Asher went to ski club for the first time the other night. For a week, I was nervous beyond belief – what if he falls off a chairlift God Forbid? What if he doesn’t have any friends in the ski club? What if he’s lonely out there on the slopes of Mt. Holly? What if he gets to the top of the hill and is paralyzed with fear and can’t get down? What if he needs me and can’t reach me?
I was so nervous, way more nervous than normal, that my mother suggested I drive up to Mt. Holly and observe just to allay my own concerns.
But after I read through the paperwork from the school and realized he could take a ski lesson before hitting the slopes, I relaxed. Ok, someone would guide him. Someone used to teaching beginners to ski. Someone supremely comfortable with the challenges of a moving chairlift and the heights and the hills and the cold and the night.
And I knew deep down that my boy would be stronger for facing whatever situations the evening would present to him. So I let it go. And I let him go.
When I picked him up at school at 10 o’clock Friday night, middle-schoolers poured off two school busses in the dark. Skis and snowboards and poles and boots were stashed under the bus in the luggage compartment. They carried backpacks and other stuff and looked, simply, exhilarated.
And there was my son, all curly hair and smiles. Happy.
He said the ski instructor rode the chairlift with him the first time up because “I think she knew I needed the most help,” he said. And he was ok with that – comforted by admitting the truth.
He said he started off unhappy and anxious but ended up exhilarated and confident – exactly what you want to hear. And if I had been there, I’m not certain he would have broken through the anxiety to reach the confidence.
It’s really easy to become a parent. And the vision of becoming a parent is getting pregnant, feeling the baby kick inside of you, giving birth and bringing that baby home all swaddled in pink or blue and soft blankets. All they need is you, and you feel so complete holding them close, administering to their needs, knowing you are their world.
The thing you don’t realize when you anticipate parenthood or begin on that path is that it is a process of letting go. Letting them go. Sending them out into the big, scary world and hoping they will be better for it, and still come home to you.
Friday morning, when I dropped off Asher at school, he said, “I’m so nervous!”
When I asked him why, he replied: “Because I won’t see you for 14 hours.”
That night, when I picked him up from ski club, he was resonant with his own sense of independence and joy, exploration and discovery. I would give anything to see him like that all the time.
Which means my job now is as much to guide him and nurture his sense of development and independence and confidence as it is to loosen the reins and let him figure it out on his own.
So much harder than it was when he was a newborn, colicky in the middle of the night, and we were bouncing him and standing up and swaying back and forth at 2 a.m. with CNN blaring on the TV. Because now the stakes are higher. And I am in deeper than I ever could have imagined.