Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Adventures in Nordic

As a parent who's eager for my kids to enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, I have found that it's a challenge sometimes to find that balance between healthy encouragement and overbearing pressure.  I want my kids to love to ski.  Part of that is selfish: I want to go skiing myself, and know that the likelihood of my being able to sneak in a few adult runs is greatly increased if we're all at the ski area together.  And I hope that in creating a lifestyle with my kids that includes skiing, that someday they'll be ripping down the slope alongside me, ahead of me, or even without me.  And perhaps on the less selfish side, I want to share that love of skiing with my son and daughter because I know how fun and rewarding a day on the slopes or trails can be for them.  I want them to feel that pride in mastering a new skill and that euphoria that comes from gracefully gliding down the mountain.

But I also know that sometimes my pre-schoolers have a different agenda than me. Sometimes they just aren't interested in being out there. And although I do want to teach them that sometimes you've got to do things that aren't your first choice,  what I really want to avoid is them feeling like skiing is a chore.  So our number one rule has been to KEEP IT FUN.  This can be frustrating when we've made the effort to come to the ski area, only for the little angel to decide that she's done after one run, but I know I can't force it.  Gently suggest, encourage, and model a positive attitude, yes; but forcing it is going to leave everyone unhappy.

To my pleasant surprise, when we asked Bridget what she wanted to do on Saturday, she said she wanted to go cross-country skiing.  After a weekend stuck inside with the stomach bug, we were all eager to soak in some sun and fresh air.  It's hard to believe that it's already the third weekend in January and we we just going to the Bretton Woods Nordic Center for the first time of the season.

This was one of those times when Matt and I decided it would be best to approach our outing with a low-key attitude.  We wanted to give the kids a chance to try out a little cross-country skiing, but we had no delusions of grandeur about a long trek through the forest.  This was going to be a friendly warm-up for the season, a chance to see how the kids would take to it after 6 months away, and to say hello to friends at the Nordic Center.  Matt and I dressed for a slow pace, rather than an aerobic workout.

Bridget took to the track as if she'd never been away. We strapped her into her skis and she just scooted on down the trail.  We tried using poles at first, but after a while she passed them off to me.  I think she found the poles more of a hindrance than a help.We just went out over the bridge and back a few times, and then she heard a cup of hot chocolate calling her name...

Timothy, our two year-old, was more interested in hanging out in the Nordic Center than anything else.  We checked out the new trail maps that have a picture of my friend Bob and me pulling Bridget in the Chariot when she was a baby.  We said hello to Peter, the Nordic Center Director, and to instructor Audrey at the desk.  And of course we enjoyed some hot chocolate.

Later, Bridget and I went out for another short jaunt while Matt took Timmy to see Pete and the Nordic trail groomer.  Timmy loved the "snow tractor" and I'm sure would have jumped right in if we let him.  I showed Bridget how they lower the track setters to create two troughs side-by-side for us to classic ski in.

And then before anyone got too tired or too hungry, we headed home.  The kids protested leaving at first, but we knew that it was time to get some lunch and that nap time would soon follow for Timmy, and we wanted to go while there were still smiles on their faces.

So after a low-key cross country experience on Saturday, we had a little bit more at stake on Sunday.  Our friends at the Nansen Ski Club were hosting the Nansen-Milan Winter Festival at the Milan Hill State Park, including adult and kids' cross country ski races.

We arrived for Matt to compete in the 14k classic race, and the kids and I went for a dog sled ride while he jumped right in to a race as his first real day back on Nordic skis for the season.  I had hoped to try the 5k citizen's race, but the kids were cold and whiny and I feared we'd be heading home sooner than later.  But then Bridget saw her friends donning race bibs for the kids' race and suddenly, she was all about the kids' race.  I should never underestimate the power of a costume to up the allure an activity!

So while Timmy napped in the warm car, Bridget gathered  with the other kids at the starting line.

Having never done this before, I was afraid the distance might be too long for her.  I assured her that she should just do her best, but could turn around at any time. She lined up with about 8 or 10 other kids, most of them not much older than her, and then headed up the hill.  Under the guise of photography, I walked next her as she cruised along.

I was reminded that "race" can mean something very different for a four year-old.  She didn't seem particularly concerned that there were some kids that were much faster than her, or that she was ahead of some.  She was just relishing that moment of trying her best.  And after telling her that she was the fastest four year-old. she beamed with pride.  She had won her race.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, Bridget! Ski Like a Girl!! Find your inner Betty!

    Balancing fun with learning is such a delicate equation, and sometimes uber frustrating for Mom & Dad, but the end result will hopefully turn out in our favor.

    We were hoping the boys would be able to log some serious learning time on the local hills - both downhill & nordic - both the boys are itchin' to slid around, but alas this weekend's forecast looks wet & dreary yet again...guess we're gonna have to head north soon!