And for one glorious day, the hamster wheel slows down a little…

Even though I didn’t get my daughter to her skating lesson right on time, 7 minutes late onto the ice is still better than 15. And then the rest of my day was just . . . breathing space. She was difficult to get ready for skiing, but making her put on her ski boots and sticking her boots into the bindings was easier than I had expected. What’s more, I didn’t feel the judgement I was expecting from a few other parents whose children were also having lessons. Instead, I found support.

“Good for you,” one nice lady told me. “I don’t think I’d have been able to make her get going like that.”

It wasn’t easy, I said. And it continued to be tough. She stood there and cried, as she’d cried while I made her switch her snow boots for the ski boots, and pulled her outside, and marched her to the ski rack, and pushed her feet into place on the skis. She cried when the wonderful and patient ski instructor came up behind her (with my permission) and gently skied with her down the slope. She stopped a little when I trundled down the hill and pulled her behind me halfway back to the top.

I pulled a Maria von Trapp: I tried making as much of it a game as I could.

“Aaah! Don’t run me over!” I yelled over my shoulder.

“I’m not, you’re pulling me!”

(Not sure whether she knows I’m kidding. I changed tactics.)

“Mush, Mommy!” I bolster myself, trying to jog upwards against gravity. “Mush!”

Then the grade got the better of me, and she had to side-step. But her instructor and I made it fun, gasping for breath as I held her hands and helped her to balance.

Once we got to the top, her next move was to cry again, pleading to take her skis off. I told her I was too tired just then, she had to wait. Then, I turned her around and had her facing another direction. More tears.

The snot coursing down her face gave me an idea.

“Do you want a kleenex?”

She nodded. I told her I’d be right back, and headed inside the chalet. As soon as the door closed, I went and found Hubby, told him what was up, and asked him to help me out with her. I will admit to a bit of selfishness here: I have paid for a family membership and I want to ski, too. I need the exercise and the peace. And bless his heart, unlike our first visit to the ski hill when he’d been remarkably grumpy, he was willing to come out into the cold to help.

Here’s where I got tricky: I approached with kleenex in hand, but suddenly, “gravity” was pulling me down the hill, away from them! I called up to Bridget and her instructor, “Anthony! Bridget! I have the kleenex but gravity is pulling me down the hill! You’ll have to come to me!”

Anthony gently coasted down toward me, and she took the kleenex. Then I winked at him. “Oh, no! Gravity has you too! Now you’re going down the hill past me!”

She cried again, but went down the hill the second time.

I used this opportunity, while Hubby was watching her and calling out encouragement, to dash back into the chalet and put on my own ski boots and helmet. Came out just as he was helping her back up the hill. She didn’t want me to leave, but as I said to her, now it was my turn while she finished her lesson. And now that her Dad was in charge, the games were definitely changing.

Sometimes, you need that good-cop, bad-cop routine when you’re parenting. All he had to tell her was that if she took her skis off, he was going to take everything out of her room for a week.

She did not like that. Nor did she like me leaving her to suffer. But again, I tried to have some fun with it. I coasted slowly away, yelling, “No, don’t chase me! I won’t let you catch me!” Heh heh, that old reverse psychology thing. You never know when it’s going to actually work. Well, she didn’t come after me herself, but her instructor grabbed her up again (slowly, gently, making eye contact with me to make sure it was okay), and the two of them “chased” me in a gradual zig zag down the hill. And would you believe it — she smiled!

At least until I said I was off to the bigger hill, and then she was crying again.

I looked back a couple of times on my way, and saw her dad taking her in hand. Literally, he was helping her to get back up the hill. And then the next time I looked back, she was going down with the instructor again.

The third time I looked, as I waited to get on the T-bar, she was going down independently, with the instructor skiing backwards in front of her.

Best. Feeling. Ever.

This general perception I’ve had lately of being trapped on a perpetual hamster wheel, pumping my legs in the same routine and getting nowhere fast, stuck in the rut of day-in, day-out, it vanished as I was propelled up the lift with my music playing, the wind in my face, and the beautiful fluffy snow falling softly from tree branches. I tried two new runs, wiping out magnificently on the second one where the snow hadn’t been graded in a while and was so deep, I couldn’t see the ski that had fallen off at first. But that deep, deep snow on which my momentum was hung up, hurling my body forward and down, was also pillowy-soft for the landing, I didn’t lose my glasses, and I actually found myself laughing as I spit out the mouthful of snow. And I laughed at myself when I fell again a few minutes later, and I couldn’t get back up on my feet.

It was only an hour and a half at the ski hill — and of that, I think I did about an hour of skiing, or maybe less — but damn, it felt good. Got home and there were no immediate concerns to be faced. The TV stayed off for a while. I had a hot shower (still ended up with a refreshed cold and an abundance of sneezing), held our bearded dragon for the first time because she showed more comfort with us, and did some long-overdue reading and editing, sipping wine, then tea, and making turnovers for the first time in forever, with my records playing.

The hamster wheel is waiting for me, just a day away. I can feel it. But my daughter, who started her ski lessons crying and ended them laughing and bragging about the fun she’d had; my son, who repeatedly thanked me for bringing us out skiing every weekend now; my husband, who’s having a whole weekend off with us and gave me the space I needed, plus taking over on being the heavy with our younger child — all of these have taken the squeak out of the wheel, or even moved it aside. We got through the rough edges of the day, found our balance as a family, and although our house is still messy, we’re going to bed feeling good.

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