Joysticks of a different sort

It was one of those days that can go either way. Not quite cold enough to rule out biking but not quite enough snow to do any serious skiing, we were faced with deciding whether to say goodbye to summer or hello to winter. The decision-making process did not take long. Given the fleeting nature of winter in recent years, we decided to seize the snowy season while it was here.

Of course, being rookie parents, we knew we were taking a risk - mostly that by the time we got ourselves and our offspring out the door, there was a good chance the January thaw would be well under way. See, it is one thing to prepare oneself for an outdoor outing. It is something completely different to do so for a fidgety midget who has a keen dislike for clothes and views the baby backpack as an infant straightjacket. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure it is written somewhere that the size of a being is conversely proportional to the amount of gear needed for said being. Add to this my own personal ineptitude, which includes at least 30 minutes searching for where I left my ski bibs at the end of last season (hanging up in the closet) and no less than two clothing changes (accompanied by inquiries to my husband as to whether he thinks I'll be too hot or too cold), and a simple family cross country outing turns into an epic journey of Everest proportions.

So, the fact that we left the house a mere three hours - and two snowsuits, three diapers, four pairs of socks, five hats, five pairs of gloves, one pair of mittens, two backpacks, two sets of skis, three water bottles, four boots, two booties, one dog, and multiple layers of fleece later - is quite commendable in my view.

Of course some may wonder at what point does it make more sense to just stay home and play Tiddlywinks and call it good. But the fact of the matter is, there's a great big world out there, and I feel it is my duty as a parent to introduce my child to it - even if it involves an inordinate and ridiculous amount of clothing, most of which is completely unnecessary and will be left in the car. Besides, I don't know the first thing about Tiddlywinks, other than that it sounds like a choking hazard.

However, I will be the first to admit that the amount of gear may have been excessive.

But there's a lot of pressure on parents when introducing their impressionable young progeny to new and different activities - particularly where the outdoors are concerned. It can all be traced back to one thing: video games. See, I've always been a little ham-fisted when it comes to the damn things. My mind goes one way, but my joystick goes the other. The result at an early age was frustration, which eventually led to a deep-seated hatred for any sort of computerized gaming. Add to that the fact that I once spent a summer living next door to a house of college guys whose only proof of existence was a stack of Domino's boxes and the blue glow of Nintendo emanating from a window.

I was horrified then, and as the parent of a young male, am horrified now at the prospect. Thus, the aforementioned pressure. Make the outdoors a pleasurable experience, and hopefully you will never hear the words "Play Station" uttered under your roof. But forget one mitten or put on one too many layers, and you could scar a child for life. Next thing you know you have a disgruntled teen with overdeveloped thumbs whose skin burns upon contact with sunlight and would rather take part in the electronic version of skiing than the real thing.

So, this first outing was crucial. And while I promised myself long ago I would never be "one of those" parents, I did want to work the odds in my favor: hence the stockpile of accessories.

However, no sooner had we reached our destination, wrestled the uncooperative 7-month-old into his full-body suit of fleece and strapped him into the backpack then the grunts of disapproval began. Seems I had overlooked one crucial piece of equipment: sunglasses. Having the smaller cranium in the marriage, I knew I would have to sacrifice mine - which seemed a small price to pay to ensure a future free of Game Boy and "Madden NFL." I relinquished the glasses and wrapped them snugly around the baby's head. With fleece mittens securely tucked into his jacket, he was powerless to do anything but clumsily paw at his new accessory and eventually gave up trying to rip them off.

Satisfied our rigging was foolproof, we headed down the snow-covered road, Sean carrying the baby on his back and myself with a daypack full of extra clothes, just in case. A few minutes in, I turned to see how the baby, who had grown unusually silent, was enjoying his skiing debut. A wave of panic washed over me when I found him slumped over in his pack, his lifeless head bobbling to the rhythm of the moving skis. Horrific thoughts ran through my mind. Perhaps we had over-bundled him, causing the packharness to cut off his circulation. Maybe the fleece was too much, and he passed out from the heat. Or possibly, he was underdressed and suffering from acute hypothermia.

I touched his cheeks, which were flushed but cool to the touch and gave no outward signs of distress. I then pulled the ultimate knee-jerk, panicky mother move and peeled back one of his eyelids, hoping that would give me a vital sign. It was then that I picked up the faint, methodical sound of snoring. Diagnosis: He was sound asleep, and not even a cold, pointy finger in the eye was going to roust him.

So, he may not have been whooping and hollering with delight at the thrill of skiing, but I took his deep state of relaxation as a good sign. A mountain-air induced stupor is better than a Pokemon one any day.

- Missy Votel




News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index