Since I started writing a blog a little over two years ago, this is the longest amount of time I’ve gone without publishing. It’s not that I didn’t have ideas I wanted to write down; I did, but they felt mundane and unlikely to attract many readers. Then I got a cold and blew my nose for a week. Then I reminded myself of my profound need to start exercising again regularly. The fact that it took me three days to recover from playing basketball against some high school kids, one quarter mind you– not an entire game- demonstrated to me that the more time I spent writing and working out my brain, the less time I spent building my other important muscles needed for fitness. I’m only 43. The time for me to be entirely washed up, rinsed out and put away on a shelf is not now. It’s never been about how much I weigh; rather how strong I feel. And lately, I haven’t felt that strong or fast. The reality is that my mental fortitude is rock solid, but my actual level of fitness borders on pathetic.
So when we were encouraged as parents to register to race with our children, I signed myself up. My kids view their dad as the main athlete in the family as he has professional status. So lately, I’ve been giving a lot of lip service to my live in know-it-alls about how I’m the one who actually first taught them to ski as little guys; I’m the one who kicks the soccer ball around the yard; I’m the one who sleds, skis, hikes, etc. WITH them regularly. And so when Geoff does get to do those activities with them– it is EXTRA special. When they learned I was racing today, they did not think it was a good idea. Too young to be exactly embarrassed by my skiing ability, they were mostly worried for my safety and lack of ski racing knowledge. I told them I would be fine and had been skiing a lot of years.
In fact, my daughter told Geoff this morning when she woke up, “I’ve been saving my fast for today.” Saving my fast. Me too, Greta. Me too. Only, I’m saving my fast for… no good answer, and I should have one. She shared this awesomeness with him as if Mom wouldn’t understand. Whereas skiing with Mom is just common place. Skiing with Mom is NOT exciting. But I wrestled that little tiny race bib onto my body, with the help of another mom who watched me struggle, and I threw myself in the starting gate. I felt nervous. I felt butterflies. I felt those little ripples of anticipation that I had not felt in years as an athlete at a start line or right before the whistle blows or the jump ball. As an athlete, I loved that thrill right before a big game even if I never raced down a mountain. My friend and teaching colleague Aaron took the above photo of me right before gently reminding me to pull my goggles down. He lost the same race to his son today, age 14, for the first time, another kind of growing pain. My friend Matt also lost to his ten year old daughter, as did countless other racing and non racing parents. My goal was to finish the course, twice, which I did without blowing up anywhere. I could have chosen to watch from the sideline, but I made the choice to race because I wanted my kids to see me, THEIR MOM, as an athlete– to watch me taking a risk, knowing in my heart they would beat me by the clock easily.
As high school teachers, we spend a lot of time discussing with students this idea of having choices, of developing real independence, of achieving personal goals. An English teacher, I’m often accused of talking about college too much with my students. I do not believe that college is the right choice for every student, but I want them to have that choice. Our job as educators is to help them sort out what they need to make that choice. Choice is everything, and every kid should get to make that decision. We want them to find something they love to do and then it won’t feel so much like going to work every day for the rest of their lives. More importantly, putting myself in the hot seat so to speak reminds us all what it feels like to be uncomfortable and nervous and how to work through those tough moments. Then my little girl beat my little boy, also her older brother, not by much, but it was enough, and she was so proud, and he was a little sad. And so we talked about some life lessons that we learn on the hill, how on some days, he may ski faster than her and one some days, she will be faster than him. But today, they were both very brave and courageous as the course was icy, and they channeled everything their coaches had taught them up to this moment. They made a choice to ski hard and fast when they could have chosen to be more conservative and slower. But man, watching my daughter “bring her fast” today and wear her crown and carry her trophy around and see her face when she realized she beat her BIG brother, was a remarkable memory. I brought my fast too. Sort of. I showed up and tried my best. But for a moment in that start gate, right before “Racer ready” I remembered those feelings as an athlete that led up to being fast, and that was enough.