I know I’m not alone when I sometimes wish that life came with a helmet and other protective gear of sorts, but it doesn’t, so you deal. This weekend my youngest daughter taught me a lot about dealing with it and getting back up, no matter how many times you fall down, and in her case, eat snow.
Gaby asked us late last fall if she could learn to snowboard, and if she could ask Santa for the gear to do with it. She started asking when she was about 4 years old, to learn, but because of various things that have happened in the past two years, she backed-off of embracing some of the things she had always wanted to do. Anyhow, she’s seen photos of me from about 17 years ago and 50lbs lighter, when I tried snowboarding (loved it and would be thrilled to be able to do it again!) and one of her favorite winter Olympians is snowboarding Gold Medalist, Hannah Teter. We put her off when she was younger . . . well I put her off because I’m a nervous wreck when it comes to letting her do anything where she might get seriously injured. She’s been taking dance for the last four years, and she swims, but now she’s seriously gotten the itch to try snowboarding (and surfing, which is going to happen this summer if I can reign in my utter terror of her out there on a piece of fiberglass and wood, IN THE OCEAN!) and we decided we’d let her scratch it. We were just glad that she took the initiative to try something new! She spent last summer and some of the fall teaching herself to skateboard and she used that as a reason to justify asking Santa for a board and gear for Christmas. We compared a seasonal rental versus buying a board and it came out pretty close so Santa brought her a board and gear and this past weekend she got to break them in; she is taking lessons through an area ski/snowboard school up at our local (and I do mean local, within ten miles of where we live!) ski resort, Maple Ski Ridge.
According to Gaby, snowboarding is a lot like life.
Snowboarding as a Metaphor for Life, According to Gaby, 8 Years Old.
“Start each day determined to get out there and just do it, no matter what it is, no matter what you think you’re going to look like, regardless of what other people think. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Any new thing!”
“Listen to what people tell you, and believe them. People who care don’t tell you the wrong things. If they know a lot about what you want to do, be sure and listen to them really well!”
“Make sure you have someone who has your back, who can help you out. Friends are good for that sort of stuff. So are coaches.”
“You might be a little wobbly, but don’t worry, your friends will help you out and help keep you upright. “
“Have the courage to let go and just try. You never know, you might find out you can do it! Pretty soon you’ll be gliding on your own!”
“Your family and your friends will let you know when you’re doing the right thing. They’ll be proud of you! They’ll smile a lot too. Smiles are good!”
“The smiles make you feel really good and pumped up. So you go out there and you do it again!”
“Don’t get upset or discouraged if you slip and fall . . .
. . . or even eat some snow. “
“Or fall on your butt. “
“Get up, do it again and show everyone you can do it and that just because you fell down once or even twenty times, you’re going to keep getting up and trying again! You might even look funny with snow all over your face and your butt might get wet, but if you don’t get up again, then you won’t know how much fun it is when you get to take a ride that lasts a long time! You would miss how good that feels. “
“It feels pretty awesome!”
After Gaby’s private lesson and then a group lesson, a group where she’s the smallest and I think, the youngest . . .
. . . she’s really excited to get out there and back on that mountain as often as she can. To say she loves snowboarding would be an understatement! Her exact words were,
“Mom! I was made to do this!“
A little bit later we had a long talk about life in general and that’s what prompted me to ask her if she thought learning to snowboard was like life and she said yes, and then she gave me some examples as we looked through the photos I took. I started to tear up, listening to the wisdom – such simple but powerful wisdom from an 8 year old, and naturally she asked me what was wrong. I didn’t give her the specifics of what happened last week and why I’d been a little less myself and a bit more nervous about being around people, instead I told her that sometimes people make fun of others because they see them as flawed. I explained that someone said something to me that made me feel really bad. Gaby asked if it was about my weight and I was honest and told her that yes, something unkind was said about my weight and I let it really upset me, but at the end of the day, I knew if I was going to fall – and fall I did, that daddy and others who loved me and cared about me were there to catch me and help me get back up again and then insist that I didn’t let it keep me down. Gaby looked at me, her eyes got real big, and she said,
“Mom! That’s just like snowboarding! Mr. Mike was so cool. He was right there, helping me and telling me what to do, and helping me get back up when I fell. And you were over there smiling so big I thought you were going to smile until your ears came off! I just kept doing it and doing it and then I just said I was going to stay up, and try a turn and look, I DID IT! It was the greatest feeling ever. I felt like I rode the board for a super-long time! And you know what? You went out there you stayed out there all that long time and I saw you talking to other people, and they didn’t say anything bad to you, did they? See, so it’s just like getting back up when you fall in the snow. Mr. Mike is just like the people who love you. He helped me and daddy helps you, and your friends help you. The other coaches gave me high fives, even when I couldn’t stay up on the rope tow thingy. I kept trying. They told me sometimes it takes a long time to get used to it and that I probably went down 20 times but I got right back up, ’cause skootching-sliding back up the hill is hard and I really want to learn how to use the tow rope and then soon the chairs that go up the hill . . .”
When she mentioned the ski chair lifts I started to hyperventilate just a little because, well let’s just say I almost had as hard a time, if not harder, learning how to use those and not kill myself or someone else, than I did actually learning how to snowboard.
Right before bed, Gaby snuggled with me on the sofa for a while and we talked a little more about the day and then she got real quiet for a few minutes. Finally, she looked at me and said,
“Mom, do you think you’ll ever snowboard again? I mean, I know you don’t like being, well you know, you don’t like being your weight, so what if I helped you? I could help you and then you could get healthy and maybe want to go and snowboard with me? I really want you to. We can go swimming together and take walks and watch those videos you have, and I’m pretty sure we could figure out that Rumba stuff (she was talking about Zumba. I got a Zumba video a couple of years ago and apparently she has never quite forgotten what it was like trying to watch me figure that stuff out, and try keep up.) and we can make meal calendars and just do all sorts of healthy fun stuff. Nobody will laugh or say bad things to you and if they do, it just means they have black in their hearts. Mom, please want to, please want to do this.“
It was hard to not break into fresh tears, but I made a promise that I’d do this with her, and that I’d eventually get back on a board (it may be my complete undoing, but I’ll do it anyhow) and go snowboarding with her. How can you look at a child, a child who so desperately wants to share something that she loves with you, and say no? How can I argue with her logic? Sometimes I don’t give her credit for being more mature and a lot more observant than I think she is. She doesn’t miss much, this child of mine.
Last week was hard, but I’m getting back up. Maybe slowly, but the alternative is not an option. It never was, I just think I allowed myself to wallow a little longer than was healthy. I got knocked down. It happens. Who knows, it might happen again, but if I don’t get back up, I’ll never know how good it eventually is, to stand up and look back and see where I was compared to where I can be, and eventually will be.
It might seem silly to look at the smile on an 8 year old’s face, after a few hours of snowboarding the first time, and want that, but I do. That smile was full of pure unadulterated joy and happiness. While Gaby was excited, she was also a little apprehensive. She’s fought her own battles the last couple of years and her self-confidence took a little bit of a whack after an unfortunate situation at school where she was assaulted, not once, but twice, by the same student. She’s had her moments of insecurity, but this past weekend showed me just how far she’s come, she’s no one’s victim, and that she can do anything, no matter how many times she falls down. My daughter taught me, in the course of a few hours, that if I don’t keep getting back up, I’ll never experience the reward of coming out on the other side and enjoying the good stuff. It’s such a simple thing, but so very powerful . . . I’m going to stand up, and eventually I’m going to have the ride of a lifetime!
Thank you to so many of you who took the time to leave me a comment, email, Facebook message, text, call, or just reach out. What happened last week was stupid and yes, it was cruel, but it doesn’t define me. Thank you for reminding me of that very thing . . . it does not define me. Sometimes I get lost in the abyss that is depression and I forget the things that do define me and I let the ugly stuff grab hold and pull me down. Thank you for not allowing me to slip much further than I already had. I’m so very grateful for the the community that surrounds me, and how you all created this amazing pod of love, compassion, and shared strength.