Mittenkidz is for those kids lucky enough to grow up in — or playing in — the Mitten State. Four seasons. Two peninsulas. One big playground.
The Meltdown January 15, 2013
As I write this, you might think I’m referring to our recent January thaw in Michigan. The sunny days were great — plenty of bluebird skiing days, which are always a boost for morale. But actually, the meltdown to which I refer is the triple meltdown that was experienced one day when I dared to take both boys (now 4.5 and 2) to the slopes, solo, dangerously close to nap time.
Meltdown number one was the 4.5 year old. He was upset because I couldn’t take him on the chairlift that day. I had explained to him prior that we had to stay in the learning area, since his two-year-old brother was with us and I couldn’t take both boys onto the chair. The lure of the chair and more exciting runs ruined any earlier reasoning I had provided — which is why the meltdown.
Meltdown number two was the two year old. It was concurrent with his older brother’s, leaving me at the base of the bunny slope with Christmas week crowds staring at me. Some gazed in disbelief. Clearly they had perfect children – or no children at all. Others looked on with the all-too-familiar “glad it’s not me this time” look. I tipped my hat in solitude to them with one hand, while wrestling one son and then the other with the other.
After getting both boys back to the car (we were at the bunny slope all of 20 minutes. Our commute to our car, parked in Timbuktu due to Christmas week crowds, was longer), that’s when meltdown number three happened – mommy. There were bonafide tears in the car and mutterings of, “Well, I’ll never try that again.” Eventually, we all calmed down and life was good again.
I joked a few days later with my sister that if nothing else, my failed attempt at a mommy-and-sons ski day would be good fodder for MittenKidz. All kidding aside, it was a good reality check. In spite of all my tips for starting a child skiing at a young age, as simple and magical as I might make it sound, in the end, we must remember that we’re working with children. And young ones at that. Two-year-old stubbornness will happen. Missing mittens will happen (I neglected to say that we were also down a mitten and a boot that day – found later under the seat in daddy’s car). And meltdowns will happen.
All I can say is be patient. In the end, your child will ski when he or she is ready to, and not before. If not this year, next – and that’s OK. Most important is to keep it fun and to, more than anything, instill a love for winter and snow. The rest will follow. As for us, a few days later we gave it another go, this time with daddy in tow too. After one run on the bunny slope, we took both boys to the chair and absolutely beamed when we realized that, for the first time ever, all four of us were on the chairlift together. It was the start of something good.
Holiday lift tickets December 28, 2012
I’ve seen some holiday lift ticket rates at Michigan ski areas that are near or over $70/day. Curious – is the family time worth it or is that a deterrent to you?
Entrance into the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, part of our National Park System (NPS), is free once again this weekend, November 10-12, 2012, as part of the NPS’s “Fee-Free Weekends.” Come see what was named by Good Morning America as The Most Beautiful Place in America last summer and see what November brings to the dunes and to Lake Michigan. Layer up and get ready for that dune climb — any MittenKidz knows that it’s a hoot (once you get to the top, that is).
(Of course if you’re really a fan of The Sleeping Bear Dunes, the $20 annual pass is a steal of a deal and goes to support maintenance of this fabulous Michigan treasure.)
Trying out the boots November 3, 2012
Tried Ethan’s boots on today. He didn’t want to take them off. I think we have a natural here. Next step… Playing around some more in them, and then we’ll get the skis out. For more information on introducing your toddler to skiing (hint: start indoors), read my Start teaching your toddler to ski now… indoors post. Tips for older children can be found in Starting them young… getting your child into snowsports.
Start teaching your toddler to ski now… indoors October 27, 2012
We had our youngest on skis and on the bunny slope this past March, at the age of 15 months. But I would be kidding you if I said it was anything more than a photo op and perhaps future fodder for say, a 2034 Winter Olympics athlete biography.
While that remains to be seen — and will be entirely up to our son — in all reality, the upcoming 2012-2013 winter will mark his true entry into the sport. And as with any soon-to-be two year old (much less one that shares both my and my husband’s bloodline), streaks of toddler stubbornness and it’s-my-way-or-no-way moments will come up on the slopes, and we’ll be left wondering if we should actually wait a year — or four.
How can we lessen the chances of this? Start indoors and start now, before the slopes open. Here’s how:
- Build excitement before heading to the slopes – Talk enthusiastically about skiing (and snow!) with your little MittenKidz so as to pique your toddler’s curiosity. Read books and look at pictures of skiers.
- Play in your boots at home – Put your child’s boots on (be sure to wear yours too) and walk around in them. Play games that will get them used to maneuvering in heavy boots, such as squishing bugs (imaginary… or real!) or marching.
- Put the skis on – Bindings are tough for kids. They will need your help for a while. With our oldest, as he holds onto our shoulders, we help him work his toe and heel in, and help him push down on his heel until the binding “burps.” (Works especially will with boys.) Another mother pretended the binding was a shark with her two girls — “Fin down means he’s hungry (ready for the boot), fin up means he’s full.”
- Play — Once you have the skis on, again, walk around indoors (you do this too!). Start with one ski until your little one can balance and walk on two. Lift one leg and then the other like a bear. Give them objects to play with or chase after, like a Nerf ball. This will take their mind off the equipment and allow them to move about more naturally and playfully. And as you do this, make sure your child maintains a wide, balanced stance.
- Don’t forget the helmet and goggles — these can be as unfamiliar as the boots and skis themselves.
Starting them young… getting your child into snowsports October 11, 2012
We enrolled our three year old, Soren, in his first ski lesson last year. We’ve actually had our son on the slopes since he was 19 months old, however this was his first true lesson, taught by a teaching professional and made official by a liability release form and credit card receipt. As with every other aspect of parenting, the day was part learning experience and part sit-com. Fortunately, when all was said and done, we managed to keep our spirits light and our son wants to do it again.
Our first lesson experience started with the usual bi-polarness, well before we got to the slopes, as my son’s eagerness to go skiing teetered back and forth between “yes” and “no.” After muted attempts at reasoning, multiple counting-to-threes and finally subtle threats (each countered by an entire deployment of delay tactics) we were able to get Soren into the car. It didn’t take long for his usual enthusiasm to take over, and my husband and I to look at each other, smiling, in anticipation of a memorable day of family fun on the slopes. It was a car commercial in the making.
We arrived at the ski area (Crystal Mountain in Michigan) and reveled in landing what was one of the most perfect parking spots. Near the learning area. Near the lifts. Near the bathrooms. The day just kept getting better and better. Five minutes later, however, we were giving up the golden parking spot, and I was on my way back home to fetch said three-year-old’s ski coat from our home, half an hour away.
Luckily, Crystal Mountain was more than accommodating. They allowed us to move his lesson to the afternoon session – and if that didn’t work out, also told us we could re-book for another day and time.
With Soren soon properly clothed, ski jacket and all, we slipped him into his afternoon group lesson for what we hope is the start of a beautiful friendship – Soren and skiing. My husband and I bundled our one-year-old son up and watched from afar, thankful that it was someone else’s quads other than ours this time.
There’s a reason why ski areas see a dip in visits from once-avid skiers who now have young children in tow. And if you’ve found your way into this category, I don’t need to tell you what that is. But what I can share with you are some Dos and Don’ts for introducing your young ones to skiing. Because someday, your kids will be sitting next to you on the chairlift, conversing with you like they haven’t done in awhile, and you’ll be thinking to yourself, “I am so glad we did this.” This is family time. Winter style.
Skiing Parent’s Dos and Don’ts for Young Children:
(1) Do keep it fun. Whether enrolling in a lesson or braving it yourself, FUN should always be the number one goal. We didn’t even attempt teaching technique the first two years on the slopes with Soren. Could he turn? No. Stop? Not even. But he was squealing with delight as he skied in between our legs.
(2) Don’t go it alone. When it IS time to introduce technique, leave it to the pros. Just because you can ski, it doesn’t mean you can teach. Especially to kids. Besides, your quads will thank you. Your back will thank you. And you’ll get a little ski time in, sans kids, for once. Remember what blue and black slopes are?
(3) Do allow plenty of time. Get to the slopes early, especially if you have to rent equipment. Lines during the holidays and on weekends are imminent. So are multiple trips to the potty.
(4) Do keep expectations low. After just one two-hour lesson, your child may still not be able to turn, stop or ski in control. But they’ll be on their way. And always look for something to celebrate. For Soren today, he was able to get on the carpet lift by himself. (Getting off is another story…)
(5) Don’t be a Hovermom. Or dad. It’s OK to watch your child’s lesson, but do so from afar, preferably a hidden vantage point.
(6) Do cut some slack. Group lessons are just that. (If you expect a lot of one-on-one instruction for your child, enroll them in a private lesson.) Know that a group of young children on skis can be likened to a litter of kittens. Just as one is corralled back into the box, another escapes. The instructors will do their best to work with each child as much as possible. But it ain’t easy.
(7) Do ask. At the end of the lesson, ask your child’s instructor what verbiage they use to explain techniques to your child. To teach Soren how to get his arms out front (and hence, keep his weight off the back of his skis), his instructor today told him to “Fly like Superman.” Brilliant. And now I can use that, too.
(8) Don’t forget to tip. If your child was especially trying or occupied a lot of attention, tip the instructor. And always tip for a private lesson.
(9) Do consider a helmet. To learn more, go to lidsonkids.org.
(10) Do stoop to bribery. When our son shows signs of weariness – or stubbornness – on the slopes, we entice him to take another run or keep trying with Annie’s Gummy Bunnies. Both my husband and I are armed with a pouch or two. So far, we’re lucky in that it only takes one or two bunnies to keep him going. Hopefully he won’t up the ante anytime soon.