Every weekend up at Mount Norquay, I see mothers in the ski lodge who have not learned this crucial lesson in sanity preservation. They are still very sure, the dears, that a firm set of the jaw, eyes filled with determination, and a calm tone of voice can recall to a child its alter-ego as once-angel, "trailing clouds of glory" (as Wordsworth would have it). Whereas I know that only the fear of an angry Santa/God is likely to jam a stubborn little foot successfully into an inflexible ski boot created by the Devil to try the sweetest of tempers. (And at 10 on Sunday morning, after a 2-hour drive to the mountains from the city with a carload of bored and bitter children who all forgot to pee before leaving home, there are few sweet tempers to be found.) I know that putting a helmet on a pig-headed head depends on the owner of that head being convinced that to disobey Mother at this point is to risk the immediate immolation of the entire 24-tonne Lego Nightmare in the basement. I know that you leave the mitts off until the child goes out into the cold and realizes for itself that mitts would in fact be an excellent idea and isn't Mother wonderful for having them at hand, so to speak.
Which brings me to this morning. Having just run more or less successfully through the first 30 pages of the Military (I mean MOTHER'S) Guide to Kitting Out Young Skiers and watching with sweet bliss over a cup of cappuccino as my son's class sailed through the sky on the chair lift, I was feeling kind of smug. It had only been 3.25 hours since the day started and now it was about to. . . start.
At the table across the aisle was a family with three small girls, say 4, 6, and 7. Something like that. 7 waited impatiently and rolled her eyes as her parents struggled to get 6 and 4 ready to hit the slopes. Mom was in charge of 4, whose ski outfit resembled a ladybug. Even her boots were red and black and had spots. And they wouldn't go on. They. Would. Not. Go. On. Child had approximately 14 layers of clothes on, and her arms wouldn't go down to her sides, like little brother Randy in A Christmas Story. And like Randy, she was headed for a meltdown.
"Push, darling, just push. Sweetheart, you have to push. Darling, stop wiggling and push. Keep your toes pointed, dear. Push! Push!" Mom is on her knees, recalcitrant child's recalcitrant boot embedded in her pillowy chest area. "Angel, now stop fussing and push, please. Please. Mommy is saying please. PUSHPUSHPUSH!" What a hero of soft-spoken grace and dignity!
And it worked!
Child screamed "I AM PUSHING AT YOU, MOMMY!" The little ladybug boot caught her mother in the chin, really, really hard. So hard that the mother started to cry. I could hear the bone-crunching impact--so could everyone. And in the sudden shocked silence, the father's pissed-off voice stage left, where 6 was still in her long underwear, drinking a hot chocolate and playing with a muffin wrapper:
"JESUS, Jackie. It's not rocket science."
Whereupon Jackie stood up, wiped the tears from her eyes, and resolutely marched out the door. She did not reappear all day.
I hope she drove down the hill to Banff, booked something lovely at a spa, bought herself a muskox sweater (don't laugh, they're so soft) and a glass of sparkling, changed her name, met a good-looking and kind and wealthy Moravian count, and eloped with him via helicopter to a tropical island where children wear only flip-flops and sunscreen. Not that her children would ever find her.
Jackie, if you're reading this: let me know how it goes with you. Better luck with your next family.