Years ago, the last time I went skiing, I found myself at the top of a mountain in Colorado —at the head of a black diamond (for experts only) trail. I was on the wrong trail! My ski skills are barely good enough for the bunny slope. Needless to say, I was filled with terror. How in God’s name was I going to get down in one piece? To make matters worse, the sky had turned deep gray, a fog had rolled in and the temperature had dropped. A fellow student from the afternoon’s ski lesson was with me. She was twenty years younger and a lot better skier. The slope in front of me was a steep vertical drop, covered in ice. The flat area we stood on was only eight feet narrow, dropping thirty feet into a brush filled ravine on the left and a rocky stream bed on the right. With the next (occupied lift chair descending towards us, we had no choice but to push off the tiny landing pad.
I tried to remember every ski tip I had ever heard: bend knees, lean forward, tuck in elbows. I was terrified of both of my choices. If I lost control and sped to the left, I I could visualize myself landing in the tops of the spiny trees with limbs piercing my body. Or my other choice, to the right, and then falling into the creek bed & into the icy water. Flying along, on bumpy ice, the more I kept my eye on the ravine, the faster towards it I sped. As I approached the edge, my friend yelled, “Look over here!”. As soon as I turned, she reminded me, “You ski where you look. Remember?! Look straight ahead!” My path changed. I stared ahead at a woman in a full length mink & hat posing on the plateau down ahead of us. (It was one of those black ski events.) Anyway, guess where I “went”? And yes, she went down with me, fur a-flapping & cursing all the way.
Anyway, when I hear a mother saying to her three year old, “The police are gonna come get you” or “I’m calling the police on you” or “You’re gonna spend your life in jail”, it causes me to wonder if it narrows that child’s vision to some calamitous path. Does it steer that shape-ready genius, that each young child is, towards seeing themselves in the waiting criminal justice system. I know that the brain retains everything. Some things are kept right at the surface. Other ideas are stored in the unconscious. Think about other mothers, who play subliminal tapes to their sleeping children. Tapes that say “You are going to become a doctor” or “You will be a famous athlete”. The unconscious mind would store that, too.
If we ski where we look, as long as we maintain the “right form” to steady our balance, we can fly through the snow to a comfortable and exciting landing. It helps if we are on a safe trail and we’ve been taught the “right form” that we’ve been able to practice. In terms of skiing through life, and your kids envision their futures in the frames we parents shape for them, how easy would it be to steer our kids toward the positive? They’re going to have some target in mind. Why not say, “Hey, kids! Look over here” and show them how great their futures might be? Don’t push it. It can’t be your direct order or your threat. It has to be your excitement and optimism that sparks them to consider it – to put their eyes on it. If we show kids our confidence in the positive possibilities rather than the weakness of our fears, they will fall under the magic of simply skiing toward the future that they are keeping their eyes on.