MOM, THIS SUCKS! When YOU Need a Vacation From Your Family Vacation

By E.J. Gordon

After years of talking my husband out of it, I finally agreed to take a family ski vacation. I had only been putting it off because I had visions of our young daughters freaking out about ski school, freaking out about skiing, freaking out about everything. I wasn’t sure if I had the fortitude for it. It’s like this: You know when you’ve been skiing the greens forever, and you’ve been doing the blues for some time, then someone wants you to go down a black diamond? Just the idea of it might be so intimidating, that you just flat out refuse. You keep picturing yourself at the top of the black diamond slope, looking down at the moguls, and hollering for the ski patrol to come give you a ride. Or you picture yourself as the girl in the movie who flies straight down the slope, out of control, and flies right off the side of the mountain. That it is EXACTLY how I felt about taking my children skiing.

But I finally agreed because skiing is one of those sports that you can learn when you’re older, but like learning a foreign language, if you don’t learn it while you’re young and do it often enough, you’ll always ski with an accent.

So we outfitted our kids, booked ski school, arranged rentals, and off we went. Before we left, as a word of caution, someone had said to me: “Turning your kids into skiers is a process. It’s not going to be that great the first few times you take them; there’s self-sacrifice … you’ll want to fly down the mountain, but you’ve got to go slowly for them. You’ll have to schlep their gear. It’s work, but it will be worth it.” That’s really good parenting advice for any situation when you think about it.

We all have to make certain sacrifices, do things a little differently than we would like to in order to raise our kids with the end game in mind.

The first day of our vacation went better than expected. We were on time to the airport; there were no delays. We even retrieved our rental car and drove up the mountain with no fighting and few complaints. We procured our rentals, found our hotel, and took a sleigh ride up to a wonderful restaurant where they even had gluten free and dairy free foods for the intestinally challenged half of our family. I kept thinking that this vacation that I had put off, this family ski trip that I’d dreaded, was going way better than I’d imagined it would; it was green circles all the way. Sure we needed to push ourselves through the flat parts in order to get to the good part, but no one fell apart.

Leaving the kids at ski school was our next big hurdle, but we dropped them off, and started our skiing adventure. My husband and I got on our chairlift, as I thought, What a perfect family vacation! We should do this for every holiday! We’re like the skiing Von Trapp family, a happy clan, doing our family sport. The hills are really alive with the sound of music, aren’t they?

     But just like Icarus, whose pride lifted his wings just a little to close to the sun, I flew up in that chairlift and the sun melted my wings right off.

Everyone cried at least once on that trip, including me. My son was heartbroken every single day, because the rest of us were done by 3:30 pm, with our legs turned to jelly, and he, the hockey player, was just NOT TIRED. “What do you mean we can’t go back up? I’m not even tired! I don’t want to be done!! Why can’t one of you ski with me?!”

One of my daughters cried at the end of the day because she couldn’t possibly make it from the mountain, to the equipment drop-off place, and then all the way to the hotel. She squeaked, “Why can’t one of you carry me??? I’m too tired!! I’m hungry! I’m hot!! I can’t find my glove!”

My other daughter was the worst of the bunch. From the reports of her siblings, after lunch during ski school, she became the world’s worst pupil. She would fall on purpose because she was tired. She complained that her tummy hurt. She complained about everything.

In the meantime, I agreed to let my husband take me down a blue square that looked a bit challenging. It had snowed and the slope had not been groomed, so it had magically turned into a mogul-filled run. Before I was even halfway down, I panicked and broke down in tears: “I’ll never make it! I’m going to kill myself! I’m going to rip open my knee!” But with his extreme patience and encouragement I’d made it through.

The end of each day was the hardest. Getting all of the gear to where it needed to go, dehydrated and famished, and three whiny kids was enough to bring down any endorphin-fueled high we might have achieved on the way down the mountain. Glassy-eyed ourselves, we did our best to keep our moods light, but on the fourth night, there was an avalanche in our hotel room.

My husband and I got into a nasty fight — the kind we only have once a year or two — but because of the close quarters, our kids got front row tickets to the show.

The details don’t matter, because the fight wasn’t even about what it was about. Most fights aren’t. But it was bad. Before bed my son whispered to me, “I haven’t heard you fight like that in forever! Are you going to make up?” My daughter wiped her eyes and asked me, “Are you and Daddy going to get a divorce?”

Instantly I had a flashback to a terrible fight my own parents got into when I was about 10. They screamed and stormed off, and as my Mom later walked me over to a friend’s house, I’d asked her, “Are you and Daddy going to get a divorce?” She had been so angry with him, and she was so very hurt by him, that she just said to me, “I don’t know.”

Now we’ve all been so angry with our spouses that we want to literally stab them or at least consider feeding them extra bacon to speed along the early death process, so as an adult, I understand why she’d said that. But as a child, all I’d wanted to hear was: “Of course not, silly.” By the time I’d walked over to my friend’s house and she’d kissed me goodnight, I was in full tears and cried to my best friend, “They’re going to get divorced!!” I’d never been so scared in my life.

So there I was in the hotel room, with my three worried children looking at me for assurance; assurance that this rare fight wasn’t the end of their perfect little lives; that this nasty brawl wasn’t going to launch them into the chaos of the unknown: Who will we live with? Will we have to move? Are we still going to see both of you all of the time? Will you get remarried and make us have new Daddies and Mommies and brothers and sisters that we barely know?

So I breathed deeply and pushed away my anger and hurt and smiled and said, “Of course not, sillies! Parents fight! But we will make up, and everything will be okay.”

They went to bed relieved, and I went to bed hoping my hurt and anger — and my husband’s — would melt away too.

The next day on the mountain, we skied as a family. On the top of the mountain there was a man who was paid to take beautiful photographs that you could later find and buy online. Considering the inherent beauty of the mountains, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity, so we went to him. The cameraman lined us all up, and I muttered out the side of my mouth, “Smile, and pretend we’re a happy family!”

I can’t post the photo anywhere, because every time I look at it, I think about what a horrible night I’d had, and how we still weren’t quite all made up by the time we took the photo.

Yet, thinking about the ski vacation we’d decided to take, yes, we could have done the easy trip, gone back to the desert and swam by the pool, but we chose the mountain. And even with the tears, the fatigue and the moguls, watching my kids learn a sport, one that they’ll be able to do for years to come, watching them bravely trying something new, pushing myself to remember the joy I used to have flying down the slopes … it was all well worth it.

Just like choosing to have kids and raise them right and working at having a good marriage isn’t easy …  it, too, can be scary and tiring and can sometimes knock you on your ass, but even with the bruises, it will all be worth it.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare,  and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.

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