Limitless – A Kid’s Ambition
By Lillian Grant
It’s cold outside. The leaves are pretty well toast. Brown, crisp and with their own distinct aroma. Retailers have started shamelessly advertizing for the holiday season. Around my house, that means the ski wax is out and our son’s yearning to get on the hill is unharnessed. It’s game on. At ten years old, he has found his passion. Something that some adults I know have yet to discover. I have mixed feelings about this.
We live on the West Coast where sport is abundant twelve months of the year. Of all of the sports we have placed on his platter, soccer was abandoned, tennis is just for fun, and cycling is just a way to get to school. Skiing stuck ever since his first foray into powder at 14 months. Dipped intermittently into fresh powder on plastic toddler skis by the love and strength of his father’s back, this was it.
Fast forward to year five of organized club racing. He’s found his tribe and has some significant wins under his belt, and shows some natural talent that, if nurtured, could give him every opportunity to keep going. Have his grades and behavior at school been in line with house policy that you can’t have one without the other? If we were in a court of law I’d have to admit no. But how do you squelch the light in your child’s eyes if he’s not racking up straight A’s? While the odds are against the vast majority of people who try to make sport their profession, in skiing where races are won and lost by 100ths of a second, this arena is exponentially more unrealistic to achieve excellence.
If we weren’t encouraged to pursue our passions within the confines of our own home, there is plenty of encouragement at school, in the media, and certainly from manufacturers of sporting goods. Mr. X Jr. (MXJ), whom I will refer to my son as, has his encouragement from all angles. He comes by his enthusiasm honestly having a father who ditched university in his twenties to race internationally for Britain. Like the 99.9% of aspiring athletes who don’t make it to the top 0.01% who are good enough to rank internationally, and eventually get paid to do what they consider playing, he returned to complete his education as an adult and went on to pursue a career in business.
Good example in-house, I feel justified ranting about making education a priority and how skiing is a privilege not a right. I have approached my motherly fan club with moderation and caution. I have baked a ski hill birthday cake complete with race gates and ski lift; I have created a special place to showcase his medals and achievements; I endorse purchases of costly fees and equipment. I have also initiated a policy that, in agreement with my husband, lays down the law that if school work and behaviour is not up to snuff, then there’s no white stuff.
I have been astounded and impressed with the commitment of these ski club kids as they train to stay fit during the summer with dryland training, and spend more than half the week during the winter months putting miles under their skis to have just a handful of chances during the year to explode out of a starting gate and pick a better line than the kid before him. I have no doubt that the balance of skiing and school are the subject of discussion in every other ski club household. Pretty intense when you consider pbj’s are still in their top ten food choices. The technical savvy, the mental balance and the tenacity to keep afloat in this sport is daunting. And MXJ seems to feed off of it.
Resolved to continue to encourage my budding athlete, I talk a pretty good game and wield what I hope is some authority in the sketchy household “no snuff, no white stuff” bylaw, but I have yet to enforce this in a way that has real meaning. At time of writing, I’m still mesmerized by MXJ’s dreams of becoming a racer and his bare palette on which he paints his hopes and dreams. Even if he doesn’t know the statistics and logistics of the road only a few will be privileged enough to walk, isn’t it only fitting to allow him to indulge while he is not jaded and weighed down by all of the adult considerations that might shatter his ambitions? Hey, I’m not saying I know the answer with certainty, but my gut says let him dream. So for now, until I have VIP access to the family seats at Kitsbuhel, I’m pretty sure the thing to do is let him sow his seeds and supply enough sunlight and fertilizer. If he’s forty and living in our basement with no job, I’ll let you know. Until then, his ambition remains limitless.