Milo always greats the announcement of an impending family trip the same way: “NO. I’m NOT going.”
I’ve learned that it’s no use to argue the point head on. He’s angling for an argument and arguing plays directly into his hand. “Why do we have to go away?” “Why can’t we just stay home?” “I hate going on trip with you.” No logic applies at this juncture. It’s useless to remind him of past family trips (camping, rafting, tramping, all of which he enjoyed) or recall the many weekends we have spend at home facilitating play dates with William and trips to the skatepark. Nothing snaps him out of his funk. The switch is not just turned off, the power is turned off at the breaker.
I battle with him to get his own clothes packed, never mind helping with any of the family gear or food. He hinders progress as much as he can, until I heartily look forward to the day when I can leave his misery behind. Jeremiah and Naomi sit with the car running in the driveway while I adopt my stern no-nonsense mother persona and admonish the lump hiding under the covers that he can come with his shoes on or go without shoes for the weekend, but he IS getting in the car NOW. And I take away the e-reader. By the time I buckle myself in, I’m exhausted and frazzled and the whole idea of having a holiday with the family seems ludicrous.
Then the whinging during the car trip begins…..the length of the journey…. it will be no fun…. he is so hard done by, having to spend time with his horrible family. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not.
Our first ski trip of the season started just like any other one, and as usual, I was fed up with the whole concept of family enjoyment. But when we finally arrived at the Amuri ski field out back of Hanmer, Milo quickly put on his gear and went out to the slope. He skied happily all day, tenaciously mastering the “nutracker” lift, dropped into bed, and repeated the routine for the next two days solid. Happy as a clam. However, we had barely launched on our return journey to Christchurch when the moaning about future trips started.
But THIS past weekend, hopefully I don’t speak too soon, but we might have experienced a breakthrough.
A couple months ago Jeremiah had booked two nights in a casual accommodation near Arthur’s pass called Forest Lodge, in the hope that there would be skiable snow during the school holidays. His optimism paid off, and the blast of wintery rain and wind that we experienced in Christchurch earlier in the week translated to a good base dump of snow at the ski hills, just in time for our holiday. Weds afternoon I was pulling together food and handing the clothes packing list to the kids, but I wasn’t getting cheerful cooperation, to say the least. However, by Thursday morning, Milo had snapped into gear, and was in the car, dressed for the ski hill, before our planned departure time.
The ski fields in NZ are small, and the parking areas are smaller, but we were in time to get a prime spot at Porters.
Our accommodation at Forest Lodge was friendly and comfortable, and the next day we headed up to nearby Mt Cheeseman, a club ski field.
There was a gentle rope tow at the learners area, and two “T-bar” lifts to higher up. This ski field had less groomed areas than the commercial one at Porters, and the snow conditions off the groomed paths were difficult due to a crust that had formed on last week’s new snow. Also, the clouds were rolling in and we found that with white all around us and white beneath our feet, we really couldn’t see where we were going at all. Time for a lunch break.
During lunch big fat snowflakes began to fall, and the snow continued even while the cloud lifted, coating all the surfaces with a fresh soft powder. What a treat! It was the first time the kids remember experiencing snow actually falling on them from the sky, and they went out with their mouths open and tongues extended. Milo pointed excitedly at his skis which he had left on the ground before lunch, and now were covered with a fresh dusting. The snow changed again and became perfect six-sided flakes to admire on our coat sleeves.
The T-bar at Cheeseman has the friendly feature of having several places where it comes close enough to the hill below to grab an empty and hop back on, so we looped our favorite spots again and again. Some bits easy with smooth u-shaped trails, floaty with the new snow. Others were more challenging, with snow piled into moguls as more competent skiers had pushed it around on their decent. Naomi and Stella rode the lift on their own, gaining confidence in their independence. Jeremiah is by far the best skier in the family, and he could go up higher and catch us up on his way down. I had a great time skiing with Milo—we’re close to the same level of skiing, which makes for good comradery. Again, we didn’t pack up until the last T-bar had stopped. It is a new level of family holiday, when each of us is enjoying the activity at our own level, sometimes independently and sometimes jointly. If one of us needs a break (or throws a wobbly), the others can just continue. It must be what it’s like to have older kids.
The last morning Milo was so keen to get going that he came back into the kitchen and said the magic words, “Mom, what I can I do to help?” Breakfast dishes would be helpful…. “Is there anything else I can do to help?” he asked. Dishes was a stretch too far, apparently, but he did ferry bags of supplies out to the car and fill the water bottles, all of his own accord.
The next morning, back in Christchurch, was the most astonishing development of them all. We all slept in, and when we finally emerged from our rooms we were greeted by a sign on the kitchen door. “Do not come in! Work in process. Go back to bed.”
We were finished sleeping, but Naomi brought us out cups of tea and coffee in the living room, and behind the closed doors we heard discussions about pan temperature and batter consistency.
I’m not naïve enough to think we’re entering an entirely new era of parental appreciation and the dark days of entitlement and bad behavior are over, but it certainly was a welcome change. Perhaps he is recognizing on which side his bread is buttered….