push | pull / by Christina Rosalie

There is the bittersweet that comes from having things go exactly as they should and then be over; just as that feeling springs from things going exactly opposite to what was planned and all the loose ends that come from such moments of disappointment and disarray. This was our holiday: joy-filled and tense at turns; full of expectations and sparkly lights and glee, and also frustration. Family drama (his, not mine this time.) Stubborn boys. Heaps of snow, chocolate, caramel corn, and candle light. Singing carols. Good wine. Snowboarding for the first time.

And Bean insisting he knows how to do it already—then hurtling down the mountain at a speed that defines the term break neck, only to throw himself to the ground at frightening angles to stop. Twapity, thwack. And then he’d sit there dazed, distracted, and completely clueless as an entire ski school made a zig zag around him, as though he were the outermost pole in a slalom course.

My firstborn is not a child who wants to be taught.

At least not by his mama. And I should have known better—swimming lessons have been a disaster two years running. Ice skating had similarly poor outcome. Still, T and I are lovers of the outdoors; of sports; and of doing them together…and Bean asked, no, begged for a snowboard for Christmas.

The scene was set. A perfect white powder day, the day after Christmas, just the three of us on the mountain. Good tunes in the car on the way up. The promise of hot chocolate. New gear.

But he would only do it his way. For two painstaking runs. And then he wanted to stop.

Because it was hard.

Oh expectations.

I am aware that there is a very salient lesson in all of this. Something about letting go of attachment; about not having expectations; about letting things just be, moment by moment.

But there is another fierce, plucky, determined part of me that doesn’t settle for that all of the time. Carpe diem was not a term derived by someone sitting on their laurels.

And I believe there is something mighty to be said for perseverance. For doing something even though it is hard; maybe because it is hard. Willpower is invaluable as an adult. As is self reliance.

The outcome?

He’s going to take some lessons. End of story. (Even though I'm internally waffling: is he ready? Is he big enough for half day lessons? Does he have the stamina? What if I ruin sports for him forever?)

I’m starting to understand that this parenting thing doesn’t ever get easier. Sure, he can dress himself, and poop without assistance and he can be left unattended to clean up his room and he won’t pull every tissue out of the box while doing so. But the emotional complexity is increasing daily. Control. Compassion. Give. Take. And figers crossed: maybe a couple gifted teachers along the way to smooth the rough edges of our attempts.

How do you decide when to push your kid and when to let them call the shots?