Anything you say can and will be used against you by your children at a later date.
And so on Christmas Day, my wife found herself on the receiving end of all of the “encouragement” we used to have to give the kids to get them out on cross-country skis for what has become a family tradition.
“It’ll be fun!” “We need some fresh air!” “It’s good exercise!” “It’s a tradition!”
I’m not sure when our Christmas ski went from something we had done a couple of times, to annual tradition, but it must be getting close to 10 years — the kids are now 14 and 16, and we would’ve started when they were in elementary school as way to counteract all those sugarplums on Christmas morning. Dragging them away from their gifts always took some cajoling.
For that matter, getting them go for a ski took some cajoling on many occasions, not just Christmas. I used to pick the kids up from their elementary school on Friday afternoons, and getting them into snow clothes and ski boots was sometimes a battle.
And when I’d ask which trail they wanted to go to, the frequent answer was, “Whichever one is shorter!”
Lucky for me, elementary-aged kids don’t necessarily have the best sense of distance.
I also remember a few of those circular kid-logic arguments, especially with my daughter, who would decide to stop if she got cold.
“Every time you stop, you get colder”; “The faster you go, the warmer you get”; and, “The slower you go, the longer we’re going to be out here,” were frequent sayings that were clearly up for debate.
The solution I finally came up with was to pick a landmark toward the last third of the trail, and time ourselves from there to the finish each week. That worked wonders; the kids were anxious to get to the timing point, and then the race was on to get back to the trailhead (eat your heart out, Strava).
Those late afternoons and early evenings skiing with the kids led to some magic moments, too.
I remember one brisk afternoon on the Kenai Golf Course when my son was in first or second grade. At one point, he stopped for a minute to take in the view.
“Dad, let’s look at the sunset. Isn’t it beautiful?” he said.
That’s the kind of thing that warms your heart on the coldest of days.
There was another outing on Tsalteshi Trails under a moon so bright, it cast shadows. We were about to start our sprint to the finish when my daughter exclaimed, “This is the best thing ever!”
At least a little bit of that enthusiasm must’ve stuck, because both kids are now on the high school ski team.
As for my wife, she wasn’t necessarily trying to get out of skiing — it’s not her favorite thing, but she’ll do it. But we have two young dogs in the house now, and if they don’t get out for their run every day, they act like over-sugared elementary kids — which is why we started the family ski adventure in the first place. Her plan was to take the dogs for a run while we were skiing.
However, the kids were merciless: “Come on, Mom, you always make us do this! It’s a tradition!”
In the end, my wife went running with the dogs while I went skiing with the kids. We have attempted combing dogs and skiing with some skijoring, but we definitely need a lot more practice.
In the mean time, I hope the kids remember this moment. Because somewhere down the road, they are going to start some family traditions of their own — whether their kids like it or not.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.