what is now a hilarious story, was total fear at the time.

    In short my sisters didn’t feel it was necessary to tell me what to do with my feet and legs b/c as they said, “you’ll only go about three feet and fall down the whole way.” What actually happened was that I FLEW down the mountain at warped speed never falling once. Not knowing what I was supposed to do, I kept scrunching down smaller and smaller thus making me ski faster and faster. I was terrified and screaming the whole way and finally had to throw my body on the ground to stop so I wouldn’t ski into the parking lot. This happened twice. I never went down a mountain again.

  2. Bad Pants / Jan 24 2011 7:00 pm

    My first time skiing was ALSO a school trip when I was in the third grade. Had I seen a Warren Miller movie before going for my first lesson I would have been scared shitless. That’s not hyperbole, I would have clenched up tight enough to not only turn a lump of coal into a diamond, but even turn three leaves of spinach into the coal in the first place.

    That being said, you can also tell him that the people in Warren Miller’s movies all started out as kids falling down on the bunny hill. I know this because I’m in both “Steeper and Deeper” and “Black Diamond Rush” (for like 20 seconds, doing stupid things, one of which required a helicopter at the top of the world to attempt) and I’m speaking from experience. I was a teenager at the time, and self-preservation was not one of my better skills.

    I guess what I’m saying is “be careful what you wish for” mommy, I was a quiet and bookish third-grader that ended up as a seventeen-year-old snow-bum who spent every long weekend break from school attempting to commit suicide-by-snowbank at high speeds or high heights (or typically both). If, ten years from now, he gets flown from the side of a mountain to the university medical center because he tried to break a tree off at the mid point using only his left femur, two vertebra and 40+ mph of velocity…well, you’ll have only yourself to blame…or Warren Miller…

    On second thought, blame Warren Miller.

  3. Madame Monet / Jan 24 2011 9:46 am

    VERY perceptive on your part. Have you thought about going along as a parent chaperone on this particular trip? Otherwise, maybe take him on a “drive-by” of the place so it can change his impressions in advance. Or don’t force him this time, and introduce him to it slowly, yourself.

    Madame Monet

  4. Romi / Jan 23 2011 5:20 pm

    glad you got to the root of it, you good parent you! 🙂 And hopefully he’ll have a good time

    PS: on my first skiing adventure at age 11, motion sickness hit me on the bus ride to the resort, I vomited in a plastic bag, and spent the whole day in the nurse’s room eating saltine crackers and gingerale. Apparently my friends had a swell time though 🙂

  5. Allison / Jan 22 2011 9:46 pm

    Cute story. Way to intuit the source of the fear! That gives me some possible insight into the apiphobia Abby experienced last summer. Maybe she saw the ending of ‘My Girl’.

  6. David / Jan 22 2011 4:49 pm

    Thank goodness for light bulbs going on! Well played mommy. Good listening.

    Terri’s right. It’s so hard to put our adult minds back into the childlike thought process. But so important.

  7. territerri / Jan 22 2011 8:03 am

    Oh, poor kid! Don’t we adults always do that? We think we know exactly what they’re thinking. I’m glad you were able to figure it out and I hope he has a great time!

  8. pikespeakdenise / Jan 22 2011 6:34 am

    My daughter has an irrational fear of all field trips without mom. She did NOT want to go to the art museum last fall. I did not know this before I signed up to be a chaperone. Since bus rides bring on her migraines, I had even received special permission to drive her myself (normally a district no-no). I got busted in a speed trap approaching Denver. A sign that we should have skipped the trip and gone out for Chinese, perhaps, but the King Tut exhibit was pretty cool.

  9. fawnahareo / Jan 22 2011 1:01 am

    Awesome. Way to get to the bottom of that mystery! I bet his nails grow back, even. 🙂

    (No, seriously. Good job, Mama!)

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