Amy Roberts: Teaching my niece to ski and my sister to chill
Last week my three and a half year old niece, Addison, came for a visit. She brought with her both her mom (my sister), and my mom (her grandma). The plan going into the weekend was to teach Addison how to ski. Or, more accurately, have an experienced instructor at Deer Valley teach her while I cheered her on and my sister and mother took photos and sipped lattes.
I’ve been wanting Addison to learn how to ski since the day she entered this world, and I wanted her to learn the right way. Or at least a better way than I learned — which was by typing “Teach yourself how to ski” into a Google search bar back when websites had little more sophistication than a Word document. There were no fancy tutorials or instructional videos back then. Just a written ten-step plan I could print out, which consisted of helpful tidbits like:
Step 1. Do not fall getting off the chairlift.
Step 2. Do not use the words “pizza” or “French fry” if you’re older than four.
Step 3. Point skis downhill.
There were other tips, but few offered anything exceptionally practical. So I learned to ski the old-fashioned way: trial, error, and orthopedic surgeries.
This was not a method to try with my niece. Mostly because my sister is not a person anyone would consider relaxed. In fact, I’m quite certain she is the only parent who has ever needed to take a Xanax prior to enrolling her child in a one-hour ski lesson.
Keeping my sister reasonably calm while making sure my niece was enjoying her lesson turned out to be a bit of a balancing act. Every time Addison said she loved skiing, Michele panicked she was going too fast, demanded a slower speed, and suggested taking a break. I suspect someone took discrete photos of her hovering absurdity and my sister is now part of a viral internet meme about anxiety.
For as long as I can remember, Michele has always been a worst-case scenario worrier. She’s the kind of person who, when reading online reviews, only wants to see the one-star comments, so she’ll “know exactly what’s wrong with it.” I’m convinced my sister’s abnormal worry will either make Addison fearful of ever trying anything new, or send her in the opposite direction and she’ll pursue a career as a stunt double.
I’m not entirely sure how she got this way. As kids, I remember her telling me not to climb on things, or swing too high, or run too fast. Maybe it’s because I was the middle child, but my parents rarely seemed to notice or comment when I did anything marginally reckless. I remember my dad signing me up for softball when I was five or six years old. One day I told him I was afraid the ball would hit me and he responded, “Don’t worry. If that happens, we have insurance.”
When I learned to drive, my parents didn’t badger me about wearing my seatbelt or going too fast. Instead, my dad told me, “At some point, you’re going to get in a wreck. When you do, hit a Ford, not a Mercedes.”
On the contrary, my sister has become the parent whose kid wears safety goggles to the grocery store.
Despite this, I’m happy to report Addison loved skiing. Almost as much as she loved riding the magic carpet. Who knew a snow treadmill would be the highlight of her vacation? Actually, it ranked second among the highlights. The first being that the car seat I borrowed for her had two cup holders. It’s the thing I love best about being around a toddler — they can be so easily delighted. Like they don’t have a worry in the world. If only the same could be said of her mother.
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