Thursday, February 23, 2012

Inspiration 365: Day 54

[ Yes, I skipped a few days. Forgive me. ]

Today was Quinn’s Grade 5 ski trip to our regular hill. I volunteered to join the class as a parent helper, but was {don’t tell anybody} not particularly looking forward to the outing. “Why?” you ask. While I do love skiing and the outdoors, and I love spending time with Quinner, there were a few potential issues that were making me wince a little.

1.  The weather has been so mild all week, even raining at times, I was anticipating lousy conditions. Considering I had to pay for my lift ticket, I didn’t want to be forking over my pennies to ski in slush or on ice.

2.  Quinn is considered an advanced skier for his age group. This is his eighth year on skis, and his fifth in the racing program. He knows his stuff, knows the trails, and often goes skiing on his own without supervision. Most of his school friends are hockey players, having never clipped a boot into a binding before. Two of these guys (I’ll call them A-boy + H-boy) were assigned to my group to make our foursome. While I love teaching kids and working with them, I was not sure how we would all have an enjoyable day. Either Quinn would be bored on the easier runs, or his buddies would be frustrated and not able to keep up.

Quinn and I opted to drive to the hill instead of taking the school bus (more of that good ol’ quality time). We arrived about 45 minutes ahead of the class. While we waited another NINE schools came, resulting in about a thousand kids, of various skill levels, all ready to ski.

Once everybody had their tickets and gear, we were told to go to the star test station so the kids could be qualified to ski safely. A-boy had been on skis once or twice before and, as an avid hockey player, understood the science behind weight-shifting, balance and speed control. H-boy had never been on skis, and rarely on skates. These big planks on his feet made him stumble and fall simply getting from chalet to rope tow.

The hill was clearly ill-equipped to handle so many kids. The few instructors there weren’t so much teaching as they were herding kids through tow lines, hollering at them to “Keep going! There are too many kids here to hold up the line!” Poor H-boy stumbled on his first attempt to grab the rope tow. I exclaimed to the lift operator this was his first time on skis. “Oh! Well then he should be over THERE!”, pointing to a station where kids were learning how to STOP. Oh, there is a process here! So H-boy and I went over, while Quinn and A-boy proceeded to acquire their star with ease.

After six attempts, H-boy passed his stopping test, but not before frustration and defeat set in. He told me several times “I suck” and “I can’t do this”. My heart sank, but I encouraged him to keep trying. I took him over to the Turning station for his next step. He rode the magic carpet, while I skied uphill to meet him at the top {it’s a mild grade slope, at best}. Again at the top, there was a line up of kids waiting to go down, weaving gracefully through pylons, and who were expected to make turns and stop successfully at the bottom. There was zero instruction, only crowd control. “How can you expect kids to keep going, when they don’t even know what they are doing!? Most of these kids have never been on skis before, let alone know how to turn!” I said {forcefully, but not yelling}. “Hey, I’m the only one here. I’m doing what I can” was his response. “Well shuffling them down the hill is only going to result in a pile-up and potentially injuries. These kids need to be taught.”

I took H-boy to the side and tried to show him how to shift his weight in order to turn. He just wasn’t getting the hang of it. He toppled over at every attempt, becoming more frustrated each time. You know that point, when you just feel so lousy, you don’t even want to try? That’s where he was.

I looked up and saw Quinn patiently waiting, clearly bummed, but also feeling sad for his friend. It was now almost noon, and Q still hadn’t even gone down the hill. I approached their teacher with the situation. She suggested she might be able to find another group of kids at H-boy’s level with whom he could learn to ski. Feeling awful about his first experience, I agreed this was the best idea given the situation.

I thought about H-boy all day, wondering how he was doing. I learned that he spent the three hours after our last turning attempt just sitting in the lodge.

At about 3:30pm, I saw the teacher at the bottom of the hill. She caught my attention and was thrilled to tell me H-boy had decided to get back out there and try again. She pointed to the top of the wee rope tow hill, where I saw him prepping himself for another run. I waved, and he waved back. From fifty yards away, I could tell he was beaming with pride.

I had promised his Dad I would take photos and video, so here was my chance. In the time it took me to haul my iPhone out of my pocket, Quinn, A-boy and Q’s BFF L-boy were on their way up the rope tow to ski with their buddy (I’ve known all these kids since they were four years old. They are all such wonderful boys).

He was so excited coming down the hill. My heart sang at the sight of his huge grin as he sailed by me. “This is awesome! I’ve never gone that fast before! Well, except for that time I was in an airplane, but that wasn’t ME! I love this!”

We were so close to the end of the field trip, and time for the kids to be hustled back on the bus. I told the boys to stay where they were, I would be right back. I headed over to the teacher and asked her if I could keep H-boy with Quinn and I, and that I would drive him home. Seeing how excited and pleased he was, how could I put an end to his fun knowing I could give him the opportunity to continue? After speaking with his Dad, she gave me permission to keep him under my wing a little longer.

H-boy couldn’t believe his ears. “Thank you!” I made him a deal that if he could come down the learner’s hill three times without stumbling, I would take him on the chairlift for a few runs. He did it.

This little boy who was so devastated only a few hours earlier, was now wishing he could ski all night, and every day until Spring arrives. I felt so proud and thrilled to be able to give him this experience.

We proceeded to go down the easiest run four times, his turning and control improving each attempt. Quinn was so patient and encouraging, cheering H-boy on as he went along. He was exactly the kind of friend I always hoped my kids would be. I was proud of him too.

It was soon five o’clock, and time to go. We all could have easily stayed until 10pm close, but I had promised his Dad that H-boy would be home by 5:30pm.

We were all fired up from this amazing afternoon. What a transformation—a brilliant display of courage, perseverance and determination.

H-boy, you are awesome and inspiring. I will be happy to bring you skiing with us anytime.

{ Psst… I love to receive feedback on my posts. Please leave your comments whenever you feel inspired to do so! }

1 comment:

  1. I love this. :) My oldest is going on his first downhill ski experience tomorrow (weather permitting) and I'm a little sad to be missing it. I hope he finds someone as patient as you were to take him under a wing. ;)

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