Today I was resolute that my boys would play outside. Mind you, Wisconsin this time of year is basically brutal outdoors, but today was a balmy 20+ degrees, so I knew we had to take advantage of it. Frankly, I’m constantly afraid of the idea of childhood obesity, and I almost never see my children doing anything this time of year that doesn’t involve a screen of some sort. (Though in all fairness, both boys have well defined muscles, no fat on their bodies and they probably get more exercise jumping around playing Wii then I give them credit for.) I was determined that we were going outside today, and if the conditions weren’t good enough for sledding, we’d be going on a winter nature hike. Luckily for me, the weather and conditions were amazing.
Sledding has become a paradox in my mind as of late. To this point of my life, my brain would associate the idea of sledding with positive adjectives like fast, exciting and thrilling. I recalled sledding as a good time, so good in fact that I would instantly forget how much I disliked being cold and started to wonder how it was possible to be sweating down my back in below freezing weather. And yet somehow, lately, my brain has been associating sledding with things like bumps, bruises, scared children and tired legs. I wasn’t entirely sure that I truly wanted to sled, but I wasn’t so sure hiking through 2 feet of snow in the woods would be much simpler for kiddos who aren’t quite 4 feet tall yet. (Well, maybe Jake is… I haven’t measured in a while….)
And upon arrival to our chosen snow hill, I was pretty sure this year would fall short of amazing as previous years had. Just as I unloaded the sleds and set them down, Ben announced that he had to poop. Of course, the public bathrooms at our parks are closed for winter, and he was bundled in several layers trying to keep him warm. So, Ryan decided to take him home, though Jake was content staying with me on the hill. Jake willingly staying with me, knowing that we were going to actually go down with the sleds was sort of a relief.
It seems that there are stages of boys developments, from what I can tell. A child’s response to sledding (among other things) is directly related to the stage of development the child is in.
Stage 1– fearless: In this stage, the boys were actually unaware that there was such a thing as “consequences” and therefor behaved in ways that seemed irrational to adults. This is the stage where faster is always better, bumps and falls are exciting and even thrilling, and the only the steepest mountain sled path will do. Stage 1 for Jake usually lasts until he actually experiences a “consequence” first hand. Stage 1 for Ben might go on forever. (Someday I’ll blog about how he justify’s climbing up his loft bed wrong because he “only dislocates” his arm, rather than breaking it. I worry he’ll never learn…) I’m just praying Ben is out of stage 1 before he begins driving vehicles.
Stage 2- terrified: After experiencing the consequence of stage 1, many people, like Jake (and unlike Ben), will transition rather quickly to stage 2. Suddenly, they will have the ability to reason effects and consequences. During this stage, the events that were once gratifying and sensational become menacingly discouraging. Early in this stage, people often find themselves refusing to continue with the activity provoking their fear.
For the last few years, we have been stuck in stage 2. Year after year we’d force him to take one ride down the hill, then drag him back up on the sled against his will, in the hopes that he would remember what fun felt like and be willing to try again. Even our best efforts were usually rewarded only with remarkably tired, grouchy kids and aching calf muscles. But eventually, we knew we’d hit Stage 3.
Stage 3– ready: When the boys transition into stage 3, they are finally at a place where they can enjoy the activity in a reasonable way. In stage 3, they go down the hill and enjoy the exhilaration of a fast ride, but they are cautious enough to avoid trees, rocks and giant bumps. This is where my brain used to remember sledding. And this is definitely where it will remember it again next year.
Both boys, myself and my husband took many rides down the hillside today. Each of crashed, lost our sled, got snow in our gloves and our hats and still managed to climb back up the hill for more. Ryan even got out his new Sony handicam and captured what I expect to become some very nostalgic videos for me one day. Jake got a loud excited voice that I had not heard before as he continually challenged himself to do something more spectacular than he had done on his previous run. He even continued to enjoy sledding despite many of his ideas manifesting into snow in the shoes and literal headaches. Ben managed to stay put in stage 1, smiling bigger after each crash down the hill.
I had a most fantastic day. Apparently, Ben shared my affinity for the day. As he struggled to relax enough to fall asleep, he’d pop his eyes open and tell me how he had been dreaming very suddenly about flying down the hill! He also told me he loved me and it was a very best time. I couldn’t have said it better.