Lily’s first day with ski poles! Hooray!
“Just hold them out in front of you,” I reminded her as we started off down her favorite trail, Garden Path, an easy green circle that she had skied many times.
I skied backwards in front of her, so that I could watch my five-year-old using her poles for the first time, and within a few seconds I realized what she was doing.
She was not just holding them out in front of her. Instead she was swinging them, dramatically from side to side, as if rowing an imaginary canoe.
“Lily, hon, try just holding them out in front of you!” I called.
“No, mommy, I’m doing it my own special way!” She swung her poles a few more times, wildly. I could see now that her ‘special way’ could easily cause her to ski over her poles and fall over.
She stopped next to me. “I’m doing poles my own special way!” she said earnestly… and defiantly.
“But Lily, you could fall down. Try holding them out in front of you. Let’s go!” We skied a bit further, and the trail got a little steeper, and Lily’s poles swung more wildly than ever. Sure enough, she toppled over.
“Arrrgh!” She threw herself on the snow, totally frustrated.
“Would you like me to carry your poles? You can try again later if you want?”
“Nooooo!” She heaved herself back up onto two skis and began to ski again, poles flying everywhere. I skied in front of her again, watching. Around the next bend, she fell… again.
This time she lay there, shouting. “I failed! I failed! I don’t know how to use poles! I wanted to do it my special way!” Where did she even learn the word ‘fail?’ I wondered to myself.
Before I could hike the short distance back up the trail to help Lily get up, a friendly-looking pair of people, beginner level skiers in their twenties or thirties, came along. The man said sweetly to Lily, “Do you need some help?” I cringed. I knew what was coming. I know my daughter.
“NOOOOOOOO!” she screamed. “No! No! I can do it MYSELF!” The kind man looked at me, bewildered. I had a small hunch that he probably did not have children of his own. I thanked him, and let him know that she was fine. The nice couple skied away and Lily got up and skied down to me.
“I don’t know how to use poles, mommy.”
“You will. It takes practice. It took me lots of practice before I figured it out.”
She thought about this for a moment.
“Would you like me to carry your poles for now?”
Later, on the chairlift, Lily asked me, “How long did you have to practice?”
“Well, I didn’t just practice. I also listened to my ski teachers. They told me I should start out just by holding my poles out in front. Lily, if you try out the things that people are teaching you, you’ll figure it out too.”
She was silent for a moment. And I let it be.